The Social Media Fad is Ending

by Steve McKee

The Social Media Fad is EndingI recently attended a confab of senior-level executives who oversee online and digital activities at a variety of leading corporations. While what happened at the conference was enlightening, I think I may have been more enlightened by what I didn’t see happening: social media activity.

I have to admit, that confused me. My first clue was when I asked around and nobody knew the conference hashtag. In fact, many people didn’t even know what a hashtag was. Despite that, I was surprised at how little Twitter activity was happening in and around the conference, and even more surprised at how few of the participants had Twitter profiles at all. So I checked Facebook. Participation there was a bit more common, although most attendees had inaccessible profiles or used them for personal reasons only. LinkedIn showed a bit more representation, but it was apparent that most attendee profiles had not been actively managed. And forget about applications beyond the Big Three. Foursquare? What’s that?

As I milled around the conference I began asking these online elite about their dearth of social media activity. The feedback I generally received was (in so many words), “been there, done that, not interested.” I was stunned. It’s one thing for a random person stopped on the street (or even other members of corporate management) to not get it, but these were the digital glitterati. It just didn’t make sense.

Upon reflection, however, it does. The Great Curiosity about social media is coming to an end. By now everyone who’s anyone in the digital world has attended the breakout sessions, read the you-ought-to-be-doing-this blogs and given social media a shot. Perhaps not surprisingly, many have found it wanting on their personal relevance meter. Some just didn’t give it the time or attention to really understand how it works.

Does that make it irrelevant for their companies? Of course not, as case study after case study demonstrates. As with other forms of media, however, people naturally tend to gravitate towards those which are most personally relevant to them. If these busy professionals “don’t get” or “don’t like” or ”don’t have time for” social media, then no one does, goes the thinking (at least among some).

I have no problem with the Great Curiousity heading towards its nadir. It had to happen sooner or later, and it allows us to more fully enter the Age of Strategy, where the best marketers in every medium dwell. Those who care to find ways to leverage social media will do so, content to let their less strategic counterparts say “it doesn’t work”, just as they do other forms of communication. And the results will show.

My company, and our clients, are reaping positive returns from our social media strategies. We’ve fully incorporated social media into our integrated marketing planning model, and we’re seeing great things happen. Perhaps most exciting is that we know we’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s possible.

Let the Age of Strategy begin.


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Steve McKeeSteve McKee is a BusinessWeek.com columnist, marketing consultant, and author of “When Growth Stalls: How it Happens, Why You’re Stuck, and What To Do About It.” Learn more about him at www.WhenGrowthStalls.com and at https://twitter.com/whengrowthstall.

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  1. The Social Media “Fad” (like all new biz strategies) must be tied to a business scorecard, roadmap and “P&L” objectives. The Social Media Marketing Consultants of the ROW (rest of world) track the USA experience in order to get insights and best practices since there is a head start and the point of view is always interesting.

    The social media scene is rapidly moving towards social media crm and other scopes where there is a greater value.

    The levels of adoption (facebook, twitter, 4square, …) by users is currently sufficient (still growing) to develop initiatives where results can be measured and good for growth / differentiation.

    The C-level community needs to learn more about this fad 🙂

    Thanks for your articles.

  2. hopefully this means that we can now return to more useful discussions about innovation.

    we could add a point called “social media” near the end of the innovation hype cycle curve
    https://www.zephram.de/blog/2010/07/11/the-innovation-hype-cycle/

    i don’t believe we are on the green curve, but i am unsure whether the red or the blue one is closer to the truth.

  3. Thanks for the article!In the vein of some of the comments here..

    Social media proves most useful when the features and interactions it facilitates are purposed for a specific business process or need.
    As we enter what Gartner refers to as the ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ for Innovation Management, this blog Matt Greeley wrote in 2009 really resonates on Ten Reasons Your Corporate Social Network Should be an Innovation Social Network – https://bit.ly/6YLzhw.

  4. I remember in the 90s when newspaper executives said they weren’t interested in the Web.

  5. Social media activities take a whole load of time, clear the C-level isn’t involved personally. They should however have the’re managers take a good look at the valuable customer- and fan data the company gives away to third parties when using the now common digital networks and micromedia providers.

  6. I wouldn’t dismiss the execs views so casually. The return on investment for social media is pretty low. If you already have customer service forums, email forms, 800 numbers, TV and radio spots; adding in another cost channel isn’t very popular. The bulk of most companies Twitter responses to customer questions are “You can find that on our web site.” Why would they want to budget for something like that? The #1 action a consumer performs after friending a company on Facebook is to ignore. Generally our clients could care less. They see social media being blocked at most companies, which means the only people seeing their message are in their target audience. One marketing exec put it best, “If we add another phone number we don’t get twice the phone calls.”

  7. I agree with @kevinsigliano: SM have to make sense inside of a strategy, as well as being tied to objectives and targets to be really relevant. By the way, for me SM are a fixture, they’re here to stay and we have a whole new path of usages and applications to discover and develop.

  8. And the post office says that email is just a fad, too, and will soon fade in favor of the postman.

    Somebody is engaging in some wishful thinking. Social media has nowhere to go but up.

  9. These 10 comments seem to embody almost the entire argument for or against social media ands its relevant use from a business standpoint. The nuts and bolts of the argument is this: exposure. In this infotech age, more and more people gravitate to the web however they can, so why not try to reach them there?

    Success lies in Janelle’s post about being very specific in your end targets and also emphasizing the “social” aspect of it all. Emphasizing the power of “conversation”. People are well-equipped to sift through indirect advertisement as they do it day and night, so they need/want/crave something different. The reason people ignore big biz on facebook is because big biz adhere to the same rules they always have as far as marketing goes- they project messages with out engaging their following. The “conversation” is two-way and in many languages. Give your clients/customers/fans a voice and they’ll love you for it. You could even go as far to call “Soapbox” Media…

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