Is social media really as effective for business as the hipsters would have us believe?

Posted by on Mar 3, 2015 in Blog | No Comments
Is social media really as effective for business as the hipsters would have us believe?

Prof. Mark Ritson says social media is the greatest act of over selling in the history of marketing and that lazy inaccurate journalism is hugely biased in favour of social media. Let me start by saying I’m a big fan and a regular reader of his columns in Marketing Week. However I find it hard to agree with all of Mark’s comments at the World Marketing & Sales Forum that social media is mostly a waste of time for brands. In his presentation (the video is below and is well worth watching) he uses humour, examples and statistics to good effect to demonstrate his view that traditional media is far more effective and delivers a better ROI. I won’t go through all of it here as Mark does a much better job in the video.

He further states that brands are not welcome and they have no place in the social space as this is for people – hence the name SOCIAL media. In fairness, he isn’t knocking digital as a whole but believes that social is a tiny part of it.

Agreed – a part, but an important part.

Social media is definitely not a panacea for all of marketing’s ills and lack of cut through in this age of the micro attention span. But it has given the customer a voice of their own and Mark’s comments do not take this into consideration at all, so brands ignore it at their peril. However the true value in social media and social sharing (engagement) is that it is one of Google’s algorithm KPIs for deciding how to rank web sites, which is be the life blodd of smaller brands and businesses. Search is a major part of marketing today. So if you generate great content and it gets shared then this will drive traffic to your site cost effectively. Not all brands or business have deep enough pockets to be able to afford TV advertising. That said, rely solely on Google for your traffic and you can be in for a bumpy ride, but that is a separate debate.

To say that brands are not welcome on social media is simply wrong. It does however depend on the brand and how they behave in the social milieu. There are many market categories that have large and very active social media communities and interest groups that welcome and interact readily with brands – fashion, accessories, jewellery, music, interior design and retailers spring to mind. I also take issue with Mark’s narrow view that engagement is about the number of likes on a Facebook page. We are way past that now. We must use Mark’s metric of click throughs and conversions not just likes.

As some of you may be aware, we at Brandvoice also have an ecommerce business of our own ( and we get a third of our traffic from social media sources. Not paid traffic mind you (vis-a-vis Mark’s point that Facebook has turned into another paid platform) but genuine social traffic. It works well when paired with PR – a strategy that we use – because the customer perceives editorial as more trustworthy than advertising and the shared content and user experiences of their peers even more so.

Social media contributes to your SEO – this is the heart of content marketing and is a cost effective corner stone of marketing for SMEs. This is one of the main reasons that we do it.

Mark uses the statistic that online sales are driven by search:

40% from direct search

36% from organic search / SEO

20% from other webs ties (referrals, review sites)

0.9% from social media

This does not reflect our own experience as we get far more direct traffic from social media (20 -25% of our total visitors).

We use social media to build fully engaged opted in email lists that allow us to continue our dialogue with our customers and offer personalised experiences and offers directlty to them. Once you have built an engaged email list then as a small business you have a degree of control over your relationship with your customers. Although I accept that that email marketing may be “traditional” by Mark’s definition it is highly effective and delivers by far the best ROI of all of the marketing disciplines. We start our list building using social media.

Email ROI

Source: Dotmailer

For more information about our approach to online and offline marketing for smaller businesses contact us at

With kind thanks to Mark Ritson, The Melbourne Business School & The University of Melbourne. All copyright the in obove video resides with WMSF Melbourne.

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