Ontario Journalist, Writer, Photography & Filmmaker

Internetworking Pt VII – Is Social Media the Latest Snake Oil?

When I took a look at the numbering of this article series to find out what was next, I was surprised to see I was up to instalment 7 already.  Wow!

I should start out by saying that I’m not a salesperson.  I’m not a marketer.  At least that’s not my background.  So this particular article may be way off base to some who do have that background.  If so, I’m certainly happy to hear from those folks and be set straight.  There’s a comment form at the bottom of the article so feel free to use it.

Like, I think, a lot of people I’m trying to figure out this whole new/social media ‘thing’.  There’s tremendous potential in it, but unlocking that potential is a bit of a trickier undertaking.  It’s struck me lately that there may be a couple reasons for that.

One reason is that it seems people are still trying to figure out whether the new media approach is or should be all that different from a traditional marketing approach.  The ‘if you make it, they will come’ approach doesn’t seem to work in either new or old media marketing.  You still need to have both a compelling message and a quality product or service to back up that message.  As I discussed in a previous article the idea that people looking at and clicking on ads through Google or Facebook or other outlets are ‘higher quality’ prospects seems to be gaining acceptance.  This concept of ‘active’ marketing; wherein the potential customer is more active in the process because they have to take action to view an ad or video or images and that they’ll only take that action if there’s an existing interest, making those people more likely to buy, seems to be getting discussed more and more.  But when we drill down, the content people are viewing or the ad they click on has to be compelling.  The message has to confirm their decision to take action in the first place.  And the underlying product or service has to be of quality when they do buy.  Because that ‘active’ process works both ways today.  Just as people take action to view information, they can be equally active in providing information by way of feedback on the web.  That too, is a new aspect of the marketing/sales methodology that providers of products and services have to deal with.

Getting back to the title of this article, the other aspect of trying to figure out this ‘new media’ universe for those of us who aren’t sales and marketing professionals is trying to figure out who’s got the right approach in terms of training and instruction on how to make use of new media.  There’s a lot of ‘lingo’ and there are a ton of buzzwords and catchphrases that people use when talking about new/social media.  The difficulty is in trying to figure out who actually knows what they’re talking about and who’s just tossing around buzzwords to sound like they do.  The ones who are just tossing around the buzzwords seem to take a ‘one size fits all’ approach.  Not unlike the hucksters selling snake oil out of the back of covered wagons.  ‘Got an ache?  Ripmeoff Tincture will cure that ache.’  ‘Got a cold?  Ripmeoff Tincture will surely take that cold way in a week.’  These new snake oil salesmen use terms like ‘landing pages’, ‘keyword rich titles’, ‘SEO’, ‘SEM’ and it all sounds good but is it really what we need in every case?  Sure, SEO – Search Engine Optimization is great.  We all want to be able to be found on the web.  But it doesn’t seem like a lot of alleged ‘SEO experts’ are all that expert or know how to tailor an approach to different situations.  It’s even more murky when it comes to training or instruction on how to use new media.  The number of books and online tutorials you can pay for is staggering.  I sometimes think the only people making money with these things are the people who write the books and produce the online tutorials because most of the content is worthless.  Again, using the ‘lingo’ to sound appealing but when we drill down, the substance isn’t there.

So, is new media the newest form of snake oil?  How do you separate the good from the bad when it comes to developing a marketing strategy?  How do you figure out where to go for training or instruction on how to use social media to benefit your business?  Personally, I’ve found that Copyblogger is a good outlet for information.  Carmine Media also has some good information and posts links to other interesting articles.  For photographers in particular, Photoshelter produces periodic free (yes, FREE) reports that are full of terrific information.  Some of it is applicable to photographers/photography only, some of it is more general.  Their latest report, Freelancers Online Marketing Blueprint has a lot of good, general information about setting up a new/social media marketing strategy.  Feedback most welcomed.