by Jeff Molander
Time to read: 5 minutes.
Like many marketers, 1800Flowers is intoxicated by excitement over “social media” and the supposed revolution it’s creating. But are you willing to bet your marketing dollars on customers shopping using Facebook? Why? The excitement and expectation around social media is too often illogical and dangerous. Yes — it’s smart to experiment but yes it DOES cost real money to do so. No — most marketers CANNOT afford to fail using social media in a down economy. Resist bloggers, trade media and “experts” in their rush to hail “all that is Facebook” as bold and innovative. Here’s how.
Facebook changes nothing — yet
First, let’s quickly explore why we should catch our breath when it comes to Facebook. Jim McCann and his otherwise brilliant team are jumping on the social media hype-and-spin bandwagon and, as I see it, failing to truly innovate. I see this use of Facebook is a gratuitous one based on what I’m observing so far. Can you afford to follow? Mr. McCann says…
“Facebook is redefining the social Web, a cultural and social phenomenon that has changed the way we connect with one another,” says 1800Flowers CEO Jim McCann as he whips the ‘social media’ hype engine into overdrive — blowing by rational thought.
Facebook cannot re-define the social Web. Facebook isn’t doing anything that others aren’t doing — it just has more mass. Secondly, the social Web isn’t a cultural or social phenomenon that’s changed the way we connect with one another. The social Web merely makes what we’ve done for generations easier, faster and boarder-less.
The “Age of Conversation” is NOT now (yes, the book is wrong too!). The “Age of Conversation” has existed since the beginning of human existence. It’s how we’ve always engaged in commercial transactions — commerce, trade, barter. In this reality-based context, Facebook changes very little for marketers — not yet. Would you agree?
We’ve been there, done that — it didn’t work
The investment in a pop-up storefront on Facebook is a new idea? Nope, it’s a seriously old one. ePods, Affinia!, Nexchange, iMediation and a list of about a dozen other failed companies tried this and failed in the early 1990′s. Nearly ever major publisher has tried to set up mini-storefronts using simple (affiliate marketing) to complex (drop-shipping) tech tools that link up sellers and publishers. Fail.
“But things have changed, Jeff… this is the era of Web 2.0!”
Indeed, it is and we now have FAR more media on the Web being created by far more entities of all sorts. “Consumers” spend FAR more time consuming and creating content than searching or buying. So now things have changed… right? According to their technology partner, Alvenda (a rather retro-startup providing those same pop-up storefronts) they have.
1800Flowers believes people are aching to engage in ecommerce away from their ecommerce site. Why?
What gives Mr. McCann the belief that this is going to work — that people actually WANT to shop from within Facebook? I understand and respect the fact that consumers are busy NOT paying attention to ads and are ENORMOUSLY “engaged” by social media — distracted from buying stuff and only buying what they really NEED these days. Problem. Got it… but???
Beware: The ‘it costs next to nothing’ myth
Many of you have said, “but Jeff why not… what’s the opportunity cost… it’s next to nothing!”
I will continue to be accused of having an “anti-experimental” attitude toward social media. I’m not anti-experimental. I’m anti-silly; anti-illogical; anti-flash-in-the-pan-voodoo marketing. I’m pro-reality.
It absolutely costs real, hard-earned dollars to experiment with social media. Time is money!
Add up the costs of all that time we’re spending experimenting on social media pet projects that are designed to fail.
“But, Jeff, I’m putting a college intern on it…”
Beware: The ‘they’re young, they get it’ myth
Ok… but in real life when you put someone with NO experience on a project you FAIL. Somehow, with social media, MY thinking on this is the failure — based on the belief systems of most marketers I talk to. Many marketers believe that the key to success is…
Putting someone young on the project and paying them nothing actually increases the odds of success — they “get it.”
Somehow the experience they get with immersing themselves on Facebook, Twitter, etc. changes everything. Their experience is valued — to the extent that we can afford to experiment and hope that remarkable business outcomes happen.
Somehow the (often narcissistic) immersion of young folk QUALIFIES them to get the job done and supports our belief that something meaningful will emerge in social media. Really? Really.
‘Branding’ & social media: Re-defining failure as success
“But Jeff, there are countless examples of successful companies that have used college interns or inexperienced talent to net REAL results on Twitter and Facebook.”
Yes but how do many marketers define success? How many times have you heard a marketer re-define a failure?
“This campaign didn’t achieve the sales/sales lead goal but it was a BRANDING success.”
When marketers’ campaigns fail to actually create tangible business outcomes we often fall back on that comfy space — “branding.” Somehow marketers get away with this re-setting of the goal-post (for decades now) but research indicates that this won’t last much longer — not in this tough economy.
Too often we hear marketers define success in terms that are un-acceptable to the C-Suite (CFO’s in particular). Here are a few popular ones: Twitter followers, Facebook friend count, “engagement.”
How to avoid becoming a social eCommerce failure
The 1800Flowers Facebook storefront is one of two things:
- A failure to actually innovate (propped up by the belief that there’s no cost involved in trying) or
- A failure to create brand value to customers and prospective customers
Why is the company investing in social network marketing? Because it needs to innovate — that’s a core expectation of its many investors. Why did Amazon acquire Zappos? Largely based on market expectations. Yet I believe 1800Flowers has given up on innovation or is simply too large to innovate (which is what many are now saying about Google).
More importantly, I believe Mr. McCann’s crew have failed to create enough brand value among customers to keep their attention. If a company cannot rely on its database of happy customers, it’s Web site, it’s catalog — everything that it traditionally relies on — what CAN it depend on?
I see the company’s social media pipe dreams as a scream for help in a tough market… I’ll admit.
When it comes to social network marketing we need to act responsibly in this new economy. The first step in doing so is to realize that many bloggers, trade media and “experts” are irrationally rushing to hail “all that is Facebook” as bold and innovative — automatically and based on faulty reasoning. I admit this reasoning is quite popular… yet this supports my point. To rise above mediocrity a company must think strategically — resist following the lead of others tactically. Think first, then act. What do you think?
About the Author
Jeff Molander+ is the authority on making social media sell. He's a sought-after corporate trainer to small businesses and global corporations like Brazil's Petrobras. He's an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded what is today the Google Affiliate Network. Jeff also serves as adjunct digital marketing faculty at Loyola University’s school of business. His new book, Off The Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You, is first to offer businesses a clear, practical way to create leads and sales with technology platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs.