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Has Social Media Reached Its Peak?

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There appears to be a shift in social media circles lately. Maybe the death of social media personality Trey Pennington was the catalyst, or maybe people are just plain tired of keeping up. Whatever the cause, some social media bloggers and experts are beginning to question the quantity of our connections versus the quality of them. Does that mean social media has reached its peak and is on the denouément?

In a recent blog post, MarketingProfs blogger and social media consultant and author Jay Baer said:

"The number of 'inboxes' we possess is staggering ... That’s a lot of relationship bait in the water ... How do we justify this? How do we convince ourselves that slicing our attention so thin the turkey becomes translucent is a good idea? We do it because we believe that more relationships provide more opportunity.

"All of these chestnuts are passed around like a flu strain because they make intuitive sense. But common among them is the underlying premise that interacting with more people is inherently better than interacting with fewer people. I have always believed this to be true and in fact have delivered the lines above in presentations and on this blog. But today, I’m no longer convinced.

"Instead I wonder, what if we have it ALL wrong? Social media forces upon us a feeling of intimacy and closeness that doesn’t actually exist."

After attending the most recent MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Kyle Flaherty, director of marketing at BreakingPoint, blogged that:
"This shift makes obvious sense, and it will take a few more years for social media to exit the hype cycle, but doesn't it seem like we've been here before? Remember eMarketing? Email marketing? Direct marketing? Eventually, they move from being a short-lived yet enthusiastic fad and into a function of a greater practice. In this instance, marketing. Social media, although extraordinarily useful outside of marketing, has now rightfully started to move from fad into fade."

From blogger, author, and principal at Altimeter Group, Brian Solis:
"The reality is that the cost of social networking is great, and without checks and balances, engagement can cost us more capital than we have to spend. The net result is then social and emotional bankruptcy. And the most difficult part of this unfortunate state is that it is at first difficult to recognize and far more exacting to overcome."

What's happening today? Is there a shift taking place? Has social media reached its peak or is it taking on a new role in an integrated marketing strategy, as it should have been all along?

What do YOU say?




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A Canadian who relocated to the U.S., Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of SOLUTIONS Marketing & Consulting LLC, a boutique marketing and communications agency located in Scottsdale, Arizona. During her career, Elaine has worked for, and with, many organizations, associations, and businesses, across North America, on marketing strategy and communications tactics.

From her earlier agency career assignments freelance copywriting Procter & Gamble, Nestlé Carnation, and Kraft materials, to “inside” senior-level marketing positions, Elaine’s passion for marketing has evolved to helping clients reach new heights through strategic brand-building, integrated marketing communications, and customer orientation.

She has been a contributing writer for The Business Journal and her articles have appeared in many publications, including the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Marketing News, The Arizona Republic, Advancing Philanthropy, and several association publications. She has been interviewed by CNN, Connect Magazine, and The Capitol Times, and her content was included in Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits by Jay Conrad Levinson, Frank Adkins, and Chris Forbes. Nonprofit Consulting Essentials by Penelope Cagney. and Share of Mind, Share of Heart by Sybil F. Stershic.

Elaine is a Faculty Associate at the Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation and a professional member of the National Speakers Association – she does keynotes and presentations on business and nonprofit marketing, branding, customer orientation, and cause marketing at conferences and meetings.

Elaine’s career has also included stints as a cookbook author, teacher, singer, and television show host. A golf and tennis enthusiast, Elaine is enjoying life in the sunny Sonoran Desert while serving clients across North America.

Solutions Marketing & Consulting: solutionsmc.net

Speaking: elainefogel.com

Elaine's Blog: http://elainefogel.net

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  • by Nanette Gregory Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    The longer I participate in social media for my own personal use as well as for clients, I find myself eliminating the noise and only spend most of my time with real and interesting interactions. Once again, we are learning marketing is still about the quality of the interaction.

