A couple of weeks ago I caught Gary Vaynerchuk on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”. He was promoting his new book, The Thank You Economy which I have just started and will review here in the next few weeks (I’m a slow reader). Ever the social media enthusiast, Gary covered his typical themes about the importance of engagement. One of my favorite concepts from Gary is the notion that social media via “new” technology is really a throwback to generations ago when your grocer knew your name and your kid’s names and what was going on in your life. Watch the excerpt of his interview and you’ll see this theme covered but you’ll also hear an ominous statement toward the end of the excerpt.
Notice what Gary says at the 2:57 mark in the video. He compares the current social media phenomenon to the Internet bubble of 2000. In particular, he says:
Social media has had a lot of hype the last two years. The next three are gonna be soft because people are not gonna figure out the ROI and people are gonna be put out of business and huge businesses are going to blow up and explode and take over in 2013, 14 and 15.
This comment gave me the willies. I tweeted Gary for a 140 character clarification but my inquiry got lost in the thousands of tweets he must receive every day. What does Gary’s statement mean for the social media manager in the next 24 months? Is business going to slow down as more and more companies give up on the promise of social media, until a rebirth occurs in 2013 led by those companies who “get it”?
In a recent article in Ad Age, global brand strategist Jonathan Salem Baskin seems to add more gloom and doom to the outlook. He cites failed social campaigns by Pepsi and Burger King as harbingers of a sea change in social media. He seems to be wanting a more direct proven cause effect relationship between social media and sales.
… what good are invented metrics for social campaigns if they don’t evidence any influence on sales? There’s no such thing as a successful brand that doesn’t deliver successful marketing, is there? In fact, the latter builds the former. They can’t be disconnected, and if social marketing can’t be made responsible for tangible behaviors that matter to the business, not just to ideas about branding, then no made-up measures of its importance matter much at all.
Baskin even goes on to attack that most famous of social media success stories, the Old Spice campaign, saying that we cannot isolate social media for Old Spice’s success. He concludes:
I think you should consider that the news might augur the end of a fad. No, not the end of social media, but rather the beginning of the end of social media’s infancy. … Technology has utterly changed the ways consumers get and use information, and it has completely disrupted how companies create, share and collect it. We’ve had a good run of years in which this revolution has prompted quack science, theory and some good ol’ fashioned mercenary selling, most of it by smart, earnest people who believe that new technology also changed human nature and the very purpose of business function. It did neither. People still need and do the same things they always did, and companies still need to sell to them. Pretending that conversation has any value apart from the meaningful, relevant and useful information within it — fad ideas, like “content” is anything more than a silly buzzword, or that anybody wakes up in the morning hoping to have a conversation with a brand of toothpaste or insurance — is no longer credible in light of the latest news.
I’m not sure Vaynerchuk would sign onto Baskin’s prognosis fully but the two do seem to be saying one thing in common. Social media is not a magic bullet for sales. Even back in the days when your pharmacist knew your name, he still had to sell stuff to you. Prices had to be competitive. Products had to have quality. No amount of “how’re your kids?” could make up for lousy products and lousy pricing.
If indeed there are a glut of social media marketers and managers out there selling social media as the fast ticket to sales, those folks may get flushed out in the next 24 months leaving only those who have properly integrated social media with tried and true traditional marketing methods. Those folks may be the only ones to survive the bust of the social media bubble.