Bob Hoffman, the Ad Contrarian who 10 days ago posted on Pepsi's massive social media failure, and I have had a very civil exchange on the issue and have discovered we pretty much agree on everything: Pepsi, social media, advertising, brain-dead marketing, etc. He posted again today on 4 Questions for the Digerterati, that make a lot of good points, although I still say that the claims of "digital advertising and social media" are completely valid IF YOU DO IT RIGHT.
The benefits of digital advertising are debatable. A few months ago there was a lot of noise about how Facebook was driving more eyeballs to business websites than Google, but a few weeks ago, the drive through to revenue from Facebook advertising was pitiful calling into question the benefits of Facebook advertising. That, however, supports one of my key contentions about advertising in the 21st century: Advertising doesn't convince someone to buy something as much as it reinforces their decision that has already been made. Pepsi's efforts in social media served only to make people already drinking Pepsi feel good about their choice. It did nothing to convince non-Pepsi customers to switch.
Using social media to push a message out, without creating a means for the audience to give more input than pressing a like button, is also a waste of time... because social media isn't advertising. It's market research. That's where most social media failures occur. If your social media program is put into the hands of those in charge of advertising or sales, you are screwed. Those two groups are hardwired into outbound marketing. Sit in a room with a bunch of creative types, make up stuff that sounds good to the group and start hammering the market with it until a small percentage of the market responds positively.
Social media, on the other hand... and if done right... can push that stuff out to the market and get almost immediate response from the market telling you if you got it right or if they think it's crap. then you can adjust. It's a focus group of 150 million participants. I gives you a chance to really know what your market thinks, where it is and what they want. And when you do soical media right, it makes your advertising effective, it makes your public relations relevant, it makes your website sticky and it builds the bottom line.
This is why I became an advocate of social media. It isn't because everyone else was going after it. I started focusing on it 10 years ago when I started seeing the collapse of media, the ineffectiveness of advertising and the devolution of public relations into mere publicity. It doesn't replace standard marketing and promotion. It just makes it work again.