Let’s get back to the roots.
Social media marketing has seen the greatest development since the Russian hacking of Donald Trump’s 2016 election. Why? It exposed what many social media marketers have known for a long time: social media platforms are a joke. Their valuations are based upon imaginary users and their integrity lies somewhere between Lucifer or that guy who eats peoples’ faces in movies.
Marketing consultants like myself find it increasingly difficult to recommend existing social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, or Twitter. This is because many of us don’t trust the metrics.
Why should we? Facebook does not
Our key metrics (DAUs), MAUs (monthly active users) and ARPU (average revenue per user) are calculated from internal company data that is based on user account activity. These numbers are based upon what we consider to be reasonable estimates for our user base over the relevant period of measurement. However, measuring the usage of our products among large online and mobile populations around world presents inherent challenges.
According to the largest data management company, it doesn’t know if their numbers are correct. Estimates? How do marketing professionals want to know the estimated results after they are done?
It gets worse. It gets worse.
We estimate that approximately 10% of all MAUs worldwide were duplicate accounts in the fourth quarter 2017. As compared to developed markets, we believe that the proportion of duplicate accounts in developing countries like India, Indonesia and the Philippines is significantly higher than the rate found in more developed ones. We estimate that fake accounts accounted for approximately 3-4 percent of our global MAUs in the fourth quarter 2017.
Let this sink in. Facebook admits that approximately 10% of its monthly active users is fake. They don’t say how much of their daily active users they are fake.
That’s the problem of social media. It’s impossible to tell the difference between real and fake social media.
Social media isn’t real anymore.
We are proud of our accuracy as marketers and advertisers. We used to obsess over ratings numbers for advertising and print promotions and delivery success rates for direct mailings.
All platforms were thoroughly audited in all cases. It was easy to determine the audience for each medium or channel. There was always a review point for the numbers.
Because traditional media like radio, TV and print have been around for so long, there are thousands of case studies that can be used to examine the successes or failures of campaigns. These mediums were public records, so it was easy to look backward to determine what media mix and budget worked.
We could quickly establish industry benchmarks for success, not only based on our individual experiences but also based upon the collective experience of clear strategies that were laid out for everyone to see.
Social media blew that out of the water.
The numbers of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook were always a joke.
In the days gone by, company valuations were based on revenues and assets as well as performance.
This all changed when the idea of “daily activate users” was introduced.
Social media platforms became more powerful than ever because of the desire to gain new users. The obsession with user growth has opened up the possibility of advertising and marketing fraud at a scale not possible before.
Let’s be clear: Any platform that allows users to create fake profiles to allow others to buy likes, followers or shares is harmful to both advertisers and brands.
Okay, now I get that the word “allows”, is doing a lot in that sentence. Let me explain a little more.
I doubt I’ll be able to get any arguments from them when I say that the most popular social media platforms are also the most technologically advanced. Their entire business model revolves around being able crunch numbers, facts and obscure pieces millions of times per second.
They are also large corporations with an army IP bulldogs and lawyers waiting to protect their brand from any outside threats.
Let me ask you, why is it that people still have the ability to buy likes on Facebook, Twitter followers or Instagram fans, despite all the news?
It was always a fraud. We were all conned.
What does it matter if the users are real or fake? To ensure integrity of your userbase, you would hire an army of auditors if you had the money. They never did this, and I doubt they will ever do it again.
Social media platforms use honey traps.
Social platforms like Twitter and Facebook initially lured companies and brands to their platforms by promising free advertising and marketing. You can quickly build a following and fan base without having to hire marketing scum like me. You don’t need to hire a professional when it is possible to do it yourself.
This was something I supported at first. Marketing and advertising were often expensive and only large companies could afford them. Small business marketing was not being considered. Even a small business can compete online with the help of social media marketing.
Many businesses have spent thousands of dollars and hours to increase their online followers.
After luring them into their honey traps, social media companies held their followers and fans hostage. To have access to the userbase you cultivated and built, you had to pay.
The numbers suddenly made no sense. It was expensive to boost or promote posts, when it was previously free. Many businesses were left devastated by the result. Although the ROI numbers didn’t add up for many businesses, there were so many customers that they couldn’t help but continue trying to get as much value as possible.
Furthermore, such promotions opened the door to more abuses. Social platforms seemed to be driven by revenue and continued to ignore fake profiles and social media bots in order to drive ad sales. Users were not able to comprehend how their personal data was harvested or manipulated.
It did a lot to marketing, and I don’t think we can recover. It forced many digital marketing agencies and firms to share the Kool-aid. When we all knew better, people doubled down on social marketing for their clients.
Advertising agencies and marketing agencies were made accomplices in the aftermath of the event.
Marketing and advertising consultants, as I mentioned earlier, are expected to be meticulous and accurate. We want to ensure that our clients get the best possible ROI.
We are self-serving, just like professionals in any industry vertical.
Real estate agents are one of my favorite examples of people who don’t know better but will do anything to make a quick buck.
A real estate agent might tell you that it is a bad time to buy a home. I’ve never seen a realty agent say that buyers should wait to buy a house. Are house prices rising? This is a great time to purchase; you will get your money back right away! House prices going down? It’s a buyers market! Get your savings locked in now!
Social media marketing was a similar endeavor by advertising and marketing professionals.
We were astonished at the rise of these platforms and did not want to be left behind. Clients were asking us to assist them as the buzz was growing behind them. Many firms advised their clients to invest in social media, even though they were not proven with any case studies.
What happened? Most social media campaigns end in disaster. Only a small percentage of companies continue to use social media in a serious manner compared with the rates they used for traditional advertising and SEO.
It is evident in the positioning. Digital marketers discuss social media in terms of “reach”, “exposure,” and “presence.” This is code for “throw away your money.” You can do an internet search for social media effectiveness and find a lot of SEO and social media marketing pros praising the platforms.
Real marketers speak about ROI. Impact on sales and lead generation. Brand awareness is not a rentable asset. This is what I say as someone who builds brands every day.