Has the promise of social media as a marketing channel been oversold? Has the world changed such that even if some of the opportunities for social media marketing were true several years ago, those conditions no longer exist? Blog posts from two digital media analysts think so. The first by Augie Ray believes it is time to “burn down” the current model and rebuild. The second by Josh Bernoff, formerly with Forrester and co-author of the 2008 book Groundswell, references Ray’s post but goes on to argue that social media marketing is simply dead. In the early days, participation by brands in social media was novel and interesting. Today, it is just another form of media advertising and not a particularly good one as compared to other forms of advertising.
Some points cited include:
- Social media does not deliver purchases
- Social delivers poor conversions
- B2B buyers rate social media posts among the least important for establishing credibility and just 15% of consumer buyers trust posts by companies and brands
- Example – Coca-Cola sells 1.8B drinks a day, but in a week saw just 37K people like, comment, check-in, share or mention the brand on Facebook
How does this translate to associations and other nonprofits? I would say the jury is still out. Members and customers are very different, despite recent moves by some to view members as customers. Customers primarily have a relationship with a product or service that is then coupled to a lesser or greater degree to the company. Members primarily have a relationship with an organization that is then coupled to a greater or lesser degree with the products and services that organization provides. (More on that topic in another post.)
To the extent that an association (brand) can engage members and other constituents around topics and content, that certainly has the potential to increase the strength of the relationship with the organization (engagement) and helps the organization strengthen it’s positioning as a source of value for those members. This would also be true for many other types of nonprofits. Note that this is engagement around content rather than the organization itself. That may translate to a positive brand impression for the organization, but it is indirect.
However, the data from the commercial sector suggests that social media may not be an attractive marketing channel for nonprofit conferences and services, at least as compared to other channels such as email marketing, and especially when combined with marketing automation tools to target and personalize those communications.