Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Social Media Is Not 'Busted'

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Social Media Is Not 'Busted'

Article excerpt

The City may be getting sceptical about the future, but marketers must realise this doesn't matter.

I wasn't going to write this article.

I mean, the premise seemed self-evidently absurd; that social media is a busted flush. I've heard it now from several sources, however, most recently the chief executive of a print media company, and it's worrying.

Facebook's numbers are down. LinkedIn's IPO is evidence of a bubble Groupon's valuation bears no relation to reality. Warren Buffett says that some internet start-ups may be overpriced. The meme is spreading, and as it grows it is gaining credibility; largely from the 'no smoke without fire' crowd.

In 2001, as the dotcom crash bit, the City fell out of love with the internet. Until 2000, companies would experience a leap in their share price simply by adding the suffix '.com' to their brand name; after the crash, the web was a dirty word. The marketing community moved from spending irrationally big amounts to cutting internet investment altogether.

Across the country, media agencies showed their vision and commitment to the digital future by closing their digital divisions or 'merging them with their direct operation' (ie closing them). The schadenfreude was palpable as those who'd never had the guts to get into digital pointed to the burst bubble with a 'told-you-so' look on their faces.

As the founders of an internet agency, my business partner and I could have found this disheartening. Actually, we thought it was great.

Every day throughout that recession, more consumers got online. Every day they did more online and spent more time online. All we had to do was to ignore the dodgy fashion advice, and build a business that delivered against this consumer opportunity; while the retrenchment of those fashion victims gave us the opportunity we needed to drive greater market share and pull up the drawbridge behind us.

This time, it isn't quite that simple. There may well be a bubble in social media-related stock valuations; and as before, for our purposes, this isn't important. As marketers we should be looking at what consumers do, not what the City values. The problem is that there is a marketing bubble.

Friend. Fan. Like. Connection. Follower. All words with significance in their description of the exchanges between humans. All words now thrown around in a social media context to describe processes created to mimic 'real' interactions.

This isn't one of those Luddite complaints about Facebook friends not being as good as real friends. They're not, but that's not the point. …

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