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Anyone would think, reading the huge amounts of materials created praising social media marketing, that sales were going through the roof and marketers were all driving custom Ferraris. That’s not quite the case. Talk so far hasn’t just been cheap, it’s been at a discount. If you’re marketing for removalists, you’d have to laugh at the idea that social media was your natural first choice for a market.

Assessing the hype

The theory, so far, is based on market research finding out things about social behavior which have never before discovered. That’s nice, but practical results are conspicuously lacking. What needs to be asked is why the hype, when so far there’s no proof that social media is delivering much more than gas?

If you’re in the industry, your skepticism starts the minute anyone on a large salary starts talking about a product or mode of marketing which is suddenly the Next Big Thing. Historically, a lot of effort has been put into Next Big Things which turn into Next Big Nothings.

Signs are at this stage that social media marketing is like Columbus’ first sightseeing tour- Thought he’d found something he hadn’t, in the wrong place, and wasn’t too sure what to do with it when he figured it out.

Behavioral findings are fine, but this is a very different market. Social media isn’t a conventional market, and what appears to be a total lack of marketing ideas designed for this medium isn’t encouraging. Social media is huge. This is the medium which has replaced TV, to a large extent. It’s way too simplistic to assume that a few studies are going to cover this gigantic demographic, which is twice the size of the US population.

The facts, so far

Social media is a potentially strong marketing area, but by the same token, what’s selling at the moment is Angry Birds and product-based apps good and bad, not mainstream products. The social media sites are also highly specialized in their own ways. Facebook is a maze of groups across a vast bandwidth of possible markets. Second Life, LinkedIn, and World of Warcraft are also social sites, specialized and unspecialized.

Relevance is the problem for marketers on social media sites. The current situation looks like mainstream marketers would be better off marketing the way the apps makers operate- Specific products for markets and related products.

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