5 Uncomfortable Truths About Social Media

Jan 30, 2013
Editor's Note: Occasionally, we share our feature position with folks in the industry we believe have important messages or discussion topics worth considering. Today, Jay Kumar checks in on why he's not sold on social media.

If you are active on so-called social media, you're probably wasting your time and money. "Probably" because a few businesses and organizations might actually have a measurable, positive return from the effort (I've heard of exactly one in the outdoors, unconfirmed), but the vast majority don't.

Here are some possibly uncomfortable yet accurate observations about this supposed boon to guerrilla marketing:

1. Social media requires a whale-load of effort for little or no measurable return. Financial return? Forget it: Remember GM pulling its ads from Facebook right around the Facebook IPO?

In case you value your Facebook friend count, guess what: You can advertise super-cheap on Facebook and ramp up your friend count no problem. But for what? Most of your friends will never see your posts, and a much smaller percent will Like your posts - so...what? The impact is overblown and immeasurable.

In fact, a couple of companies in the outdoors formulated business models around amassing Facebook friends. One is out of business, the other is headed that way.

2. Square peg, round hole. In other words, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube weren't and aren't set up for your purposes. Is there a way to make them work for you? Possibly, with YouTube the most likely. Not in all cases - or right now, not in most cases.

3. Like anything else, if you want even a 1 percent chance of succeeding with social media, it requires a strategy and a commitment. Bet you either don't have a strategy or you have a strategy created by a person or people who have never been successful with social media...because no one really has been. And remember: Success should not be measured by amassing friends and views.

If you're committed to social media, great. At what levels in your organization is that commitment represented? In other words, is it a company commitment or a box you're checking? Results-wise it may not make a difference, but only one of those is a commitment. And do you have a business goal against it?

4. Another reason you probably won't succeed is that "media" word. Like it or not, you are in the media business. (This is all "digital media," so if you have a website, you're in the media business.) Are you qualified to be in the media business? Do you understand it? Does legacy outdoor media really understand digital media?

With so much media bouncing around, your media - including social media - better be good/better/different to have any effect whatsoever. If not, you're just part of the terabytes of white noise out there.

5. Tech trends mostly are un- or under-evaluated herd-following. As in: "We need a website!" Or "we need a Facebook page!" Remember Google adwords? Lots of companies jumped on that bandwagon, but few made significant money from it (Google sure did!).

I'll wind this up by quoting a line from the head of one of the best communications firms in the outdoors business. Recently he told me, "I got tired of telling [clients that social media] was a waste of time and money. They all want to do it, so we just ask them what they need and do it anyway."

Right now social media is in almost all cases a waste of time and money. (Anyone remember MySpace?) Your media people won't tell you that, and for sure your ad/creative agencies won't tell you that. Just remember: You're in the media business, where there are better ways to spend that time and money...but not necessarily with outdoor media!

Next time: Why you should start turning your back on your website.

-- Jay Kumar

You may know Jay as the guy who created BassFan.com and other fishing firsts like the statistical BassFan World Rankings of professional bass anglers, the BassFan Army membership program and a few other things. He's also known for his time on the popular ESPN show Loudmouth Bass, which he co-hosted with Mark Zona, and for being a B.A.S.S. senior writer for many years. Today, Jay runs BassGold,com, BassParade.com and SeriousBirdHunting.com.