This is a post related to “Critics of Social Media", the topic for week 12 of the “Digital Marketing” course that I’m currently undertaking at RMIT.
I created this Spotify Playlist for this article, feel free to give it a go while you read the following lines:)
As an engineering student who is curios about the marketing world and entrepreneurship, I decided to choose this Digital Marketing course as an elective during my stay abroad here in Melbourne because I was looking forward to learning more about a topic that I consider extremely relevant and useful to know about in this digital era we live in. After watching a couple of talks by professor Mark Ritson, though, I began to think whether it was a smart choice to enrol in this subject or not, as he states that social media is mostly a waste of time for marketers.
In his speech, which is backed by trustworthy data, he suggests that the buzz around digital media, with many relevant blogs and magazines saying that traditional media might be dying because of social media, is completely biased and it makes no sense to him: he sees social media as a tool that people use to communicate with other people, inducing that brands might have a limited chance to take part in these conversations. He brings onto the table statistics on how marketing in traditional media channels –such as TV or radio– still have a huge –and apparently bigger than digital media– impact on people’s lives. Then, he firmly states that “if a marketer comes to him with a pre-allocated social media marketing budget he knows they are poorly trained”.
Although I understand his point of view and consider it very enlightening for me, as it’s true that before deciding how you are going to spend your marketing budget you should first elaborate a well-thought strategy based on which your goals are and who you are targeting to, as well as the fact we shouldn’t always believe the hype around a specific trend, in the following paragraphs I will do my best to justify an aspect I humbly consider he might be missing in his argument.
Your strategy depends on who your target customers are
One of the main arguments through which Mark Ritson justifies why he thinks that social media has a small impact on the customers of a specific company is by picking the biggest companies in Australia and comparing their amount of followers on social media with their total number of customers. He obtains an average of around a 5% on Facebook (i.e. Commonwealth Bank has around 14,000,000 customers but only 700,000 follow them on Facebook, so that equals a 5% of their customer base), and even lower values for other platforms.
However, what we should take into account here is that these are mainly companies that have a broad target group of customers, as they are either banks (ANZ, Commonwealth, Westpac, NAB), big supermarket chains (Woolworths, Coles) or telecommunication companies (Telstra, Optus). All of them aim to fulfil a need that most of the population have, that’s why they are so relevant. In my opinion, the fact they are the biggest companies in Australia shouldn’t be enough to use their numbers to justify his hypothesis applies on any kind of business.
For instance, after doing some research I have found out that companies that emerged as startups and offer an online-based service –and therefore target a younger audience– perform way better in this field. For instance, the amount of likes Redbubble has on Facebook equals a 12% of the amount of people that has at some point bought something in their website –7 million–, Canva had 10 million users at the end of 2018 and they are followed by 1.3 million people of Facebook –which makes it a 13% of the total amount of users–, if we check a smaller but still relevant startup such as 99designs, their FB likes to actual user rate increases to a 46% for example, as they count on 444,306 users and they are liked by 203,860 people.
Although the numbers I provided still don’t prove that digital media performs better than traditional media, it does confirm that Mark Ritson’s justification can’t be applied to any kind of business. Moreover, the amount of followers on a brand’s profile isn’t the only metric we should be taking into account in order to determine whether it’s worth for the brand to invest time and resources into building their social media profile. For instance, social media profiles for businesses are proven to increase brand awareness, trust and they are also a great way to provide customer support, even to people that don’t follow them.
As a conclusion, I consider that as marketers we should be aware of the importance of creating a marketing strategy based in our goals and our target customer profile instead of deciding to go all-in on digital media because it’s what might seem trendy nowadays or just focusing on traditional media because it allows to reach a bigger audience. It’s crucial as well to take our decisions based on actual data that comes from relevant sources of information.
What do you think about this topic? Have you watched any of Mark Ritson’s videos? Do you agree with him? Do you think digital media will take over traditional media? Or you still believe in TV, radio and out-of-home advertising?
~ by Elies Delgado Tamarit