Successful social media engagement for online businesses requires a lot of creative thinking, time and effort. Initially, the balance is tipped in favour of hard graft, dedication and eureka ideas and then you start to see some results. Better results and more followers means more time required to interact effectively with them.

A slippery slope or a stairway to heaven? Should we be spending all this time in the social web? Or is it time to take a step back and put the social media hype into perspective? 

What did we (us marketing types) do before becoming absorbed in the social web? This question applies both professionally and personally. On reflection the answer is most probably linked to spending more time socialising and interacting with people, but in the real world.

Engaging face to face, talking, laughing, sharing, using all our senses as opposed to virtual chat and the insatiable checking of numbers; friends, followers, subscribers, views, fans etc.

Has social media affected the quality of our interactions with people? Will our social skills be degraded and will we all ultimately resort to online communications, spend our lives as slaves to the latest social media phenomenon? Thinking about Darwinism; will our future offspring in generations to come develop mobile phone shaped ears and mouse shaped hands, with very thin fingers to cope with the tiny keyboards on the latest mobile devices? Probably not.

The scary thing is, the more successful your social media engagement is, the more time you spend monitoring, measuring and managing your social media accounts; and the more time you spend doing it etc etc. It's a spiral, but is it upward or downward? At this point it's probably best to stop asking questions and start putting forward some opinion.

Here's how I see it:-

  • We're on the downhill side of the Gartner "Hype" curve.
  • We're all questioning the value, time and effort we spend in this area, both professionally and personally, even though we may not admit it.
  • The majority and beyond are watching the innovators and early adopters with interest. Will social media cross the "chasm" and become a key element in every organis ation's engagement strategy? I feel the answer will be "yes" but in moderation.
  • We're about to see a wave of anti-social media feeling and a call for back to basics; with comments like "Why were we all getting so carried away!?"
  • Ultimately, brand/marketing strategies will be about multi-channel approaches, with social media, digital/online and offline all working in sync and being compliment ary to each other...the way it always should be.
  • Social media snake oil salesmen will be exposed for what they are.
In essence, marketing hasn't changed, we're just adding another channel to the mix. This channel providing direct consumer dialogue, a bit like a telephone, except all conversations are transcripted and archived for all to see online, anyone can join in the conversation and it can continue on and on and on; hence the power of social media.
However, its real power is making sure it's in balance with the other marketing ingredients; currently it feels as if some of us may be guilty of over egging it. Let's hope in a few months time, we can allow ourselves some time to escape the laptop and mobile device; break away from the latest tweets and blog comments and spend some quality time socialising in the manner that we were designed to.
Karl Havard

Published 16 July, 2009 by Karl Havard

Karl Havard is a Partner at PA Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter and connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (3)


Don Bartholomew

Hi Karl,

Enjoyed the post and found your forecast insightful.  The only point I might disagree with slightly is the portrayal of social networks as a marketing channel.  They are of course, but the bigger opportunity for marketers in my view is understanding how social networks enable peer-to-peer conversations and recommendations and how this online behavior impacts offline behavior and actions.  In other words, the channel perspective takes a vertically-oriented view of communication with social networks adding two-way synchronous communication capabilities.   Powerful stuff, but perhaps not as interesting in some ways as the horizontally-oriented peer-to-peer connections.  An ability to think horizontally while acting vertically will be a key to successful marketing campaigns going forward.

Thanks, Don B  @donbart

about 9 years ago


Edward Homes


Good stuff. One pointof Darwinism - kids thumbs are already growning bigger from texting ....


about 9 years ago


Annabel Macavity

In my line of work (Music & Event PR) I have noticed that I'm spending more and more of my day on sites such as Facebook. In fact I'm almost sick to death of looking at the Facebook logo but it is so important for what I do. It, along with other social networking sites takes up hours of my day.

However what I have noticed is thus:

1. It's very hard to stick out from the crowd. Everyone is doing it and their walls and inboxes are inundated with event invites, messages, spams, free mixes, free entry, new nights, new this, new that.

2. The main reason in my field why it is worth doing is because it's started to render other forms of marketing and PR almost obsolete. All the journalists i contact are on my Facebook friend list and this is where they get most of their stories from.Meanwhile email marketing and press releases are virtually pointless (but still done)

3. Any other form of marketing or PR I do for a client will end up on Facebook anyway in some way (link, facebook update, message, group, page etc).

4. In some ways paradoxically it makes it harder to find your niche crowd (Due to noise and spam element). It creates an information overload for even your favourite fans - they become biase and blind to information.

5. It does promote the need for back to basics Face to Face or one to one relationshsips. Because of the information overload it helps you find people you can nurture in a much more pesonal way. it helps you find people who love your brand and they will help spread the word....make them feel good and they will make your brand look good. But you have to be prepared to put the hours in.


oh and it's very hard to reeducate clients who are so used to doing expensive advertiing in brand leading magazines and spamming out marketing materials..But we'll get there!

about 9 years ago

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