Social media marketing affinity fraud
Ok, that title may be a bit of a poke. In all honesty I want to begin a conversation about bubbles. There, that softened it right?
In my 2012 year end post I mentioned bubbles – discipline zones that include a cohort, the double-sided adhesive tape of affinity. In the commencement speech he gave at his Alma Mater, David Foster Wallace highlighted the particular bubble of academia:
“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”
Wallace uses that little parable to challenge how Liberal Arts school students become institutionally self-centered.
Ideas for these posts of mine tend to arrive out of thin air, yet I’ve been frustrated by the idea of social media marketing for years, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been useless at finding a way to express myself clearly on why that is. I’m only trying again since I’ve discovered that my favorite blogger has issues with bubbles too… (so maybe not entirely out of thin air this time.)
That link will take you to The Conscience of a Liberal, a blog written by the economist and Nobel Laureate, Paul Krugman. Now let me be clear, I am not in any way attempting to align myself with such a great thinker as PK as his talents far outstrip mine. No, it’s just that when you deliberately get beyond your own bubble and study and research disciplines outside your safety zone, you’ll often find parallels to your own thinking. For me in this case, Krugman’s post titled Fiscal Affinity Fraud. I’ve become an economic policy wonk.
Here’s the opener to Krugman’s post: “Innocent that I am, I never heard the term “affinity fraud” until the Bernie Madoff affair hit the news. But once you hear it, the concept is obvious: people are most easily conned when they’re getting their disinformation from someone who seems to be part of their tribe, one way or another. And I found myself thinking about that reality when the predictable reaction to today’s column came in: irate and, I believe, sincere if often incoherent voice mails etc. declaring that I must be an idiot, evil, or an evil idiot for saying that the budget deficit isn’t a big problem. They know that I’m completely wrong.”
Let’s not get carried away here. The first half of the paragraph above is about being conned by financial hucksters, e.g. Bernie Madoff, ergo I am not suggesting that the parallel is social media “experts” are conning us (but now I think about it…) The second half is closer to what I’m aiming for, where I paraphrase this line as so – when everyone is right, absolutely right, that social media marketing must be an imperative and an unassailable construct as part of an overall brand strategy. Even if it doesn’t work. So the stand out phrase, with a small edit by me is: “people are most easily persuaded when they’re getting their disinformation from someone who seems to be part of their tribe.” The social media marketing cohort in other words.
The self-centered worldview of social media marketing consistently leads marketers into the same inescapable maze. And it traps others too. Just yesterday I came across the Content Marketing Institute’s site. Nothing wrong there, just the usual stuff, lots of information for content strategists and a list of posts with search-friendly titles on the homepage. What caught my eye was the opening line to a post titled Content Marketing Strategies for Social Media: Trends vs. Hype. And the line was: “These days, it’s tough to talk about content marketing without talking about social media.” And that gave me pause. I’m going to get meta here – was the post title and the opening sentence the main reason for writing the post? Does the title “social media: trends vs hype” create such great SEO results that the very people who make a living promoting social media marketing click through to the post completing the insular circle, the double-sided adhesive tape effect? I believe the answer is yes it does. And I say yes because if the post’s author was honest she wouldn’t have a post to publish – it’s not actually tough to discuss content marketing without discussing social media.
To be fair, the post included two quotes that show those quoted are analyzing what’s going on in the B2B social media marketing world:
1. Marketers are using channels because they can, not because they make sense
I’m finding that the majority of clients are focusing on where; that’s all they care about. They want to know where they need to be; and I say, ‘STOP! We don’t know where you should be. Let’s figure out who, and what. Who do we want to talk to, and what do we want to say? Once we figure that out, then we know where they are.’ So maybe it will work, B2B for Facebook, or maybe it won’t; I think the increase of Facebook is just because it’s easy.” – Michael Weiss
2. Not all channels require the same kind of content
I look at how many B2B clients that I see who automatically drive their Twitter posts to Facebook, and it’s harsh when you see it in the wrong format.” – Carla Johnson
No one said paradise would be easy.
There have been many bubbles before, ones that have been routinely ignored. In our recent history we’ve had the housing bubble in 2007 which led to an economic collapse that led to a depression, and the Dot Com bubble-burst in the early 2000′s. And yet our memories fail us.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the social media marketing bubble will burst soon enough.