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What is the real value of social media

Uncovering the True Value of Social Media

It’s been an interesting week around the FullContact office. We believe pretty heavily in the power of social data. So when a post comes around that challenges the tenets of social marketing, we sit up and notice.

Slaughtering the Sacred Cows

The post in question, which we discovered earlier this week, goes to work with a sledgehammer at tearing down long-held beliefs about social media and marketing. Providing research to back up each of his claims, Augie Ray systematically kills off every social media sacred cow. For example:

Consumers welcome brands’ social media marketing. Untrue: A recent study by Kentico found that 68% of US consumers “mostly” or “always” ignore brand posts on every social network. A recent study of US college students by Concentric found that “nearly half stated they didn’t believe brands should be on social media or they didn’t personally follow brands” and “nearly 70% report following three or fewer brand across all social media.”

Okay. So if that’s the case, let’s agree for a moment that we are all doing it wrong when it comes to social marketing. If we’re all doing dumb things, how can we fix them? Do we stop advertising and selling on social media?

In our opinion, not entirely. As businesses, we just need to do a better job of understanding that selling, marketing, and customer service are only small pieces of social’s greater impact. As the article points out, many companies already seem to understand the most important point – more than anything, social is a data source. That’s where its greatest value lies.

Sure, it’s possible to sell using only social, but it’s probably not the best option. The same is true for customer service. You can do a good bit of customer service on social media, sure – but generally, you ultimately have to move to email or phone to get problems solved. So how can we make social work for tasks like selling or marketing?

We can, but we can only do so much. Because ultimately, social media wasn’t built for that. It was built for telling your friends and contacts about you – for sharing. And that’s the key.

Social as a Data Source

The beauty of social data is that it gives us something that we’ve never really had before – a 360-degree view of our customers. Depending on what they make publicly available, we know what our customers are talking about – which tells us what’s important to them. We know where our customers hang out – which lets us draw some conclusions as to what interests they have. Because of the wealth of data points that the average person sends out into the public social sphere, marketers, customer service people and the like can finally see that it’s a real person they’re talking to – not just a screen name (or Twitter handle, or LinkedIn user).

We all know that it’s foolish to make decisions based upon a single set of information – yet until now, that’s what the claim of social marketing has largely been. It’s time for all of us to stop pretending that social is the solution to all of our marketing and selling needs. Rather, social is a critical part of that solution.

Just as it’s foolish to make decisions based upon a single set of information, it’s also foolish to ignore anything that allows us to better connect with our customers.

It’s always beneficial to take a step back, challenge ideas and then figure out ways that we can do things better. The world of social changes so quickly that the answers that we rely on today may very well not exist tomorrow. Are you truly seeing the bigger picture of your customers?

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