The marketing ‘social media fantasy’ is silly and delusional

Despite the claims from marketing strategists, social media is actually much more of a threat than an opportunity for brands – writes Bob Hoffman

Of all the fantasies that have infected the advertising and marketing industries, perhaps none is sillier and more delusional than the social media fantasy.

According to the wizards of marketing, social media is a place consumers go to enthuse over their favourite brands and ‘join the conversation’ with and about these brands.

As one Silicon-addled fat cat put it: “If you can harness social media marketing, you don’t have to pay for advertising any more.” Or as USA Today said: “Social media is the lone currency that virtually guarantees a return.”

Yeah, right.

In fact, social media has turned out to be a much larger danger to brands than opportunity. Anyone who has witnessed the past few weeks of non-stop YouTube, Pepsi, and United Airlines social media massacres and still believes that consumers are using social media to wax lyrical over brands desperately needs a reality transplant.

In fact, if there is a lesson to be learned from the past few weeks, it’s this – it is far more important for companies to learn how to play social media defence than offence.

The risk/reward balance of social media leans heavily in the risk direction. Unless you’re a movie star, pop celebrity, or famous athlete, social media offers little in the way of rewards and mountains of risk.

Before you allow some social media genius to develop a fantasy-laden social media plan for your business, first make them figure out how you will handle a social media disaster. You are far more likely to be a social media victim than hero.

Consumers have shown no inclination whatever to ‘join the conversation’. But they are lining up to ‘join the devastation’.

Bob Hoffman has been the CEO of two independent agencies and is the author of the Ad Contrarian blog


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