A Spilled Smoothie Got More Hits Than Your Social Marketing Campaign: Embracing the Social Media Bubble Burst

One of my spilled smoothies.

One of my spilled smoothies.

An unedited, many part series, written while the author juggles two businesses, a communications day-job, and brand new daddyhood. Like social media itself, it may be rough around the edges. And will be unpredictably episodic.

This is the article that no social media professional wants to read. Heck, it’s the article that I don’t want to read – and I’m the social media professional writing it.

I’m going to start if off by stating the bald truth. No sugar. No cutesy pie analogy. No embedded links to humorous, almost tangential memes or videos – and, man, I love linking to humorous, almost tangential memes and videos.

Here we go, kids. Take a deep breath.

Ready?

OK, then.

The social media bubble burst is upon us. Well, if not actually upon us, looming in the very near future. It is here. It is real. And it is going to kick some fairly serious ass.

Actually, allow me to rephrase. The social media bubble isn’t going to burst. That sounds awfully swift and dramatic. No, instead, it is going to leak. Kind of the way air does from an untied balloon – in a squeaky annoying wail if held too tightly. In a flubbery wet fart sound if let go completely.

You know, that seems just about right. It’ll go out sounding pretty much like a fart. All air and no, well… substance.

Now, before you go all crazy and accuse me of tolling the death knell of social media, let me spell out exactly what it is that I mean:

  1. The giant social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are financially overvalued and cannot maintain the hyper-inflated worth that they currently hold; because:
  2. None of them have actually figured out how to make big money off this freewheeling wild west of a universe that we call social media.
  3. An ever-growing segment of our economy is made up of social media consultants (many of whom consulting before they’ve ever been employed). I’m talking hundreds of thousands of us –selling services to a finite number of small and medium-sized businesses; services themselves that are overvalued because:
  4. Social media is not an overly effective tool for marketing many/most small to medium-sized businesses. Not, that is, without some spectacularly good luck – or without concessions to older communications/marketing paradigms.
  5. The number of social media followers you have means nothing if these followers aren’t taking action (likes, shares, favourites, retweets, um… picking up the phone and actually calling you).  And, much of the time, they aren’t. [EDIT: This isn’t 100% true — though interaction with your content is a very strong indicator of the success of your outreach.  We’ll get to “impressions” and “views” vs. “shares,” “clicks,” “likes,” “RTs,” and “CTs” later.]
  6. Social media is far from dead – and will continue in some form or another for years – it just isn’t going to be the money maker we all hoped it would be.

I told you that social media professionals were not going to want to read this.

Then again, maybe they will. After all, torches and pitchforks are popular items on the world wide webz. And I’m betting no shortage of people will be most willing to flame me by the time I’m done with this series – whether in effigy, in real life, or in the comment sections remains to be seen.

Another spilled smoothie.

Another spilled smoothie.And I’m betting no shortage of people will be most willing to flame me by the time I’m done with this series – either in effigy, in real life, or in the comment sections.

There you go, friends. My 6 point outline for this little exploratory treatise on the wet fart that is the future of social marketing business.

Don’t worry. I’m going to mix some good news in throughout these short articles and — is that a baby I hear crying? – they are defininitely going to be short.

When next we meet, we’ll take a look at the future – or lack thereof – of doing business on Facebook, Twitter, and the other major platforms. That article might come next week. It might come next month. Only the hours left in any given day will tell for certain.

I look forward to taking you along for the journey. However bumpy the ride may be.

Speaking of journey… I should explain the title of this piece. It’s one that pretty much sums up the theme of this series: Social marketing is much better at “social” than it is at “marketing.”

As a guy who does digital communications for a living – both as a decade-plus consultant and for a large institution – I’d like to think that my personal social media feeds are entertaining and informative.  I take pride in both original content and carefully curated “shares.” I’m often surprised and pleased when I bump into people in real life and they tell me how much they enjoy following my escapades on Facebook or Twitter.

The smoothie stories are an example of what people bring up — the smoothie, and my journey to work each day.

Over the course of a month, a while back, I managed to have several accidents surrounding the daily smoothie I take with me in the mornings. They’ve tumbled off the roof of cars, been splattered over my pants – the same pants, in fact, twice. Well, twice and a half. One even slow-leaked and fermented in the nooks, crannies, and foamy material of my car seat – and, man, you really don’t want to smell that after returning from a warm week away. Each time there was a disaster, I documented it online.

Anyhow, long story short: For some reason, my smoothie situation resonated. I forget how many hits, shares, likes, and retweets they got – not a tonne, certainly, but enough that, months later, it still comes up in (in-person and online) conversation at least once a week.

Here’s the rub, though. As small as this blip was, it still outpaced almost all of the professional social marketing I sent out over the same period. Actually, when I started peeking around, it outpaced a lot of the social marketing that big-time local professional social marketers were putting out – including boosted/sponsored/paid posts.

And still these numbers are a fraction of what I see when I post a photo of my 6-month-old, Clara.

Is there something special about me? About my smoothie? About my baby?

You guessed it.

You guessed it.

I’m inclined to say yes, though my wife, Krista, will be quick to disagree. She doesn’t like it when my head gets too big – and she’s quick to tell me when it does.  I’ve learned to listen to her as a result.

So, no. Not in the least.

I’d like to think that the engagements (the likes/shares/whatevers) come because my social media is so original — and some of it actually is a result of my originality and storytelling — but the truth of the matter is that it is because my feed is, well, social.

And not marketing.

You see, baby Clara still racks up a heck of a lot of hits when she appears in Krista’s feed — and Krista is definitely not a heavy social media presence.

Actually, babies are universal “like” gatherers.  No matter whose feed they are in, they are attention magnets.

Then again, so are kittens.

And unicorns.

And that drunk picture from the bar.

Man, I wish Suzie wasn’t so quick with the iPhone camera.  But I digress.

The story about carburetors that was written specifically for the Facebook feed of Joe’s Garage?

Not so much.  Nary a “like” to be found.  Except, maybe, from Joe’s mom.  But she likes everything that Joe posts.

It’s people, you see, who put the “social” in social media and social marketing. And it is the people that drive the social media sites – not the businesses.

And in the next few installments, we’re going to find out why this is problematic. For Facebook. For Twitter. For the ever-growing hoards of social media consultants. And for folks like Joe, from Joe’s Garage.

Sorry to tell you, Joe. No-one’s going to read that article on carburetors.

But also, we’ll get a bit of good news. After all, there is still some pretty good benefit to be gained while experimenting in the strange science that is social media. And it just might come from some strange — yet oddly familiar — bedfellows.

But before we get comfortable, we’re going to probably have to squirm a little.

Or maybe a lot.

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