Top 10 « clichés » of the digital and social media gurus

It is never easy to overcome clichés. Especially when they come from recognized experts (or self-proclaimed gurus) and due to the public interest and media coverage, some have spread so rapidly that they now seem to be self-evident…


In Alexandre Jamet’s book The new challenges of brand content, the new media specialist Vincent Balusseau dares a detailed (and enjoyable!) criticism against some of these ideas. Endorsing Roy Amara’s eponymous law « This is a common fact, we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run », Vincent Balusseau adopts a very pragmatic approach of the new digital paradigm. He does not hesitate, as such, to challenge the dominant orthodoxy and some sweeping assertions of gurus such as Brian Solis, Marco Tinelli or Jeff Dachis.

His pragmatism and critical thinking have inspired me this first list of 10 clichés of digital and social media. I will not fail to amend and supplement it, if necessary. Because if most of us, marketers and communicators, have already passed from the stage of discovery and ownership to « age of reason » in our approach to digital and social media, we know that some of these clichéd ideas are hard to disappear!

1 – « Marketing is dead »

A year now that Bill Lee, President of Lee Consulting Group, published his famous post « Marketing is dead » on the blog of the Harvard Business Review. According to him, the traditional disciplines of public relations, branding and corporate communications were condemned to disappear in the short term. Expensive, unsuitable for new needs, ineffective to capture the attention of consumers, these pillars of marketing had (have) also the default to be based on non-measurable KPIs. Instead, Bill Lee promised us a new « social » and virtuous paradigm, combining community targeting, customer influence and empowerment… What about it today? If is still early to assess the impact of the digital revolution and the depth of the new paradigm, it is clear that marketing will remain central, because the fundamental underpinning of marketing remain relevant regardless of technological developments. And the techniques discussed by Bill Lee himself directly refer to a marketing approach.

2 – « Paid advertising and traditional media are outdated »

Since the emergence of social media, experts and gurus commonly distinguish three categories of media. Paid media, corresponding to the media buying and paid advertising exposure, is opposed to Owned, which includes all communication tools and contact points belonging to the brand, and to Earned media (the amount of information created and shared by all those who disseminate brand content). More and more people consider that the last two of these media offer all advantages (affinity relationship, control of the messages and brand image for Owned media ; interaction, conversation and commitment for the Earned). Paid media is more and more despised because now considered « expensive » , « intrusive » ,  » inefficient  » or « old economy »… However, as it is clearly confirmed by all experts interviewed in Alexandre Jamet’s book, the value and performance of brand content derives in the integration of these media (and not their opposition).

3 – Content is king: « good brand content doesn’t need advertising »

… and it will naturally reach a large audience on social media, thanks to its intrinsic quality. Nothing is less true today. If the content is interesting, yet it has to be relevant to the target and in line with its expectations, of course. Presentation should also be carefully considered, and the choice of broadcast media. Because a good SEO is not sufficient to ensure success. Exceptional virality campaigns such as Tippex’ A hunter shoots a bear 1 and 2 or chocolate bars ROM owes a lot, in addition to their undeniable creative quality, to important advertising investments, in home pages of Youtube (for Tippex) or in press, TV and outlets (for ROM).

4 – « Consumer engagement is now the panacea »

And as such, the objective becomes increasingly to generate maximum clicks, likes, shares, RT, comments or pins, these new expressions of consumer commitment generating Earned media. Beyond passive exposure to a message, the goal now becomes to take consumers to interactive devices, able to provide them with « rewarding experience », should they be entertaining, informative or functional… Because increased engagement directly generates measurable positive effects on sales and ensures a more durable and richer relationship with customers. The problem of this vision is that we have not yet found anything better to reach a wide audience that mass media coverage and high repetition. And the average fan engagement rates vis-à-vis brands on Facebook, for example, expressed in number of interactions, remain relatively low. In this area, there is still a world of difference between marketers desires and the actual media consumption habits of their targets. Especially because all brands are not designed to generate a strong commitment…

5 – « All brands have the same interest to be present on social networks »

As noted by more and more experts and consultants, this saying is not necessarily true. If digital allows companies to capitalize on the appetite of individuals vis-à-vis their brands and content… « this does not mean that everyone always wants to interact and engage with all brands that inhabit their daily life » recalls Vincent Balusseau. Take for example all food or household brands that you use in your kitchen. With which of them will you establish after diner a « special relationship » on social networks?… Not much, really. All brands (not only in BtoB sectors) do not have the same potential for involvement and commitment, or the same interest in being present on social networks. Without a clear strategy and well-defined objectives and resources, it is even recommended that companies do not go temporarily on social media.

