Playing Devil's Advocate: Is Social Media a Necessary Evil for Marketers?

Marketers use social media every day to promote, encourage, and empower their targeted consumer base to take some form of action, whether it be to follow, fill out a form, connect for a sales call...and the list goes on.

But many still question if it’s possible to have effective social media marketing. Some of them find social media to be more of a nuisance, believing the cost of managing social media doesn’t outweigh the benefits.

Are they right?

I assume the role of devil’s advocate in this post to discuss both sides of this matter. There are many valid points to support either side of this debate and by then end you may find yourself leaning towards one side.

effective social media marketing

Photo by: Hababoon

Social Media IS a Necessary Evil

For those that agree with this statement, much of the fuel for why social media is a nuisance stems from the fact that consumers make it a requirement.

Consumers Make Social a Requirement

A majority of the online world revolves around or occurs on social. News stations cover tweets send out by the president. Sporting events are hosted live. Fans eagerly scour for the latest posts by their celebrity idols to catch a glimpse into their lives. Real-time debates are held between opposing profiles. Chats and discussions are hosted. Evidence is pulled for use in legal cases. It’s hard to think of a scenario where social media isn’t a participating party.

Because of this, if businesses choose to ignore social media, they’re choosing to ignore an enormous audience to market to. Due to the fact that the public practically lives on social media, these platforms become a necessary standard for marketers to include in their campaigns.

Marketers Don’t Own the Experience

Much of the gripe with social is the lack of control marketers have with the platforms. What makes marketing successful is having the ability to control the experience consumers have with a business and its product.

Photo by: Milky – Digital Innovation


Marketers can control the message, the imagery, the format, the timing and the audience for campaigns outside of social, but for those using the platforms, their control lessens. What’s the biggest loss of control? Format.

On social media every post and every ad is formatted to look the way each platform prefers. This means that no matter what imagery you choose, or ad copy, or when it goes out the ad is going to look similar to one a competitor puts together. This makes it difficult to stand out among the monotonous many.

Different platforms also right the rules for how your company is interacted with online. Every page is formatted in the same way and the channels for communication are identical. Unlike the way companies can control the user’s experience when they visit their website or walk into their office, social media creates a cookie cutter interactions.  

The List of Platforms Grows

Marketers have a hard time being on all channels at once, albeit a bad strategy, this statement expresses how the social media world is constantly growing and evolving.

One respondent surveyed in HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2017 report stated, in reference to the social media landscape, “you always have to be prepared to shift as your market shifts. As technology grows and evolves, so too will the best ways to interact with our ideal clients.”

This statement is very true. Dating back to 2003, there only used to be MySpace, now we have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr...etc. Why is this a bad thing?

effective social media marketing

Consumers spend a large portion of their day on social media, which is why marketers are on there in the first place, but as more channels open, the total time consumers spend on social becomes further and further divided among them.

As consumers spend less and less time on each channel to make room for other platforms, the window of opportunity for marketers to get their messages across becomes smaller and smaller.

Dark Social

How can marketers measure the ROI for social media when dark social exists? Dark social media refers to the inability to track and attribute inbound traffic from social media. This traffic is most often identified as direct traffic by analytics software.

Because of dark social, marketers cannot accurately determine how effective their social media marketing strategies are.

Social Media is NOT a Necessary Evil

Knowing Where Consumers Are

How amazing is it that there exists this place where billions of consumers aggregate to spend their time online?

It makes both marketing to the masses and to specific audiences extremely easy and effective. Put up a billboard along the highway and you’ll mainly attract the same eyes that commute to work that way every day and a few others who happen to venture out on that path.

Put one ad out on social media and you can target an enormous amount of consumers.

Marketers Can Own the Experience

There are ways to personalize the experience a user has on your social page. Essentially each platform offers a template that is customizable. Not every page has the same branding imagery and feel as every other page. How you market your business on social media by utilizing imagery messaging, tone, style and content formats will affect the experience users have when they visit your page. Similarly to the way businesses have a specific company culture, that same personality can shine through your social pages.

Everywhere isn’t the Best Strategy

effective social media marketing

It is true that new social networks come along and attract consumer’s attention, but marketing on social media is about selecting the right platforms for your business.

Each network has its own unique personality. The brands that are the most successful on social media are the ones that choose platforms that align with their brand’s personality. Some networks simply aren’t going to work. For instance, not every company should be on Instagram because not every company has a natural visual side to its business.

New platforms may pop up, but they also often fade over time. Don’t get caught up in the rush of a new social channel just because it’s new and exciting. Wait it out to see if it lasts before taking the plunge.

Dark Social

There are ways to track dark social. One of which is to include UTM codes in your links. These often look like this: &utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter. Adding these to the end of the content you share on social will allow you to identify what social platform the traffic your content is receiving came from.

Using UTMs is not 100% effective. However, they do allow marketers to get a better understanding of their marketing efforts on social and attribute that data to their ROI calculations.

effective social media marketing

In all reality dark social isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If your business is receiving dark social traffic it at least is showing you that you’re getting traffic. Your posts are getting shared one way or another and that in and of itself is a success.

So there we have it. The two sides to this coin. Do you find yourself leaning towards one side? Let me know your thoughts! Send me your ideas by tweeting me @DanaVDonnelly or by messaging us @inspiredgm on Facebook.

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