Social Media – The ‘Meatloaf Equation’

Sorry. It’s very easy to poke fun and, as I’m the sort of guy who likes ‘easy’, if I get the opportunity, then I will seize it with both hands.

Today I’d like to draw your attention to mashable.com and an article that was published in January this year entitled ’40 of the best Twitter brands and the people behind them’. You can read it if you like – never say I don’t give you anything.

To cut a long story short because, for some reason, I’m just not that into it today, it doesn’t make edifying reading. In fact, if you look behind the breathless and rather candyfloss tone of the article and examine the numbers, you’ll see that the quantity of followers for each of these brands (the 40 best Twitter brands, mind) is minute. And undoubtedly, there’s quite a lot of effort (even if it’s by one person, in their spare time) going into serving this audience – effort which, simply by the laws of math, isn’t making much in the way of a difference.

Anyway, I recognise that eight months is a long time in social media and there’s been a lot of growth, so – and it’s all my inherent laziness would allow – I picked on one of the 40 best Twitterers (Scott Monty at Ford) and compared followers now, with followers then. Mr Monty is now up to over 25,000 followers, compared to 8,500 in January. Which is roughly a three-fold increase and – on that basis – pretty impressive.

However – and anyone who’s been here before will know that there is always an ‘however’.  Current data says there are 45 million registered Twitter users globally. 10% of that would be 4.5 million. 1% would be 450,000. 0.1% would be 45,000. Ford – and a fair number of the other 40 best – have approximately 0.05% of the available audience. Factor in the statistics for Twitter account usage and attrition and it’s a very, very small number indeed.

It’s an example of the ‘Meatloaf Equation’, which goes something like “Two outta three ain’t bad.” “Yes it is. It’s 66%. It’s crap. A ‘B’ grade at best. Must try harder, boy.”

What’s my point? All that effort put into social media strategies for a possible audience of 25,000. Most of whom are untraceable and leave you with no information about themselves. Many of whom don’t actually exist (in that their accounts lapse as soon as they start them up – the average account, total number of tweets from which is one). And very, very few of whom are going to repay you – for these are brands after all – with a purchase.

’40 of the best Twitter brands and the people behind them’? Self-congratulatory back-slapping for those in the gang. Otherwise – vapid and meaningless.

Monetising Social Media – The Return of The Snake-Oil Salesmen

Couldn’t let this one go without some sort of comment.

Yesterday I was forwarded an email invitation to attend the breathlessly-billed ‘first ever Marketing (magazine) live webcast on monetising social media’. The only good thing about it is that it’s free – but, working on the principle that there is no such thing as a free lunch, I would imagine that sales messages are going to be sloshing over its gunwales and that the ‘highest rated speakers in this space’ are going to be ‘social media strategists’ one and all, representing the very finest in social media marketing service provision. But I’m just cynical about these things.

Anyway, it’s a free world, so if you’re interested, clickety-dickety here.

 However, the bit that I couldn’t let pass without comment was this:

“Sites like YouTube, Twitter and FaceBook have been real cash cows for some marketers, but what are the secrets of their success?”

Sorry? Who, exactly, are these marketers for whom social media has been such a cash cow? I’m aware of a number of brands/companies/organisations that have pumped a lot of money IN to social media marketing – but I really don’t know of any who’ve found social media to be a ‘cash cow’. (And don’t get me wrong – I’d be very interested by, and grateful for, any good examples.)

Or are the marketers that have found social media to be a cash cow those who carped the diem and reinvented themselves as social media marketers – and are now rolling in fees chucked at them by brands/companies and organisations desperate not to miss out on what they’ve been told is the ‘next big thing’?

Social Media – A New Dotcom Bubble, As If Proof Were Needed

ITV sell Friends Reunited for £145m less than they paid for it. DC Thomson buy it, announce that they plan to make a dating site for the over-50s out of it.

As a service for the hard-of-thinking, in simple terms, this is what it means. ITV paid over £150m for Friends Reunited because they thought they could ‘monetise’ it (to press a curennt buzzword into service). They couldn’t. DC Thomson, being slightly smarter AND with the benefit of some years extra intel, realise that they’ll not be able to sell it as a marketing/advertising opportunity, so look at the ways they can make money from the users of the site. Who happen to be over 50 and – let’s face it – looking for something.

This – and eBay’s experience with Skype (OK, not technically a social network, but reliant on users parting with cash to communicate with each other) – really underlines where we are with social media as a marketing tool. Nowhere. Marketing activity through social media delivers no tangible value – certainly nothing that translates into noticeable uplift in revenues. The ITV/Friends Reunited debacle just shows how futile it is to try and ‘monetise’ – get a sensible, serious and stable revenue stream out of – a social medium.

It is an object lesson. Do not do it.

Oh, I hear you say, but I have no intention of buying placebebo.com and trying to monetise it. No, my social media marketing strategies involve using existing social media channels, and require no investment from me.

Wrong. Every hour you, or your people, spend monitoring Twitter or creating groups on Facebook is time, effort and opportunity cost that would be better dedicated elsewhere.

(Oh, yeah – Twitter – becoming the province of the middle-aged and older. Young people moving away, new research says so. Google it.)