Google “Social Marketers are Idiots”….and this comes up

Google “Social Marketers are Idiots”….and this comes up

Ok, so I read an article the other day that caught my attention and then got my heart rate up….it was titled ‘Marketers who rely on social media are poorly trained idiots’. Great title B&T by the way, because it was just soooo clickable!

Given that I make a living out of working with businesses around the country to navigate their social currency, AND the fact I will always love traditional media, having spent 22 years working in it (and still working in it), I decided it was worth a read. It linked me to an original article that appeared in the Fin Review – gee it must be serious I thought! But as I kept reading, I couldn’t help wishing I could have some time in a room for a bit of professional banter with the article expert; Professor Ritson, a highly credentialed professor (with some highly impressive authority photos).

Ok, so in the AFR article…. drumroll….he says this:

“If any marketer comes to me with a social media marketing budget I know they are an idiot, and poorly trained,”

A bit harsh, i think, but on I read. So, first of all let me tell you that Ritson has a very impressive academic and professional career packed full of brand experience touching a far more impressive geo-spread than me. He is an impressive guy; no doubt. But in my humble opinion he has grossly oversimplified the issue. The truth of it is that there is no magic bullet; anyone who tells a brand to ignore EITHER ONE of traditional media or social media may be somewhere in the vicinity of strategically challenged (to be a bit more polite about it).

The truth is that BOTH traditional and social media are highly relevant; and no brand can exist on one or the other alone. I think it’s a tad risky to come out and slam digital and social marketers with the ‘idiot’ badge saying the only reason that they use them is because they are afraid to look out of touch. And I’m wondering where he stands on the highly fruitful communities built by brands in their own right that drive the cash register. Just ask the old (and overused but still important) content favourite; Red Bull whose marketing strategy is almost entirely digital and whose organically grown YouTube channel following clocks in at more than 5 million. And did I mention they have their own Red Bull TV Channel? Their brand sells more than 9 billion cans of soft-drink a year, and now makes more money from the licensing of their content to other brands who are looking for engaging content than they do on drinks (well, to be fair, their drink IS a little challenged on taste – which to me makes their feat even more impressive).

So then Prof Ritson quotes a stat that 85% of video is viewed on TV (without a source so I couldn’t check it), but I just wasn’t sure myself, looking at the habits within my own family. My husband and I watch TV more than social mobile video, but our teenagers sure don’t. I did find a chart that showed me TV is still the ‘most watched’ (not sure about 85%) video channel, but the numbers sure aren’t heading in the right direction for traditional TV. And Ritson didn’t even acknowledge Millenials (who happen to be my mobile addicted teenagers by the way), who will make up nearly 50% of the workforce by 2020.

BUT, I digress, because I am most certainly not trying to slam TV or traditional media at all. I LOVE traditional media and still work with one particular and significant Australian media company today, and I can tell you four things:

  1. I agree with Ritson’s empathy for traditional media channels as it’s been a hard shift to endure across the board; both globally and in Australia.
  2. The good news is that traditional media companies are very much embracing the digital change; having created robust digital environments to suit; you just need to look at live streaming, catch up TV and TV viewing apps to see how this is true.
  3. Innovators like Kerry Stokes didn’t get where they are today by leaning back and letting evolution make them obsolete. The digital future is a surety; and traditional channels ARE going there.
  4. I’ve never heard an agency responsible for any kind of significant consumer brand in Australia say ‘we don’t have a budget for TV right now’.

My biggest problem with Ritson’s view on the world is that it is completely devoid of the flip side. He has ignored Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (which refers to the on-line validation period between the shelf and the wallet that has been a total game changer for marketers), and the one-on-one connection of digital and social media that makes it the PERFECT complement to traditional channels. You can check out Google’s new Micro-Moments trend here to see how the consumer journey is based on a complex web of digital and traditional interactions.

The truth is that social and digital channels provide brands with the invaluable ability to connect one-on-one with their customers about their perspectives, share their brand experiences, and they give brands the opportunity engage with them at a deeper level than any TVC ever will. Not sure what Professor Ritson has to say about that, but here is my more rounded summary of the truths of the matter (in my humble opinion):

  1. TV, Print, Radio, Outdoor and every other traditional channel are critical for building awareness and will always be.
  2. We cannot ignore the power of the online influencer and the need for brands to create communities.
  3. No brand can afford to ignore any of traditional, digital or social media.
  4. No traditional campaign can provide you with what’s going on in the head (or the wallet) of any person who sees their ad and can’t tell you for certain whether the ad sent them straight from the couch to the shop or not.

Professor, I have the utmost respect for you, your credentials and your experience. That is not in question; but I just can’t agree with your definition of an ‘idiot’ in this case.


1 Comment

  1. Great article Philippa!


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