Digital Marketing Bias: “Social media is a waste of time.” or “Social media is the only thing that matters.”

media-998990_1920Social media is the newer channel in digital marketing but one that is growing fast. In fact it’s growing so fast that it’s becoming difficult to lump all social media platforms together. The most frequent social media argument is over which platform is most effective. But to avoid too much granularity, we’ll go with its overall effectiveness. Because of social media’s rapid evolution it tends to be the most polarizing topic for biases.

Social media is a waste of time

Seasoned marketers tend to be the hold outs on social media. A scoffing or general derision is directed at social platforms as an “unauthentic” way of marketing. There tend to be three versions of this bias:

  • Just socializing – The claim is that no “real” marketing can be accomplished on social media because it’s a tool for casual socializing. That’s like saying networking events aren’t good to generate business because it’s a social setting. Just because most social networks are conversational does not mean that you can’t engage meaningfully in a way that builds your brand and drives conversions.
  • Doesn’t convert – The suggestion is that social media audiences never buy or become identifiable leads. What this view often means is that the trainer, consultant, or professional coach struggles to track social media leads. It is true that social media is an intermediary step in generating a conversion (a like, follow, or connection is rarely a lead without a follow up action) but that doesn’t mean social contacts don’t take that next step. Dive into the metrics via your website (linked to your social networks) or via a social network’s tracking to see how people might be taking advantage of offers.
  • It’s a fad – This claim is getting more confusing day-by-day but it still comes up. “Everyone thought Myspace was critical a few years back too. Look where that is now.” That’s a quote I heard this year, in 2016. Social media is not going to fail as a whole. It’s certainly possible that a single platform might erode but some of the tried and true networks are more than safe to craft a campaign around.

Social media is the only thing that matters.

Then there are the people that think social media is the end all and be all. Their marketing campaign’s calendar is littered with social media posts and initiatives that fail to leverage any other channels. This viewpoint is often driven by:

  • Cutting Edge – The thought is that social media is the wave of the future and “everyone” is there. The fact is that everyone isn’t there. While adoption keeps growing and tools within the platform keep expanding, it’s unlikely that social channels will assimilate every aspect of digital marketing.
  • Social media is the only way I’ll be noticed – I overheard a digital marketer tell a trainer, “If you aren’t on Facebook, you don’t exist.” The irony of the statement is that the trainer had been running a successful marketing campaign for years. The argument could have been made that the campaign could benefit from a Facebook presence but to say the marketing was non-existent is ridiculous. Those that adore social media tend to think it’s the only platform for being noticed. The fact is that the social media realm is very crowded and establishing a voice that can drive marketing effectiveness is a difficult task. Don’t count on social media to be your only exposure to your target market because you’ll be missing out on many other channels for being noticed.

Digital Marketing Bias: “Email Marketing is obsolete.” or “Email marketing is the only thing that really works.”

As digital marketing channels go, email marketing is the senior citizen. Email was developed at the dawn of the internet and leveraging that technology for marketing was not far behind. Of course, email marketing has evolved heavily through the years but what is its current role? There are two opposing views on the importance of email marketing which greatly over-emphasize or greatly under-emphasize its usefulness.

Email Marketing is obsolete.

The first outlook is that email marketing had more than its fifteen minutes of fame and it’s time to remove it from the digital marketing toolkit. This is typically supported by suggestions that social media can do everything and more, that no one looks at email marketing messages anymore, or that email marketing is just outdated like direct mail or faxing.

All of those statements are untrue and usually used an excuse not to attempt an email marketing campaign.

  • Social media has taken email marketing’s place – Social media is a valuable channel but it can’t duplicate the benefits email marketing provides. Email marketing is a one-to-one conversation with your audience where social media is a group environment where you are intermingling with your whole audience. While there are direct communication tools in social media, they are cumbersome to leverage and not nearly as effective as email. Social media is a middle man to that direct communication and trying to set messages to particular people becomes an arduous task that email marketing can achieve easily.
  • No one pays attention to emails – This is the sign of a bad email marketing campaign, not email marketing in general. Filters and screening tools have become commonplace on email systems but that doesn’t mean people aren’t viewing the emails at all. It means that email marketers need to carefully craft their emails to ensure they are delivered and offer valuable content that their audience wants.
  • Outdated – Email marketing is as effective as it has ever been if it’s put together effectively. When setting a plan for trainer, consultants, and professional coaches, our outlook on any call-to-action is that half of the traffic and leads will be generated from email marketing. That’s true for events, sales, purchases, or free resources.

Email marketing is the only thing that really works.

This statement is typically relayed from a person that’s “done it this way for years” and doesn’t want to “fix what isn’t broken”. Fair enough, but just because email continues to work doesn’t mean it’s the only road to success. Furthermore, email marketing becomes stale if it’s done the same way for too long without injecting new ideas and technology into it.

Stubornly sticking to using only email ignores important advances and changes that can be a big advantage to digital marketing campaigns:

  • Tracking – Email marketing offers tracking that generally straight forward to follow. SEO, social, or offline campaigns often take a bit more effort to interpret. This additional analysis is often mistaken as twisting the numbers or requiring too much work to get results. These channels are effective and shouldn’t be viewed as lacking when compared to email marketing.
  • Stagnant – An over-reliance on email marketing is often a sign of stagnation. That stagnation is present in more than just technology. Typically the email list, content, and layout is catered to a core audience and sparsely strays outside of that tried and true formula. This skews perspective when other channels try to bring in a fresh audience or content. Unfamiliar content from fresh eyes won’t be as widely accepted but it’s the only way to grow marketing’s effect. Simply put, if you do the same thing you’ve always done, results won’t improve.

Appreciate email for the advantages it brings but don’t become over-reliant on it. It’s a core channel in digital marketing with proven effectiveness. Leverage that effectiveness but not at the expense of other channels or new ideas.