  • by Lisa Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    As someone who came to social media (and internet marketing in general) after years of coding and information design, I have always felt this way about social media - that it was too much, too often, and extremely superficial in most of its transactions. So I am glad that people are finally coming to their senses and looking at the tool it really is and not the thing to do 'cause all the "cool kids" are doing it. I am surprised that Jay Baer hasn't always felt this way - that he thought the "...underlying premise that interacting with more people is inherently better than interacting with fewer people.

    IMHO there will always be a difference between "reach" and "true interaction" and one requires lots of "psuedo" connections and the other requires real, continuous connections. Social Media can do both but experts have to stop making companies believe that more "likes" equals more true interactions with your brand. A like just gives you reach and nothing more.

    Thanks for giving exposure to how, I suspect, a lot of us feel.

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    Thanks for your two cents on this issue, Lisa. You make a good point about the difference between "reach" and "true interaction." For those of us using social media for business purposes, reach is always good, as well as the benefit of SEO - both of which are measurable.

    Interaction is much more difficult as a metric. How many times do we interact with our peers and colleagues versus our prospects and clients? Building relationships with colleagues is important, of course, but the people with which we interact on a regular basis may or may not be existing or prospective customers at all. Where's the ROI in that? The jury's still out, as far as I'm concerned.

  • by Renay Picard Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    1. When we talk about quantity of connections, we are not getting to the heart of the matter. Yes, we are all spread thin and our “inboxes” are full. That’s why we need to pay attention to what the conversations are about – listening and filtering are important pieces of the puzzle. Frankly, I never think about how many connections I have or how many posts I did in one week. I think about the topics, the companies, the discussions that have happened as a result of these connections and posts.

    2. Most marketers have not gotten past the “shiny” object syndrome of social media. We need to look at social as one of the tools in the arsenal, not just a fun way to interact with customers. But that also comes with great responsibility. We need to understand the impact it is having and that means metrics. Let’s look at potential value and then share of conversation. From there, we can begin to determine how social may or may not be contributing to the bottom line. And unless we can do that, we as marketers will find ourselves in a bad place.

    3. Social media penetration is on a continuum dependent upon size of organization, resources and – quite importantly – industry. Smaller organizations have an easier time with social as there are fewer restrictions placed on the communication stream whereas larger, public organizations in regulated industries must develop social media policies, implement training programs for employees and drive acceptance throughout the organization. It takes time but companies that see social as a powerful way to interact with those who choose to connect to their brands will win in the end as long as the develop a powerful strategy tied to metrics, assign the right resources and develop policies that will both protect the company and empower employees.

    4. The reality for all of us is that we can either choose to ignore what’s going on around us – the conversations that are taking place with or without our input – or we can choose to engage. Social is likely one of the most challenging channels for organizations to address; but when it’s done with goals at the foundation, it can also prove to be incredibly powerful. It’s like PR on steroids; if someone posts a negative comment about a public company on Twitter/Facebook, etc., you hear about it. This kind of publicity can define an organization for months and even years to come. The company that ignores this kind of situation is one that will get left behind in today’s marketplace.

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    Touché, Nanette!

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    Renay, I appreciate your taking the time to compose this informative comment. In response to #1, I agree on the importance of listening and learning. I believe this is part of keeping up with a specific industry, trade, or profession, as opposed to engagement. I learn so much from my marketing colleagues' posts and blogs.

    I totally agree with #2. Social media is a communications channel in an integrated marcom strategy. So many are emphasizing social media without developing a marketing strategy first - a big mistake.

    I agree, in part, with #3. Smaller organizations may not have the same restrictions as public companies do, but the time investment required may not always be practical for them.

    I think #4 applies more to larger organizations that have a plethora of customers, supporters, brand advocates, etc. Smaller orgs need to be diligent about social media monitoring, but their risk is less for negative social media PR.

    Thanks, Renay!

