The number of companies not doing anything with social media gets smaller and smaller by the day, but that doesn't mean that business has social media figured out.

Despite the increasing comfort that many companies and marketers have with social media, questions still linger about efficacy and ROI.

Andrea Fishman, VP of global strategy and partner at interactive agency BGT Partners, however, believes that some of the challenges companies face in using social media is based on the fact that they're applying the AIDA (attention-interest-desire-action) model. According to Fishman, "The problem is that the AIDA model tends to be linear in fashion."

Instead, she suggests, companies can use social media to shorten the buying cycle by defocusing on this linear process and applying social media in more thoughtful ways:

...stop thinking of how to apply social media to your current channels. Instead, take a step back and assess all they ways your audience may be impacted by social media - and develop new content, offers, and experiences that take advantage of the disruption. Use the two-way nature of social media to engage in conversations that accelerate the buying cycle. Create "social only" offers that take advantage of the immediacy of the Internet. Use sentiment and activity data to spot trends sooner - and apply that knowledge to your product pricing and promotional strategies.

These are all good suggestions, and many companies are increasingly realizing that social media works best when it's not kept in a silo. As the second screen phenomenon shows us, consumers are increasingly interacting with brands and content across multiple channels, often at the same time. So to get the most out of each channel, it pays to look at how the channels can work together.

But can social media, properly applied, really accelerate the buying cycle? Perhaps. But this, in my opinion, is a red herring. The challenge with social media, as with most channels, is not creating attractive new content, offers and experiences that can entice consumers to take some action. That's often quite easy if you're willing to bend over backwards. Instead, the challenge is to drive meaningful action in a way that's profitable and sensible over the long haul.

The group buying market is a great example of this. Daily deals force a shorter sales cycle by offering consumers a product or service at a hefty discount for a limited time. For many businesses, this results in hundreds or thousands of sales in a single day. But the deals aren't always profitable and if numerous anecdotes and studies are to be believed, most of the customers don't stick around.

With this in mind, companies should consider that social media may add a wrinkle to the familiar AIDA model, but that doesn't mean that in social channels they should look to drive 'action' no matter the cost.

Patricio Robles

Published 18 April, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (3)


Evan VanDerwerker

Hey, Patricio. Interesting post! The trouble with maintaining a social media campaign for a business is that most marketing projects are all about the money. When the time spent on social media networks doesn't reap fiscal benefits, it gets neglected.

It's just too difficult to "touch" the benefits that social media usage brings: brand equity, increased web awareness, improve branding, etc.

Maybe one day! Until then, keep up the insightful posts!

Evan VanDerwerker

over 6 years ago

Jeremy Spiller

Jeremy Spiller, MD at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

As far as I can see many companies and brands are using social media much like they use email and this isn't good.

Lots of in your face promotions and special offers, discounts, games and so on. Oh so dull.

Social Media is only seen as a "channel" to "get to" people. What is often not realised is that as with email, it's very easy to filter out the dull and uninteresting through aggregator apps such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, CoTweet and so on.

Then of course the social media networks have their own native filtering such as Edgerank which means that brand posts are on average only fed to 17% of personal feeds anyway.

So the "look at me, I have loads of followers/friends" thing is very misleading.

Having said that in this big numbers are better than small numbers but only if (and that's a big if) the brand is actually saying, doing something interesting and joining the conversation rather than just pumping out more promotions, offers, discounts and other such things.

I even spoke to a company the other day that said they permanently run discount offers on social media which reminded me of the permanent closing down sales for carpet companies you see when driving around.

This latter is not social media, this is just same old, same old and boring as boring can be. The best out there though realise the potential of soshul meedja (sic) and are doing great things with it. All power to them if you ask me (and the agencies who are helping them of course :)).

over 6 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Patricio,

Interesting and timely article as I'm working with some Clients at the moment on understanding how social can fit alongside other marketing channels.

I think we need to stop trying to pigeonhole social media by saying "it's this, it's not that". The very nature of social interaction is that it is organic, it's not push or pull marketing, it's about using conversation to influence and encourage. And yes you can drive sales using this approach, there is enough evidence to prove it can work.

Perhaps marketers need to spend more time talking to their customers and less time trying to work out what best practice is and implementing it. I always suggest a business starts by learning from their existing customers - ask them how they use social and how the brand's social presence could help them/be of relevance. Look at signals on the website - customer reviews, content sharing intent, UGC etc - and try to build proactive relationships with those customers as they could well be important influencers.

I don't think there is a "right way" to plan/implement social and I'm with you that it's not about having to create new compelling content. That may be one element of the overall approach but it's not the be all and end all.


over 6 years ago

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