In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal: Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype, the author presents a survey conducted at the end of 2012 with ~12,000 U.S. adults about social media. 62% of them responded that social media does not have any impact on their purchasing decisions and 30% responded that it has some effect. At first glance, it does present a compelling argument that majority of social media efforts fall on deaf ears. Low ROI. However, if you take a different look at the data, you might come to a different conclusion. 30% of consumers admitted through a survey that social media influences their purchasing decision, which is a pretty nice return if you can effectively influence 30% your target audience, don’t you think? In addition, people do not necessarily know what influences their behavior, much less being able to report it in a survey.
In a study conducted by sociologists about anchoring*, students and professionals were asked to value the same piece of real estate, with the only difference being the initial price that was shown to them. Half of each group was shown a high price and the other half a low price. The results were that both groups were almost equally affected by the initial price, in that the evaluated price was skewed towards the anchoring price. The problem? The professionals denied that the price showed to them had any influence. Another study was even more compelling underlining how we are so bad at figuring out what influences us. A very unsettling experiment** was conducted with some German judges on handing out prison sentences on a crime. But before they handed out a sentence, they had to roll a die which was loaded. Half of the judges rolled a 9 and the other half rolled a 3. On average, those who rolled a 9 sentenced the accused to 8 months and those who rolled a 3 gave a sentence of 5 months. Do you think the judges would score on a survey that rolling a die would influence their length of sentence? Probably not. Do you believe the survey now?
Rather than paying attention to such a survey, companies embarking on social media efforts should really think about how to leverage the opportunity to interact and engage. Print, Radio, TV, Digital Ads… no other channel allows listening, understanding and engagement with your customers or potential customers. How can you delight them? How can you turn an upset customer into a service opportunity? What do you want to achieve? Measure that and throw your traditional ROIs away. Not likes, not followers, not retweets. It’s hype if you make it out to be, so make it work for you and make it work for your audience.