  • by Kirsten Wright Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    I believe that while social media has lost some of it's luster, it is up to us to figure out how (and if) it fits in. I think we are giving too much credit to how the tool "should" be used and not enough credit to how we CAN use it. I have found with the addition of more and more networks, I have actually strengthened my social relationships by staying with only a few. I can now connect more effectively and cut out a lot of the noise...

  • by Bill Smith Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    Maybe for some companies social media has peaked - but not for ours!
    What is happening at ICL Imaging though is a re-evaluation of what we feel works best for us and how much time we are willing to continue to put into each of the social media sites.
    We are refining it.
    My feeling is you want to be visible to anyone, anytime, anywhere - so be on all of the sites that you can and then after time decide which ones you want to update daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
    It is a never ending and always evolving process and we know and can prove it works for us!
    Good Marketing Everyone.

  • by Kyle Flaherty Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    Although I'm happy to be quoted in this article, especially with Jay and Brian, that quote was taken from a post in May of 2010. Things have changed so dramatically since that time. I'd submit the following quote as an update, if you'll have me:

    "Social media has become an ingrained function of communication, sparking platforms that allow us to interact in a more dynamic and fluid manner. Today we have replaced the need to pass a bullhorn from one person to the other with the ability to line each of ourselves with an amplified microphone that can be heard from anywhere. I stand by the fact that social media, as a term and a practice, has lost the sex-appeal of being something new. Instead it is now a part of our everyday functioning, and each day we are finding different (sometimes better, sometimes worse) uses for the practice. But that is a good thing, you want it to be less 'shiny-object syndrome' and more 'corporate business practice' and 'personal communication device'. With social now part of our communicative instinct, those treating social media as a sole practice will lose."

    Thanks for the opportunity,
    Kyle

  • by Lana Rice Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    There is always a cause and effect. Fad and fade. Social Media will have its place for the businesses where it makes sense, but I have never thought of it as a replacement. it is still a great deal hype, until something else comes along to replace it. People will become wary because that is what we do. I always have to laugh when someone tells me that in 3 years, there will be no print and everything will be done through social media. I had that conversation today with an advertising manager. It will be a function for some and for others it won't. It's like anything in life, just a little common sense.

  • by Stacy Lukasavitz Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    For many of us, what we now refer to as "social media" lost its shininess a long time ago, like in the '90s. Like when we were meeting people online and then in person on things like IRC and BBSs. Back when everybody thought we were crazy, and "the people on the other side of the computer" were all (presumably) child molesters and psycho killers. The truth is, it has ALWAYS been about quality over quantity of relationships, and I can't believe that some so-called "thought-leaders" were leading others to believe otherwise.

    The only thing that has changed is that suddenly, many in the social media marketing echo chamber are starting to poke their head out of the bubble and realize how the rest of the world (a.k.a. "normal people"), have been using social media all along. True, SMM is still shiny and new to many companies (and the people behind them), and there is still what appears to be some kind of "social media marketing gold rush" (which will soon fade). But it's nothing to really get that excited over -- it's just the way we, as a broader society, communicate now, and how many of us have for almost 20 years.

  • by Jennifer Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    Well said Nanette!

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    Kristen, I totally agree with your statement, "...it is up to us to figure out how (and if) it fits in." For those using social media for marketing purposes, it helps to have a strategy to determine how valuable the social media channel can be altogether. Thanks!

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    Thanks for sharing your success with social media, Bill. Don't get me wrong - I do believe that social media is a valuable channel for companies that can test, tweak, and prioritize their usage. You seem to have figured that out by re-evaluating "what we feel works best for us and how much time we are willing to continue to put into each of the social media sites." Kudos!

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    Kyle, thanks so much for your update. Your new definition aligns with my question above: "Is it taking on a new role in an integrated marketing strategy as it should have been all along?" From what you're saying today, I'd say, yes! :)

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    Lana, I like your common sense approach to this. When social media came along, traditional print suffered. Now, if you want to stand out, printing and direct marketing aren't overcrowded. You're right. What works for one may not work for everyone. It all depends on the audiences and marketing strategy.

