Social Media Results in Motion

Social Marketing |

The December 14th issue of BusinessWeek has an article entitled: Beware Social Media Snake Oil. The article is intended to be a balanced look at the lack of marketing success some companies are having with social media through industry consultants. I disagree that it’s balanced. I think the article is biased against the social media consulting industry. Here’s why…

As the owner of an inbound marketing agency helping clients get measurable marketing results through web marketing strategies which include social media, I take exception to the general characterization of “snake oil” to my entire industry. Sure, it’s hard. As Chris Brogan points out in the BusinessWeek article, social media marketing is still new. Many companies are still trying to figure out social media. And, some are doing it wrong. And, yes some may be getting bad advice from so called experts. But, that’s no excuse to call the entire industry a bunch of snake oils.

Historic Transition

We are in a period of transition in marketing history. As we close out 2009 there are still a mix of traditional marketing channels which allow marketers to deliver outbound messages through tried and true tactics including advertising, mail, events, contests, email, etc. But, as time passes some of these so called tried and true marketing tactics are becoming less and less effective. Ask yourself (as a consumer) how many advertisements you allow yourself to see or read? Better yet, ask yourself how many ads truly influence your purchase decisions? Now, ask yourself (as a consumer) where do you go to get information about products and services you’re considering? I’m not against advertising one iota.  But, I want marketers to ask yourself are you willing to ignore the connected consumer regardless of your industry? Are you willing to allow your competitors to engage your target market through social media while you ignore it?

Let the Experiments Begin

Most marketers are beginning to realize they don’t have a choice but to participate in social media. If some social media consultants irresponsibly lead you down a failed path ask yourself did he/she promise quick results?  Did he/she promise the tactics would work out of the gate? If he/she was one hundred percent honest he/she explained it will take time and the tactics you try may or may not work. A competent social media consultant will formulate a plan based on research and much dialogue with you to develop the plan. After the plan is developed, then let the experiments begin! That’s right – experiments!

Measuring Results

The BusinessWeek article is critical about the inability to measure results. There are numerous articles, books and blogs that have argued that measuring results in social media can be difficult. The issue is exacerbated by consultants counting Twitter followers as results. The only results that matter are tied to sales (or equivalent for non-profits). That said, there are many interim steps that lead to sales and a well planned social media strategy can facilitate those steps.  All marketers have the choice of implementing any combination of tactics to reach their consumer. The channels marketers use are a choice. It’s been said for decades by marketers: “Fifty percent of my marketing budget is wasted, I just don’t know which fifty percent.” This is no excuse for not measuring. The issue is how do we measure results? I’ve blogged about measuring results and written about it in my book, and so have many others more prominent than me such as Chris Brogan.

Results in Motion

All businesses want to get a return on their marketing. However, measurable results from a social media strategy may or may not look the same as they do in other channels.  And, they may or may not happen quickly. While there are many big brand examples of successful social media marketing including Dell, Comcast, IBM, Starbucks, Ford and  Zappos, there are also examples of smaller, unknown brands. I call these results in motion because they are a work in progress. Remember, social media is still new!

Consider how Utica, N.Y. based Indium Corp reaches a worldwide audience of engineers to educate them about their solder paste used in electronic assembly equipment. In this B2B example, Indium has 85 blogs staffed by 15 engineers. They also produce video content which is educational and sometimes humorous. Results: They produce contacts with engineers around the world, a portion of which become sales opportunities…Results in motion….

Consider how Toronto based Homemakers Magazine reaches Canadian women to engage them on topics such as cooking, health and life balance. They have a diversiied content strategy which gets delivered across various channels on the web. They measure the growth of their reach, which is a stepping stone to selling subscriptions and advertising…Results in motion.

Consider how Ford Motor Company developed their social media strategy as summarized in this slide deck:

Ford Social Media strategy

Notice that the word “product” or “sales” is not in their social media strategy statement. But, look at their most recent sales results (below). I’m not suggesting that their social media strategy is entirely the reason for their positive sales performance. I believe strongly that Ford is an example of a big brand who is doing an effective job of integrating traditional marketing (e.g. television advertising) with social media through community centric events and activities which builds trust with the consumer and spreads through word of mouth, all under the leadership of Scott Monty, their head of social media.

