As social media grows more and more prominent and social media services like Twitter attract more and more mainstream attention, it's worth keeping a hefty dose of perspective and reminding ourselves that throwing 'social' in front of a business doesn't guarantee success.
That's exactly what UK-based startup Pikum tried to do with its 'social gaming' service that tried to put a social twist on betting.
Founded by young American entrepreneur Sean Glass with nearly $6 in funding from First Round Capital and Virgin USA, Pikum looked to compete with larger competitors like Betfair, Party Gaming and Tradesports with a "new kind of betting game" in which "players compete with others in their social network to see who can best predict the results of sports and other events".
That wasn't enough. Nor was all of the flashy marketing initiatives the company developed to promote itself.
The company is folding after reportedly running out of money and not being able to raise more of it.
From regular YouTube video webcasts to a dedicated Pikum Girls microsite, the company certainly made an effort to reach an audience. Yet for all of that effort, results were nowhere to be found. As TechCrunch UK's Mike Butcher observed, the company's weekly YouTube webcasts never even received more than 1,000 views. This despite the presence of an attractive host in Setanta Sports presenter Charlotte Jackson.
Pikum even reportedly tried search marketing. According to Butcher, it spend £5,000 on a Google AdWords campaign that didn't produce. Ouch. That wouldn't be possible with proper, competent campaign management.
Pikum's efforts were clearly misguided and unfortunately effort alone is worthless if you're not trying to do the right things.
Use social media. Use video. Use microsites. Use search marketing. Use pretty women. You can throw a kitchen sink at the market but at the end of the day it really comes down to having the right concept, the right business model, the right message and investing in the right marketing initiatives.
In other words, it's about having the right recipe (strategy) and cooking the meal (executing).
While it's easy to criticize Pikum and to suggest that perhaps the executives were spending too much money on fun marketing campaigns, as I read about Pikum's demise I couldn't help but think that if Pikum had succeeded, there would be no shortage of people praising its 'social' model, its use of YouTube, the Pikum Girls microsite, etc.
If there's a lesson here, perhaps it's that not everything 'social' is gold and cool marketing isn't necessarily effective marketing. Whatever strategy your company employs, you have to pay attention to ROI and when you're not seeing it, a new approach is required. No matter how much fun you're having with the current one.