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    Excellent point, Stacy. "It has ALWAYS been about quality over quantity of relationships." So, do you think people will get over tracking the number of Twitter followers, "likes", etc. as a means of measurement?

  • by Dana Cordova Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    "Social media forces upon us a feeling of intimacy and closeness that doesn’t actually exist.”HUH? Really, if this is what people are seeking they are on the wrong platform. I say it's the later, social media should be taking on a new role in an integrated marketing strategy. As it should have been all along.

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    Dana, I appreciate your comment and agree that social media should be part of an integrated marcom strategy. However, I can relate to what Jay was referencing. I have made some wonderful marketing "friends" through social media. Intimate relationships? No, but I would still call them business friends nevertheless. I am always learning new tricks and resources from these amazing marketers. Thanks for your 2 cents. :)

  • by Stacy Lukasavitz Mon Sep 12, 2011 via blog

    Those who "get it" already are, and know that a shepherd is not solely judged by how many sheep he has, but how well he tends them. However, the majority of people? No, they won't, because most don't have the understanding beyond a "mine is bigger" contest. Sad, but true. We, as a society, are obsessed with having the most ___, the biggest ___, the fastest ___ (fill anything in the blank), and are too much in a "bigger is better" mentality. I've worked with enough clients, in small business, nonprofits, and corporations to have observed that this obsession with number of likes/followers/etc. is more rooted in appearances to competitors than caring about actual engagement with their "community."

    This isn't solely a marketing issue, it's in our psyche as a culture. Think about high school -- the "popular" kids seem to be the ones with the most friends, it seems like everybody else wants to be them. However, it's when the "not-as-popular" kids start appreciating their smaller, tight-knit group of friends that they enjoy high school so much more and get much more out of it. When they stop obsessing over what they're not. However, as people graduate high school, and move onto the next phase of their life, it's the same thing all over again. Be it college, be it the work place, be it "keeping up with the Joneses."

  • by Dana Cordova Tue Sep 13, 2011 via blog

    My pleasure! it's a great piece. And yes, I have made some true connections online too, but I think that happens organically, after business relationships have been established. Definitely a constant learning process, thanks!

  • by Ron Tue Sep 13, 2011 via blog

    The best examples of companies winning with social media are the ones who aren't pushing the sale or constantly posting "Here's a picture of some dude holding our product" stuff. No one cares. The occasional coupon or promotion is fine, but if you want to build your brand just be entertaining. Staying relevant and having consumers remember your name when they're ready to spend money is far more valuable than trying to pitch a product to someone who only logged on to see what bar their friends were heading to later.

    See http://www.facebook.com/dualsaw for an example of a company doing this right.

  • by Elaine Fogel Tue Sep 13, 2011 via blog

    Interesting analogy to high school, Stacy. Ironically, I just attended my high school reunion in Montreal. (No, I won't disclose which anniversary it was!) I wonder if this obsession with "bigger" and "more" is part of the North American psyche exclusively, or a ubiquitous trait we own as homo sapiens.

  • by Stacy Lukasavitz Tue Sep 13, 2011 via blog

    My first inclination is to say it's probably a first world thing, but I don't know that for a fact. It could be a universal thing. (If I could afford to go to grad school right now, it would be for social psychology and I would likely know the answer to this question!)

  • by Elaine Fogel Tue Sep 13, 2011 via blog

    Ron, that works for me! One question... how can we be sure that prospects will actually contact us and connect the dots to our engaging content when they're in the market for a specific product or service? Now, that's the 64,000 question. :)

  • by Maybelle Tue Sep 13, 2011 via blog

    I'm sorry but we feel otherwise... In fact we wrote a blog about it because it's just so sad to kill something so wonderful.. http://viiworksblog.com/social-media-1-0-on-a-decline/ It may be taking a shift and it may simply be evolving into something more magnificent.