Ford Motor Q3 2009 Sales


These are just a few of many examples of businesses who recognize they must experiment with these new social media channels. In the process of experimenting they are willing to take some risk and learn lessons about what does and doesn’t work. They are measuring results that impact their brand, which impacts their ability to differentiate from competitors and compete for sales.


Do marketers really have a choice but to experiment with social media? Remember the question I asked about where do you turn to gain insights about the products and services you buy? If your answer wasn’t the Internet are you being honest? When you turn to the Internet to search for products and services, do you rely on ads or do you  seek input from others and do you allow input from others to influence your decision?

I am a BusinessWeek subscriber and I have been for many years. I rely on BW to keep me informed on many business topics. I have seen BW do follow ups to stories in the past. For example, in May 2005 BW did a cover story on blogging and the impact on business. In May 2008 they did a follow up to that cover story called Beyond Blogs, which expanded the coverage to social media. While the social media snake oil story is not a cover story, I would like to see BW do a follow up story with favorable examples of companies (not limited to large brands like Ford) who are getting solid advice from consultants and who are achieving measurable results, even if those results are results in motion….








9 Comments to Social Media Results in Motion

  1. by Stephen Baker December 14, 2009

    Hi Bernie, Thanks for your insights. One important point I want to make: The article does not say that all of social media consulting is snake oil, only that there's a lot of it. The risk is that people selling BS will give the rest of the industry a bad name. And this could be a big deal because social media is so very important and transformational. I tried to make this point at the end of the article. Maybe I didn't make it strongly enough. In any case, thanks. Stephen Baker

  2. by claim May 6, 2010

    yup you are right stephen,
    i also need article about it.. but this blog is great blog right??

  3. by Bernie Borges December 14, 2009

    Hi Stephen. I am a big BW fan and long time subscriber. I think your point (about not all SM consultants are not snake oil) could've been stronger. The take-away of the article to me was a general dissing of social media consultants. You know the old saying "perception is reality." I know some bad apples can give the industry a bad rap. I agree that's a big deal because social media is so transformational.

    That said, I always appreciate your reporting. My blog article is intended to offer an opinion in response to the article.

    Thanks for your prompt response.

  4. by Rick Short December 14, 2009

    Excellent post, Bernie.

    As a B2B Marcom Director, I am very aware of many of the issues related to social media in the B2B environment. To me it all boils down to “business”. I, therefore, conclude that success metrics for B2B social media must boil down to “business”, more specifically “sales”. Given all the automated, digital metrics that can overwhelm us, it is imperative to keep our eye on the ball as we implement any social media strategy. I say we ought to start by relating any social media program directly to sales.

  5. by Billie December 14, 2009

    Great article Bernie and one (of many) things I have learned from you is that social media and integrity are infinitely linked. "Snake Oil" or manipulation tactics do not seem to work well in social media. To me it seems social media works best when it offers people the power to form their own opinions on what is important to them and engages them. I think that brands success or failure in social media can be traced back to the consistency and commitment to a long term strategy that is focused on building relationships. (again sage advice from you) Brands that use social media as a shouting platform rather than an engagement platform that is focused on their audience will discover this. I love the emphasis you placed on experimentation and hope marketers are listening.

  6. by @reignnet December 28, 2009

    Bernie, great article!

    I think it was a case of the writer trying to take the other side of the title wave with regard to social media marketing. To that end, the ROI on social media is elusive and hard to prove so what I've been doing is making sure i take "snapshots" of my clients' traffic volume, keywords they are ranking for, percentages of the sources in their analytic reports. Sometimes it's a pain to get access credentials and record the data but when you have that bechmark to compare future data to, it's priceless!

    Last thought, can you imagine the lack of ROI proof back when radio & television advertising first hit the scene..and all the naysayers? All I have to say is this…"we mock what we don't understand"

    Jim Mueller is CEO & Founder of ." target="_blank"&gt <a href="http://;” target=”_blank”>; ReignNet helps small & medium size businesses put their websites to work.

  7. by FindandConvert December 28, 2009

    Jim, I totally agree on two points you make. Watching analytics results is definitely a form of measuring results. And, capturing the starting point as a benchmark is very important. We do that as well for all client engagements.

    I enjoyed your point about ROI proof when radio and television first came on. There may always be some shades of gray to measurement even as metrics get more sophisticated.

    Thanks for your comment.
    Bernie Borges

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  9. by Melany Grandchild October 16, 2012

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