Is Social Media A Conversation Hoax?


On April 1st I had the pleasure of speaking at the American Marketing Association Charleston Chapter's luncheon about social media marketing. (Wow say that fast .. American Marketing Association Charleston Chapter's luncheon!) 

Gaping void moronic-1003  I've been writing Diva Marketing for almost 6 years, and must admit I've taken a sip .. well maybe 3 or 4, of the social media kool aid. So when Kara Neureuther, the AMA/Charleston program chair, asked me me to approach the topic from the view of building trust and relationships it seemed like a great idea. However, since it was April Fool's Day I thought it would be fun to take an opposing position and began with a quote from the Godfather.

  • This is business not personal.

Then I'd bring it back with a 'gotcha'  ..  explain that the Godfather was wrong .. dead wrong .. business is personal and social media helps build those relationships. 

However, the more I thought about this social media thing, the more I began to realized that so much of social media is Never about the personal but about the messaging. For many marketers the social web is nothing more but a new channel to reach more eye balls. 

And oh by the way, there is this highly coveted thing called buzz. What is buzz? It's a way for you to use your brand fans, your best customers, your brand champions to bring your carefully crafted messages to their friends. So wrong .. the blather of marketing messages posted on social networks like Facebook or Twitter are conversational hoaxes. 

Conversation Hoax 1: People don't pass along messages to their friends. They talk about what is important to them. They talk about feelings. They talk about how your brand brings value (or frustration) to their lives. They talk about cool and relevant. 

Conversation Hoax 2: Buzz alone does not make the cash register ring. If the product/service is off target the conversation is a hoax. I was talking with a smart women with great traditional marketing credentials. She was confused why a campaign, that pulled a huge number of social media 'impressions', was lack lusher in conversions. Wrong offer? Wrong 'influencers?' Wrong timing? More analysis needed.

Conversational Hoax 3: What do you see as social media conversational hoaxes?

Thanks to AMA/Charleston for their gracious hospitality .. as promised here's the April Fools Day deck!


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Social media -- or any kind of word of mouth -- can never be a substitute for solid products and services. If there is no alignment between what you say in the social media and what your product or service actually does, the public will figure it out quickly -- and today will not just complain to you, they will post it all over the web. The conversation needs to be authentic, but it has to be backed up by what your company actually DOES. That comes first.

Steve Lubetkin, APR, Fellow, PRSA
Senior Fellow, Society for New Communications Research
Managing Partner, Professional Podcasts LLC
@PodcastSteve on Twitter

Posted by: Steve "@PodcastSteve" Lubetkin on Apr 8, 2010 7:42:45 AM

Toby, as I like to say: You MUST connect with hearts & minds rather than ears & eyeballs!

But I disagree that "...the blather of marketing messages posted on social networks like Facebook or Twitter are conversational hoaxes."

There is a "right" way and a "wrong" way of stimulating conversation with essentially on-target marketing messages. This can be done really well and we do it all the time for our clients. Keys:

1. add value
2. be transparent
3. interact, don't just broadcast


Posted by: Aliza Sherman on Apr 8, 2010 7:43:29 AM

@aliza - I think we essentially agree; on Facebook, Twitter or any sm platform if your customer finds value .. it works. However, if you use these tactics as vehicles to simply regurgitate ad or pr messaging, in my mind, it equates to a traditional website .. not that there is anything wrong with websites but it's not 'social media.'

@steve - Yes! In fact stepping into social w/ a bad product can often do more harm than good. The Dell site that targeted women comes to mind. do you remember within days it was pulled because of the influence/feedback from social media?

Posted by: Toby on Apr 8, 2010 8:32:06 AM

I think that conversion involves a combination of an ad/post that is fun and that post being relevant to the user. If I love to shop and I see a cute dress on a Facebook ad, I might click on it and buy from a company that I have never bought from before. (This actually happened) If I have extra time on my hands and my kids see the "Elf Yourself" promotion from Office Max at Christmas time, we might click on the promotion and make an Elf. Interesting/attention-getting message + item that I am interested in = conversion. I also think that there is another component with brands that I already know and like - then I want that on-going relationship with them and will probably buy later.

Posted by: Kansas Internet Marketing on Apr 8, 2010 8:32:15 AM

@kansas internet marketing/or jenny - popped over to your blog & found your name ;-)
Facebook ads seem to be finding their way in the online world with great success. The extent of the demo targeting makes for less waste. Loved the Elf too .. it was so fun and engaging. Wondering .. do we term that social media or interactive? Does it matter if the lines blur?

Posted by: Toby on Apr 8, 2010 8:49:38 AM

It def seems to be becoming that way, more n more people that say hi to me, are trying to promote their biz.. very annoying.

But same time, I have mey some great people and built strong friendships with social media,..

Posted by: John Paul Aguiar on Apr 8, 2010 11:43:31 AM


Like the conversation you started so to add to it.
Conversation Hoax #3: Selling before showing shared interest. Quickest way for marketing to turn social media into a conversation hoax...which, of course, it doesn't have to be

Posted by: Rob Petersen on Apr 13, 2010 7:28:22 PM

@aliza I definitely agree with your 3rd point/step, interaction is crucial for utilizing social media as a business platform (transparency is also really important, but the public interaction on SM is part of being transparent)

Great article though!

Posted by: Steve on Apr 20, 2010 1:51:45 PM

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