Social Media Marketing: Is It All Just Hype?

I recently received an email advertising a webinar from HubSpot, an inbound marketing company that hosts regular informational sessions on a variety of marketing topics. The subject line was provocative enough to get me to open it, and see what the session might be about. The email began:

Is social media really the future of marketing? Join me as I talk about how the power of social media is grossly exaggerated. Social media is a powerful tool, but it is just one of many gears that you need to make up your marketing machine.

I agree with this statement, and it got me thinking about all the hype we’ve seen recently over social media. Where is this thing going?

History Repeats Itself

As happened in the early days of the Web in the mid-1990s, social media has its nay-sayers, doers, exaggerators and believers — that’s all par for the course in the cycle of a technology as it goes from introduction to mass adoption. If you started riding the social media wave early on, you have probably gone from curiosity to interest to avid enthusiasm to evangelizing. Then as the landscape began to change and others swooped into what felt like “your territory,” you may have experienced some irritation, nervousness, competitiveness, even fear. Then perhaps you regrouped and shifted your focus to carve out your space in an ever-increasingly crowded marketplace. Some of you may already be curious about something newer on the horizon, something shinier and more interesting than blogs, microblogs and social networks, like mobile and augmented reality.

No matter where you are in this cycle, one thing is clear: Social media is not just hype, in the same way that the Web was not just hype, or the Internet or the cell phone or the personal computer. HubSpot’s promotional email got it right that social media is a powerful tool (or perhaps more accurately, a “set of tools.”) But like any tool in your marketing, communications and customer relations toolkit, it is not the be-all and end-all.

The Masses Are Here

Two things happened to me in the last week that made me realize that this is the “big moment” for social media, right before the hype starts to die down, and we begin to take for granted that these tools exist because they will be assimilated into most people’s work and lives:

  1. My dad told me he watched a segment on CNN about Facebook and social media for small businesses. My dad is a civil engineer and would admit to only being moderately active on the Internet. The fact that he took the time to watch the segment was significant. Social media, Facebook and Twitter are all becoming a recognized part of his world, although he still scratches his head about them. He’s “getting it” more, although he may still tell you he just doesn’t “get it.” Yet the information has reached him and has sunk in.
  2. A friend asked if I knew how she could get a Facebook Page for her church’s youth group. She’s an accountant and other than having a personal Facebook profile is not a techie, unless you count financial and Quicken skills, of course. Her budget was about $200. And I knew she could get a suitable page for that amount of money because someone out there is proficient enough to build it for her for a few hours pay.

Basic Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts are fast becoming commoditized. The more challenging and critical aspects of using social media — the aspects that we need to pay attention to — are being strategic about how we enhance our social media properties; how to incorporate them into our processes, including our communications and marketing mix; and how to manage our social media properties and the people who connect with us through them.

Do you feel that social media is about to become something we take for granted, like the web?

image released into the public domain via Wikimedia Commons by GravisZro

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