Social Media is Dead. Again.

You might expect B2B organisations to have their social act together by now. Then again, why change the habit of a lifetime?

The latest round of ‘social media is dead’ conversation in B2B organisations has been sparked by the IBM analysis of ‘Black Friday’ (the peak thanksgiving sales period in the US). The analysis notes, “Shoppers referred from Social Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube generated 0.34 percent of all online sales on Black Friday, a decrease of more than 35 percent from 2011.”

There are actually some significant statistics in the report – overall online spending was up by over 20%, mobile devices accounted for 24% of traffic, iPad users accounted for 10% of online shopping and multi-screen buying behaviour increased with 58% using smartphones and 41% using tablets.

But it’s the 0.34% of social media sales that grabbed the headlines because that’s the one that ‘proves’ social doesn’t work. I can understand why businesses might like to believe that. Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we could all go back to the good old days when customers just sat in the corner and quietly chewed on the corporate bullshit they were fed by big brother? But those days are gone, forever, and the sooner businesses recognise it the better.

Instead of just looking at that specific percentage, for example, is it really possible that the businesses so quick to announce the death of social media can’t actually see the overall behavioural trend from the same report? Online spending increase, smartphone usage increase, tablet usage increase, multi-screen usage increase – these increases are being driven, for example, by the 1 billion people who use Facebook. Do businesses really believe that multi-screen, smartphone, tablet, online shoppers aren’t using social media to buy?

What the buyers aren’t doing, is engaging with crappy Facebook or Twitter promotions that would be measured as POS conversions. But they’re using social media. Oh yes. They’re influencing and being influenced. They’re engaged and being engaging. They’re networked and networking. And they’re making buying decisions with and through social media every minute of every day. They’re just not doing it the way businesses want them to.

‘Like our Facebook page to receive a free offer,’ and, ‘Follow us on Twitter for the chance to win a piece of tat,’ does not count as social marketing. It counts the same as it always did – as lazy marketing. Social media isn’t dead, lazy marketing is dead.

Businesses that expect to engender brand loyalty that ultimately converts to sales need to play a longer, smarter game. They need to review their inbound marketing strategy. They need to invest in relevant, engaging content and they need to re-evaluate how they manage their online communities. Fire some people. The people telling you social is dead? Fire them. Make some changes. Try something different. Or keep peddling the same old shit because, you know, 0.34%… whoo hoo.

If social is dead (again), how come millions of bears still shit in the woods? Then post a blog about it, ‘Like’ it on Facebook, upload a video of their scatological exploits on YouTube and tweet the bollocks off it? However analytical the global corporates might become over social media, and however much they bemoan the failings of their own social efforts, they’re still missing the point – social is about the customer, not the corporate. The people will decide when social media is dead and there’s nothing any corporate can do to change that. So if your social strategy isn’t returning the statistical business significance you might like in the boardroom, here’s my suggestion – start doing it properly, dickheads.

Scot McKee