  • by Brent Purves @socialmrktr Wed Sep 14, 2011 via blog

    I agree. It's so important to cut the noise and focus on the important quality interactions in social media marketing. Now if someone would only invent a social media dashboard that helped do *that* rather than help post more unnecessary scheduled posts to *even more* social accounts then they'd have something.

  • by ellen Wed Sep 14, 2011 via blog

    Elaine, I think one of the value points that social media brings to the table is the ability to respond to customers questions, complaints, and suggestions immediately and directly. Responding to comments left on your company blog, etc can be even more meaningful than the blog itself. It demonstrates in a very public way that you care about your customers.

  • by @hariath Wed Sep 14, 2011 via blog

    the fact that social media change i think is obvious, more or less, during their whole history.
    But now it seems like it is a crucial point for their transition. It is something vague and blurry, at least for me, but i believe that social media started to be categorized and to be seperated in groups and this is a good reason for their change.
    thanx for the inspiration Elaine :-)

  • by Elaine Fogel Wed Sep 14, 2011 via blog

    Brent, if I'm not mistaken, there are several companies that can help with monitoring and filtering. Perhaps someone can make recommendations here. Thanks for adding your comment.

  • by Elaine Fogel Wed Sep 14, 2011 via blog

    Maybelle, I wrote a comment on your blog. I'm not saying that social media is dead. What I believe it is doing is evolving and it can be of great value IF it's part of an overall integrated marcom strategy. Thanks for your comment!

  • by Elaine Fogel Wed Sep 14, 2011 via blog

    Right on, Ellen! We didn't even discuss this. Customer comments are incredibly valuable and give organizations an opportunity to show appreciation for the good comments while rectifying any issues or problems. Thanks for reminding us.

  • by Elaine Fogel Wed Sep 14, 2011 via blog

    You're welcome, Hariath. Social media, like anything else, is in a constant state of change. And that's what makes it exciting for marketers. Thanks!

  • by Dinesh Kumar Thu Sep 15, 2011 via blog

    I agree, This way is most powerful and get leads form short period. So, a lots of business peoples used this way. Now this time more than SEO peoples are used to Social Media Sites and got more than visitors.

  • by Kent Accountants Thu Sep 15, 2011 via blog

    Reaching its peak? No way, its only just starting.

    To be successful though, as with most things, its a matter of quality rather than quantity.

  • by PT Thu Sep 15, 2011 via blog

    I use it (social networking) mostly as a calendar. Its still my calendar. My city is outlawing flyers on the streets. Yea, that is one thing that has made New Orleans great. I get guests come in from across the country, and they love the presence of flyers. We are a unique city. I hate that we will just become another American city.

    Though I know many people that ignore most FB (facebook) events as spam. I think its important to note that you can un-join groups that send out events if you are getting too many. In fact, I wish people sent reminders with them (we could go back to email to do that too), but it would encourage people to RSVP or unlike a group that they don't care about if they get the actual message reminders. -- Of course, there needs to be a way to group not-responded into recent additions vs those that should have RSVP'ed because they were invited 2 weeks ago. AND/OR those you invited vs other attendees invited.

    Remember you get a notice of who's invited you, so you can ask them to not invite you again. then you can un-friend them. They can create groups and not invite people in there don't invite group.

    In the end, I hate that it is so mainstream. It used to be that it was truly unique things there. It was how that small artist became known. Now the megga million dollar marketing businesses are using it. I liked the grass roots. I liked the hey this is happening.

    Facebook and the other social sites are going to die because they are too greedy. Don't be everything.
    I miss the days when you could log in and see what was actually happening now. (FB still has that because they have today's events listed up-top/front -- that is was was great about myspace until status updated became surveys and I'm bored. Hey if you are bored, do something, and post it. Check-in's are useless unless you are asking friends to join you!

