The trouble with social media (if blame is to be apportioned at all) is exemplified by the heading of my article here. A more accurate description of what I will talk about would be: “Why Social Media is not a Channel for Selling” or perhaps, even better: “Social Media Usage and Human Economic Behavior” but none of these would be as strong and strong is what is required in order to make an article stand out sufficiently to be read.
There are a few things here that are worth unpacking. First, social media requires us to take on extra roles. The moment any of us shares a piece of content we instantly turn into publishers. As publishers consciously or not we make the kind of decisions that in newspapers lead to articles like “Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster” itself a manufactured story, at best, pushed my publicist Max Clifford because ... You guessed it, it was “strong”. The kind of headline that got eyeballs, was talked about and made careers.
The point is that the reason for promoting a story we have read is so that others can read it and, maybe, also think that we are a little bit cool because they found something great through us. When we promote something, even if it’s not to market our own content, we are already invested in it. We may have read it (and not everyone reads what they promote in social networks), we definitely think it has some merit and we expect it to impact upon us, reputationally.
No one has a lot of time any more so reading, even the kind of skim-reading that looks at the title of a piece and then scans the paragraphs, rushing towards the end where a TL;DR summary is now handily given by most writers, is an activity that’s reserved only when the question of “What’s in it for me?” has been satisfactorily settled.
Which handily brings us to the portentous news that Twitter posts seem to be on a bit of a tailspin. Twitter is saying this is not the case but even if it were the news is not quite as bad as you might think.
Social Media Networks are Maturing
When social media networks became a thing, marketers and brands thought that this would be an awesome way to lower advertising costs and increase reach in yet one more one-to-many, mass media channel of communication. It’s taken a while for the proverbial penny to drop and brands to realize that social media networks are a two-way, horizontal, as opposed to a vertical channel.
While there are still a lot of marketers that have not yet got the message, a great many have. The dip in traffic, especially in channels like Twitter could just as easily be ascribed to marketing resources being apportioned differently to take that into account.
Plus, Yes: Trust!
A social network is a very specific environment where each of us, as members, has specific choices to make and many of these require a certain amount of trust in order to take place. Social Networks are not amongst the most trusted entities on the planet for example, which means that as we become more proficient in our ability to navigate the web we also begin to develop the necessary shortcuts we need when it comes to trust. We know who to listen to (and why) and whom to ask when we need to verify something.
The Straight Dope
So, is social network marketing traffic declining? In all probability yes it is. At the same time deeper, more complex interactions and engagement are taking place. The value of a social media connection to a brand is directly proportionate to the time and effort devoted to building that connection.
This means the easier it is to form and maintain the easier it is to discard or ignore. So, relationship building for marketers and brands with their audience in social media networks is, you guessed it, complicated.
Studies & Sources
Trust and Privacy Concern Within Social Networking Sites: A Comparison of Facebook and MySpace
Social Networking fact Sheet – Pew Research
Social networking sites: Levels of trust, engagement
Trust and Social Media