Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Google+ Avoids the Bad Perception of Social Media


Many senior executives may want to believe that an investment in social media marketing is strategic to their business, but they're apparently still not convinced. They've read all the hype about the huge amount of people that registered on Facebook, but they question how many of their customers or prospects access the social network regularly.

They wonder if people really are looking for product or service information on Facebook, when most users activity tends to revolve around sharing photos of friends, family members or their pets. The most doubtful executives hear all the talk about the power of user engagement, yet their marketing staff prefers to write checks to Facebook for consistently poor-performing ad placements.

Can the launch of Google+ help to reverse some of the bad perceptions that these senior executives already have about today's social media marketing practices? Or, can Google simply avoid the debate altogether, and gain a significant market advantage as a result?

Why Social Media is Not a Strategic Priority

eMarketer estimates 80 percent of companies with at least 100 employees will use social networks for marketing this year -- that's up from nearly three in four last year. By 2012, usage will be even greater. But many social media campaigns currently seem to be stuck in the experimental stage of development.

Regardless, most companies recognize that a social media strategy should be a vital part of the marketing plan. In fact, a study from Jive Software and Penn, Schoen & Berland found 78 percent of executives thought a social business strategy was somewhat or very important to the future success of their business.

Despite this realization, most executives are still only in the tentative stages of making social strategy a priority. Why? Meaningful strategy development is a responsibility that's typically deferred to someone else. The senior executive expects the marketing VP to do it, but the role is often performed by someone who thinks and acts like a legacy media buyer.

By default, a low-level agency employee will decide how to spend the client's social media budget.

An Opportunity to Re-Imagine Social Commerce

The survey of executives who have final say or significant input on social business strategy found that only 27 percent listed social business as a top strategic priority. Nearly half (47 percent) admitted a social plan was necessary but not a strategic priority -- and a puzzling 19 percent said a social business strategy was simply not necessary.

Meanwhile, many of the surveyed executives were not optimistic about their current social strategy. Only 17 percent felt their social strategy was ahead of the curve. About four in 10 (42 percent) believed that their social strategy was just keeping up -- and a troubling 33 percent believed that they were already behind.

A study by Forbes Insights and Coremetrics showed similar results. Only 11 percent of U.S. and UK executives said social media strategy was a priority in 2011 -- it tied for last place with mobile marketing. Regarding their plans for 2012, only 19 percent of surveyed executives listing it as a leading marketing priority.

eMarketer concludes that companies are active in social media marketing, but those that choose not to create a strategy risk investing in further misguided or wasted efforts. That said, perhaps the solution to this dilemma is to cease all "social media marketing" activity, and start over -- with a substantive plan of meaningful action.

Given the current state of the market, Google would be wise to avoid labeling their new platform with something that could have already gained a bad or poor perception. Maybe they're on to something -- "The Google+ project aims to make sharing on the web more like sharing in real life." Now, will savvy marketers create a viable business strategy around that simple notion? We'll have to wait and see.