Social Media Marketing Doesn’t Matter

A social media presence, on its own, isn’t enough to give you the upper hand.

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Social Business

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In 2003, in the midst of the dot-com bust, Nicholas Carr wrote a now infamous piece in Harvard Business Review entitled IT Doesn’t Matter. Although the controversial title certainly grabbed readers’ attention, the underlying point of the article was more nuanced.

Carr argued that IT infrastructure was becoming too ubiquitous to be the source of competitive advantage for companies. The rising digital tide raised all ships, and companies could not gain competitive advantage simply by investing more in the company’s IT infrastructure. Certainly companies could continue to use their IT infrastructure in innovative ways, developing novel business processes that would create competitive advantage. These advantages would be the result of how these companies used IT to transform their business, however, not a direct result of the IT itself.

A decade later, it’s clear that Carr was right. Today, a company’s IT infrastructure is so far from being the source of competitive advantage that many companies are moving their IT infrastructure to the “cloud,” allowing third parties like Amazon and Google to provide the essential IT infrastructure. Many universities use Google to mange their email, calendar, and file-storage services, rather than invest in and maintain their own IT infrastructure to handle them.

Even IT startups like Dropbox and AirBnB, each valued at around $10 billion, do not own and manage the IT infrastructure upon which they are built. When companies do choose to manage their own IT infrastructure, they usually do so to control proprietary data, not because they think they can manage the infrastructure better than others. Digital processes and innovation still matter, but the IT itself does not.

I argue that we have reached the same point with social media marketing. In terms of competitive advantage, social media marketing simply doesn’t matter. Having a presence on Facebook and Twitter is no longer sufficient to provide any source of competitive advantage for companies — not when all of their competitors have a presence on Facebook on Twitter, too.


Social Business

Social business research and more recent thought leadership explore the challenges and opportunities presented by social media.
More in this series

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Comments (6)
Thalia Anne Daniels
This post got me really thinking. I've been working in this web design company for quite some time already and social media marketing drives tremendous traffic to our site.
Junayet Sajib
A huge amount of people are using social media right now.  So we can easily track the people activity from social media. Then we can 

research the  data for find the right customer and market also. Next few years later main marketing strategy depends on Social media 

Anton Boundstart
I do not think that all methods are relevant, tools and strategies for working with social networks change too quickly. How to catch everything!
Corey Weiner
McDonalds learned this with that awful social media disappointment they experienced. Proctor Gamble did soon thereafter when they dismissed a segment of their direct marketing personnel in favor of cheap social media assets (or perceived easy anyhow).  (Both of their stocks are doing well present day - no thanks to social media).)

I am not implying the above companies are necessarily at fault. 

I am saying social media involves relatively few barriers to entry. This is basic supply and demand economic principles.

Few entry barriers means LOTS of noise and social media amateur hour marketing-wise. So when everyone is emulating the next campaign, the result is metaphoric pier fishing. i.e. leaving too much success to happenstance. 

The prudent marketing vice president is more interested in reliable, efficient communication platforms to keep the revenue curve moving to the right.

And this is partially why big blue chip corporations still focus on event sponsorships, TV ads and the like. Meaning McDonalds has summer coupons mailed out, Papa John's is still on TV and sponsoring football games, GEICO, Progessive and AllState dominate prime time TV and the like.

Because they want to sign up new policies, sell pizzas, Big Macs and cars - today - not complete for popularity on the web alongside 40 other advertisers posting all sorts of stuff because it's trendy.

Corey Weiner, B2B Copywriter Editor
Chris Reich
Social Media Marketing is a myth created by marketing people to sell a service of little value. Because companies are not seeing a return, they are gradually backing away from venues like [sic] Facebook. 

A company considering a social media initiative would do better to improve their service at home. People use social media to reach companies that don't answer the phone. Nobody really want to be "friends" with a company.
Social Media was and is not to be ‘on-its-own’.  Optimizing IT and Marketing capabilities with a sound social media strategy has proven that IT matters.  But it won’t matter much if tools are not integrated in a way that resonates with empowered, complex customers of today and if too much emphasis is given to individual snippets of data and not to a cohesive understanding of the consumer over and latent needs. 

Entities, who want to differentiate their brands from the competition and augment social media investment impact, need to go deeper into consumer nuances and earn the right to be social with them.  Just as in market and media share, individuals only have brain/dollars space to select a few;  the competition now is for social media share one or two coveted spots in consumers social brand realm.