    Its the same reason marketing people don't get responses. they try to put too many ads too prominent so they get clicks. its not always about clicks. its about visibility. make it too obtrusive, and I'll block it (or avoid your site) --- then you won't be seen or clicked on.

    then there is the employer issue and the better than thou. The internet has allowed people to progress past many social and false moral restrictions. Everyone is different. Deal with it. Perhaps its time for an employer to not use social media as a background check. I used to push draw more people to religion by taking the higher ground vs preaching. You know what pushed me away? The church person who was over conservative. What a way to win people.

    Remember I'm in New Orleans. Those devil fire and brimstone preachers yelling at people on the street sure won't win me over... or anyone I know or see walking by. I suppose there is that one, but I could have won them and ten more with kindness much easier.

  • by PT Thu Sep 15, 2011 via blog

    Oh yea, and on the visibility of ads, give us a page of all your ads. Sometimes I've seen an ad that I want to see, but the page gets refreshed, and it disappears. I try refreshing a dozen times, and the other ad never returns.

    Remember don't be everything. These apps may make you money, but I've blocked every app that pops up. Farmville, to all the other gimics. if I want a game, I'll go to a games page. If you are making money, they are paying you for access to my personal information. that is an invasion of privacy. You should be paying them for there code if it is truly useful, and not give them any of my info

  • by Elaine Fogel Thu Sep 15, 2011 via blog

    Thanks, Kent. I guess it depends on the marketing strategy. If one wants to build SEO and awareness, then maybe quantity is better. If one wants to build relationships with customers and prospects, then quality is number 1.

  • by PT Thu Sep 15, 2011 via blog

    oh on quality vs quantity, fb is trying to solve that, but they need a like and love button. I may be interested in this, but I don't love it. I don't need all those updated on everything. I don't always want to go to a page to adjust the notifications.... heck, some things should not be social groups, i.e. its an interest not a discussion group.

    They are trying to be too smart. I no longer can sort things and invites by all my groups. it's only listing about 5 of my friend categories. Heck even the categories are a tough one. under the new gear in addition to poke and block, add categories. I don't want to have to leave there page to go to all friends and edit category just to add the friend to a category.

    And back to like vs love. and back to the "better than thou"/"holy'er than thou" sometimes even if you are my friend, you should only show some likes & interests if we both like it. Pop it up as a possible interest, but allow it to be ignored

    oh and get rid of all those scripts. They have too many memory leaks and over time end up freezing my browser.

    p.s. facebook is doing what many sites should for the ads. (showing all/recent)

  • by Elaine Fogel Thu Sep 15, 2011 via blog

    Tell us how you really feel, PT. (Just kidding.) You're obviously miffed with some of the social media features that likely annoy many others, too. Wouldn't it be great if we could send the social media site developers and marketers a list of the things we like and dislike? How about the things we wish they would add to make our lives easier? Thanks for sharing!

  • by Sarah Pierce Sun Sep 18, 2011 via blog

    Quality will always win over quantity.

    Major businesses that have award-winning social media strategies (think Victoria's Secret?) might have followers into the millions and very slick-looking page designs, but how many of those actually convert to sales? My guess is that the majority of them are just clicking 'like' or 'follow' because 'my friend did it too'.

    Compare that to a small business that might only have 150 Twitter followers, but has an actual relationship with each of those followers, which is converted into money in the bank at the end of the day (or month, or year...).

    The quality relationships will win every time - and isn't that the whole point of social media and relationship marketing?

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Sep 19, 2011 via blog

    Great point, Sarah. It's all relative. Yet, now that you raise the issue of conversion, I wonder what Victoria's Secret's conversion rate is. In this case, maybe quantity counts? :)

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Sep 19, 2011 via blog

    Cool. I made it into Gene Marks' New York Times blog post! :)
    http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/19/this-week-in-small-business-spending-more-on-gas-but-still-stalled/

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