Is social media a waste of your budget?

charlie top story sizeThese days, when the answer to nearly every marketing brief is “let’s build a Facebook page”, new research which challenges the power of social media in driving ecommerce could furrow more than a few brows in agency and client boardrooms throughout the land.
After all, direct and digital agencies have made Facebook and Twitter their very own, and even though it’s not as simple as other forms of direct marketing – as you have to continually update it with new content – it’s now become a staple part of most brand strategies.
But, according to the Social Media Marketing Report, retailers for one are failing to use the channel effectively, driving just 3 per cent of visits to retail sites. The study, of almost 10,000 visitors to the UK’s top 40 websites (by traffic volume), showed 62 per cent of visitors said they preferred email marketing; only 2 per cent favoured social media.
Of course, these are early days for social media marketing but the report authors believe that “serious thought needs to be given to finding out whether social media is worth the investment”, adding that if this were the case then attention should be paid to making sure that interaction suited customer expectations or else, “the effort is wasted and could even be detrimental to the business”.
And there’s the rub. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you have to and social media is not suitable for every brand. When two of the UK’s most respected retailers – Tesco and Boots – don’t feel the need to embrace Facebook (both have unofficial sites which simply feature Wikipedia entries), you have to wonder whether it is such a big deal.
Admittedly, with their huge banks of customer data garnered from their loyalty schemes they can probably afford to ignore social media. After all, if they want to speak to their customers they know exactly where they are and what they like.
The real point is this: social media marketing is not a panacea, it’s simply another channel, like email, direct mail, press ads, online ads etc. For some brands, it’s perfect; for others, it’s a waste of money. End of.

Charlie McKelvey, publishing editor (

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