John Lynch

Half my social networking strategy works I just dont know which half

Following a conversation with a well known media personality I was encouraged by the animated enthusiasm that 'main street' media now has for social networking strategies, but somewhat unimpressed by the reasons they have arrived at this conclusion. They droned on about the usual proliferation of amplifiers on twitter, facebook and YouTube and the impact of negative opinion on brands. This is good I thought, but as the conversation progressed I was struck by the lack of any counter arguments emerging on the limitations of social networking and what seemed to be a wiliness to accept as gospel any 'case studies' that are thrown at them.

social media case studies They cited two well known US case studies that I have heard again and again and again. Both are Airline related as are many of the so called SMM case studies I have heard to date, whats with that? Anyway, the first was the Kevin Smith incident on Southwest Airlines, where B Movie star Smith, was asked to leave the plane (even though he was already seated) simply because he was too fat for the single seat available. He then blogged about this to his 1.7 Million followers, resulting in much hullabaloo. The other example was when David Carroll a country and western singer had his guitar thrown about by United Airlines ground staff eventually breaking it. He penned a tune called ‘United breaks guitars’  and posted it on YouTube in protest.

The trouble with these two examples is that they are extraordinary freakish examples that are interesting but should not be the reason why marketers invest in a social networking. They are all carrot and no stick and simply say if you don’t invest your company will fall down around you.  This is a simplistic approach and under sells the marketing science behind social media. It creates a ‘shit I got to do something’ attitude within main stream media and encourages snake oil sales men and not so bright clients who used to say 'I want a Viral Ad' now saying I want 'to do' social media.

For example in response statement to the smith incident, Southwest said that airline officials had called Smith to offer their "heartfelt apologies," but also stated his removal was for the "safety and comfort of all customers." Did the person that had to sit beside Smith have a voice in this case study? Have you personally never felt that wave of relief as a ‘wide’ customer shuffled passed your seat in coach on the way to one further behind. Southwest had a simple policy that if you can’t fit into one seat, you pay for two, and too right the silent majority say but not on twitter. Smith himself said, "You messed with the wrong sedentary processed-foods eater!” This is NOT a reason to change a well operational policy surely?

As for Mr Carroll, this is a horse of a different colour. Since he launched on YouTube on 5th July, he’s had 8.8 Million views and 26,000 comments. He followed up with a second song, United Breaks Guitars Song 2, which has had 1M+ views since 17th August 2010 and a third, "United We Stand on the Right Side of Right’ which since February 2010 has had 174,581+ views.  Steve Carroll is milking this dry, and then some. But who would blame him. As is Bob Taylor of Taylor guitars in his customer advice video on the subject ‘Taylor Guitars Responds to United Breaks Guitars" video.  Now that’s a good example of a SM tactic in itself.

The point is neither of them are actually case studies, but are the type of sensationalist narrative that is doing the rounds and is driving this blind evangelism and non strategic rush into social networking. Neither guy set out with a strategy beyond getting some satisfaction or revenge even, and that revenge was successful for many different reasons. Smith simply had an existing twitter audience and people don’t love no-frills-airlines. Carroll had a talent for catchy tunes, but they are NOT useful as case studies in selling in SMM strategies.

The real problem may be that there are plenty of anecdotes on how this or that company made millions via twitter or facebook but no actual real case studies that show how companies have delivered real sustainable long term benefit from SMM. Its almost a case of the Emperor having no clothes but all are willing to over look this minio point. The main reason I assume is that these take time, money and effort and the concept is still very young. That’s not to say there are not out there, but using the above examples as the reasons to invest is similar to a government using facebook to originate government policy. On paper this would seem like a nice idea but in reality government policy, as much as any business strategy is a delicate balance of many stakeholders’ political, social, economical and technological needs and concerns.    

Asfor local case studies, its as if they knew I was writing this piece so i could illustrate my point. I received a PR release yesterday morning entitled ‘Social media and marketing case study’ from the PR people behind Jump-On-It. This is a new internet business that offers exclusive daily deals to the public. The team knew that developing a “tribe” to market to before forming the business was central to both generating sales for its deals, but also to offer merchants a large and exclusive sales avenue. So they formed Facebook and Twitter pages and have now become the largest Facebook fan pages in Australia. “I Love” Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth have attracted nearly 400,000 fans across all sites combines. These pages are now attracting up to 2,000 comments a day from the fan base. Not bad going at all as an audience acquisition tactic but is it a ‘Social media and marketing case study’? 


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John Lynch Digital Ministry John Lynch
Company: Digital Ministry
Position: Editor
Involved in the digital media and Marketing industry for many years, through working at the Economist Group (uk), Universal McCanns, Zivo, emitch, OneDigital, IBM (client side), & TBWA. Now in Bath, UK working as a consultant

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