So you might be surprised to learn that I actually found myself in agreement with much of Shankman's argument. As an Internet veteran who rolled with the boom and bust of Web 1.0, I see numerous similarities between that time and the borderline hysteria around modern social media -- though to me it feels a bit late in the game to make that comparison. If the peak of the hysteria hit, realistically, maybe a year ago, perhaps the sputtering economy served as a tempering force. A marketer may have been a crazed, impassioned social media zealot, but few companies could act on such zeal in an environment where ROI -- immediate, substantial, measurable ROI -- was mandatory. That's the reality that I, as a digital marketing professional, see all the time: an impassioned desire to leverage social media, but with an equal imperative to demonstrate ROI.
Shankman makes the point "It's about using the tools to market to an audience that wants to help tell your story." I agree. But why wouldn't you want the person you employ to use those tools to have expertise in how to use them? Do you really want your social media expert to "die in a fire" (to quote Shankman) and leave his or her duties to an intern?
Before I go too deep into rebutting an article I can't be entirely sure you will take the time to read, I'll segue to my segue. Shankman seems to hold a certain amount of disdain for social media marketing because it's easy, and certainly because it's popular. But as a marketer you'd be a fool not to take advantage of those qualities as they pertain to any outlet -- from social media, to broader digital media, to traditional media and beyond.
You've probably heard the cliche that creativity is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. In fact, a similar ratio applies to digital marketing. (And of course I am referring to the unpaid variety, paid advertising being a separate piece of the puzzle.) Ten percent of digital marketing is at the quality level that I would call "perfect peach." It's the campaign-driven, highly creative, cutting edge marketing gold that has the unique power to cut through the noise and reach customers. This is the kind of marketing that often comes out of an agency setting, where multiple minds can be brought together and brainstorming is part of the daily routine. The 10 percent is hard. It requires something too rare and in many cases squandered in the grind of the working world, and that's talent. As Shankman points out, it doesn't hurt to have some writing skills, but the real equation for growing your perfect peach is more nebulous than just that.
Then there is the other ninety percent, or what I would call the low hanging fruit. If you'll forgive me for doubling up on metaphors, the low hanging fruit are the meat and potatoes of digital marketing. The no-brainers. You need to post on Twitter. (And you need to address what customers are saying back to you.) You need to have a presence on Facebook. (And if this is news to you, maybe you do need to hire a social media manager.)
But frequently I am surprised by how few companies actually pick the fruit that hangs low. What got me thinking about this to begin with is the experiences I've had recently with a couple of start-ups you may have heard of. One is Get Glue, a service that solicits you to rate your favorite books, CDs, TV Shows and so on for sharing with others. The other is Glass, a browser plug-in that places a digital overlay on top of any Web page with a comment window that let's you share comments right there in the context of the page. Both products are cool. Both are worth tracking. But check out the emails I received from these companies once I became a registered member. First GetGlue:
All I can see when I look at the above image from GetGlue is wasted opportunity. No company logo. No links to their homesteads on the social networks or any encouragement to share. And what inspires just a little bit of outrage in me as the civilian recipient of this email is that this was not even my registration acknowledgement but a subsequent marketing email. They put our entire new relationship on the line by sending me an unsolicited message -- though I willingly gave them my email address -- and then this uninspired email is what they saw fit to represent them.
Glass, on the other hand, has a registration acknowledgment email that is working a little harder for them.
I'm a strong believer in the power of email. Back in 2005 I went as far as to start a daily email service about cool things in L.A. called SingleShot. So if Glass were mine to play with, I would probably take this email even further. Why not? Like Facebook and Twitter, it's free. It's reach has the potential to be massive. All it takes is someone to recognize and unlock its potential.
And maybe, just maybe, that person should be a social media expert.
What low-hanging fruit do you see? What do you think is the recipe for a perfect peach?