6 – « Monitor reputation is as important as taking care of its customers »

All studies show a growing loss of confidence of the various audiences vis-à-vis companies and organizations. To address this « disenchantment », many of them have chosen to work primarily their image, especially seeking to show their proximity to the consumer and their social responsibility. In doing so, they gradually favored the « reputational » aspect of their communication at the expense of their answer to the specific needs of their stakeholders. And contrary to popular belief, this « remoteness » of brands did not disappear with the emergence of social media, as confirmed by Thierry Libaert in an excellent article (see here). The « conversational halo », these micro-interactions established between the brand and its fans / followers / relations does not necessarily correspond to the type of « relationship » claimed by the majority of consumers… In order to restore confidence, some organizations should therefore get back to basics, being less concerned about their reputation and more involved in active listening to their customers.

7 – « Digital natives are the best community managers »

The terminology was born in 2001 in the writings of Professor Marc Prensky. Digital natives refer to all persons born after the introduction of digital technologies, as opposed to « digital immigrants », born before their appearance. Now aged 12 to 25 years and sometimes named « Generation Y » (see cliché 10 below), digital natives are often considered as « naturally-born » community managers… In fact, even if the statistics further confirm the propensity of companies to recruit unexperienced bachelors for this position, it is increasingly recognized that profiles with at least a first professional experience, or employees familiar with the company and trained in social media, offer a good alternative. The intrinsic difficulty of being a CM, in particular the need to have an in-depth knowledge of the whole activity and organization of the company, its culture and decision circuits, make it a more difficult task for a beginner or a junior than for an internal or external experienced candidate.

8 – « Data scientists are the future of marketing manager »

Data scientist is certainly one of the professions that have been much talked about in 2013. Born with the emergence of the phenomenon of big data, this function should have a bright future. Who is he and what is he doing? The data scientist is first and foremost an expert in computer programming, with strong skills in handling information. His objectives: to consolidate, process and analyze massive amounts of data and raw data recorded and stored in databases (relational or not) of the company. A mission that can not be exercised without strong skills in handling information and algorithmic programming, claiming in addition a real ability to understand the business issues and work with all relevant teams within the company. As such, most examples of successful integration within companies prove that data scientists are most effectively involved when they work in direct cooperation with marketing teams. Ideally, under the authority of the CMO (and not in competition with him), because this one is best placed to have the most complete vision for managing customer knowledge.

9 – « CEOs must use Twitter »

Most digital and social media experts continue to urge business leaders to be (more) present on social media. The benefits, they say, are numerous. In terms of employer branding, top management online presence is first perceived by their employees as a « sign of dynamism, modernity and efficiency », according to a study conducted by BRANDfog in 2012. Similarly, this presence would be an asset in recruiting and retaining staff… Vis-à-vis customers and prospects, the engagement of CEOs is quoted as a « lever for improving the visibility of company ». This is probably the reason why the proportion of active leaders on social networks increased from 36% in 2010 to 66% in 2012, according to public relations firm Weber Shandwick. Main vectors: YouTube corporate chains, but also Facebook. In contrast, Twitter is the only platform to have experienced a decline in CEOs’ engagement. The reasons : entrepreneurs are aware that the extreme virality of Twitter is a significant risk factor. They are therefore particularly wary of this platform. In addition, Twitter seems to them too time-consuming: most CEOs do not want to invest in the conversational aspect of Twitter. Their interest in priority remains the visibility of their business, and we can not blame them fot this point of view.

10 – « You have to adapt to Generation Y because they will not make efforts to adapt to companies? »

Cliché of all chichés? « Generation Y » sells. Yes, but this might not last very long. Due to demographic trends, we hear more and more about the next generation, called « Z »… However, the severity of these concepts is far from unanimous. And this is normal. Why should we believe in behavioral consistency across demographic groups? For what I see, if some major characteristics emerge (digital ease, upset relationship to authority and hierarchy…), it seems to me that the lowest common denominator behavior attributed to Generation Y only reflect the societal changes that have taken place for 20 years. And as such, this behavior is universally shared, regardless of the generation. Corporate training on the management of Generation Y are they really necessary today? Why not, when you love stating the obvious… But the new relationship of individuals to their work and the underlying expectations of all employees should be the priority interest.

Photo credit: TheBrandNewsBlog

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