Editor's Notes: Perception Vs. Data

Thorin McGee, Editor-in-Chief/Content Director, Target Marketing

I had an interesting month while working on this issue. First came the disappointing Facebook IPO following the announcement that GM was pulling its Facebook ads due to ineffectiveness. That led to a hellacious backlash against social media marketing. All of a sudden, every marketing news outlet was either piling on stories about how social media is a waste or trying desperately to justify the dozens of social media marketing articles they’d already run.

I also had a conversation with a marketing solutions provider about what he hears from customers. Until a few months ago, his customers had been wildly interested in social media and had lost interest in email. Now that had reversed—they lost interest in social media, but were suddenly obsessed with email. Social was out, email was in.

Finally, I had the opportunity to speak on a great Direct Marketing Club of New York panel with other members of the press where we discussed how changing technology is affecting marketers. What became clear as we spoke was that audience members who rely on email marketing felt like email was under attack and there was a need to defend it.

If there’s any data that says email is significantly declining as a marketing channel, I’ve never seen it. Our annual media usage surveys have found only increasing email usage, and the various studies from DMA, Forrester, Lyris, ReturnPath, etc., have essentially said the same thing.

Despite current perceptions, I expect social media will survive the current backlash, even Facebook. Just as the reports of email’s demise didn’t faze that channel, I don’t think the current turbulence will drag much on social media, either.

The real worry is the gap between perception and reality in the marketing world, and how that can lead to bad decisions. Perception cracks up and down like the end of a whip whenever a news topic gets hot. Data is the insulation that helps marketers survive those extreme shifts. Regardless of what analysts, agencies, bloggers or the media are saying this month, it’s your data that holds real insight into what works for your company with your customers and insulates your strategy from the fickle winds of perception.

And as you’ll see in our cover story, Are You Ready for Big Data?”, data has more to say than ever.

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.
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  • Dan Banici

    I would abstain from prognosticating a fall or a revival of social media advertising. Obviously the very success of social platforms depends to a great extent on advertising; however, many large advertisers (including ourselves as an agency) do not see a justifiable return from Facebook, LinkedIN and similar platforms when compared to Direct Mail, TV ads, direct email, and Pay Per Click. This is not a new trend, they have always been miser returns from social media efforts for the company running the effort.

    Sure you hear of one company whose Twitter campaign sold 5 million shoes, but those are the exception. Not every kid with a YouTUBE video is the next Justin Bieber. You cannot base your marketing strategy on exceptions, because clients want to see smart strategies and strong projections, backed up with real results.

    So then social media budgets are reduced across the board to simply maintaining "brand awareness" and even those branding efforts end up on Facebook indirectly through the Google Display Network, because frankly, in spite of its’ popularity, introducing "commerce" into "playtime" is not natural. People are more savvy than ever, they smell it a mile away, and are turned off by it, even react strongly when duped by more elaborate efforts to hide a commercial interest.

    The second factor is that people engaging in social interactions are enjoying "time with friends". Ads in the form of games, goofs, sillies, run a better chance at becoming socially viral and showing a return to the advertiser, if not in conversions, at least in traffic and brand awareness generated for the buck.

    I think that overall you make some good points. GM is not the first major advertiser to drop out of Facebook in 2012. However, there are so many unpredictable factors, that I personally think it is a stretch to attempt a guess at whether it will come back or not.