How to win friends and influence people on social media

MEDIA & MARKETING: The decision to embrace social media is not the same as getting it right – or ‘getting it’ at all…

MEDIA & MARKETING:The decision to embrace social media is not the same as getting it right – or 'getting it' at all

THE CAUTIONARY tales are all too searchable: the foolish tweets even more foolishly deleted; the easy hijacking of fluffy, user-generated content campaigns; the wasted cash. But the casualties can’t wipe away the fact that most companies can no longer afford to ignore social media – nor should they want to.

The decision to embrace social media is not the same as getting it right or "getting it" at all, however – a problem alluded to yesterday by some of the speakers at the Measurement.ieconference in Dublin.

“Hands up, who has had a brief from a client asking you to get more followers on Twitter, get more fans and likes on Facebook?” Dena Walker, digital strategist at advertising agency Irish International, asked the room.


The hands shot up. But companies that say they want to generate “buzz” for their products via social media without working out what it is they actually want from fans and followers are skipping a step. Is it sales, advocacy or perhaps just a warm, amorphous glow of having reached a target that is the point of amassing all those “likes”?

“Advertising is very much stuck in future shock at the moment,” she said. “We’re just sort of dipping our toe in the water, and it’s not really good enough any more.”

The inaugural Measurement.ieconference, organised by Mulley Communications and sponsored by, was not designed for social media "beginners".

Instead, the event promised what one audience member described as “data wankery” (a phrase that inevitably began trending on Twitter) – in other words, it was a snapshot of the kind of analytical tools marketers can use to work out not only how to get a return on their social media investment but how to recognise a return on social media investment when they see one.

“Everyone I work for and with instinctively misunderstands Facebook,” began Mat Morrison, head of social media at Starcom MediaVest in London.

For starters, clients don’t take into account the influence of Facebook’s algorithms, which ultimately decide what the people who “like” their page see in their newsfeed when they log in. These are algorithms that ultimately leave brands competing with photos of babies for attention.

So much of the time, client X’s fans just won’t see client X’s carefully crafted posts. But while page impressions and reach do grow more or less in line with the frequency of client X’s posts, each post will also lead to a surge in unsubscribes, noted Morrison.

This is for the simple reason that people won’t get the opportunity to unsubscribe unless a post pops up reminding them that it wasn’t one of their best ideas to get into Facebook-bed with brand X in the first place.

The other mistake that clients make, according to Morrison, is to believe that Facebook is a “community”, when it is in fact closer to the hierarchy of an email list.

“Only very occasionally will you find a bit of threading in a Facebook post,” said Morrison, citing data from a Budweiser Facebook page that clocked up 1,100 posts over a two-year period.

Some 747 of those posts were generated by fans, while 353 were written by page administrators. But the 747 fan posts generated just 291 comments, almost half of which came from administrators. By contrast, the 353 administrator posts led to a massive 5,166 comments, most of which were from fans. “All the power is in the hands of the page admins.”

The seemingly infinite potential of social media to suck time from the finite working hours of the average marketing department was a recurring theme during the conference, especially given Twitter users’ understandable fondness for using the public timeline to get a speedy resolution to their consumer complaints.

One attendee asked Dell executive and social media professional Stephen Jio if marketers had “begun to create a monster for ourselves”.

Jio didn’t think so. Dell’s customer support team engages with more than 1,000 customers per week, he said, using listening software to root out customer service problems from Dell’s 26,000 daily online mentions and turn “demoters” to “promoters” of its brand.

Not every company can afford a social media “listening command centre” like Dell, nor does every company have the backing of an early social media convert like Michael Dell. But Jio also had some social media guidance that should be relevant to marketing budgets of all sizes.

Firstly, only using social media in a “campaign style” is “a little short-sighted”, given the obvious opportunity to gain insight, Jio said. Secondly, disclose your company associations – “if you don’t, it leads to mistrust”.

And finally, don’t be tempted to use the delete button to get you out of trouble, he warned: “It doesn’t work, you know that.”

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics