Social Media Is Rocket Surgery

In an excellent blog post, Amy Mengel lists five reasons why firms are failing at social media. To support her conclusion that social media “isn’t rocket surgery,” Amy says:

Social media isn’t complicated. When you boil it down it’s about listening to your customers, being helpful by offering your knowledge and giving them interesting content to share and thereby advocate for you.”

I have to disagree with Amy. It is rocket surgery.

Rocket surgery is, of course, a proxy for something really, really difficult to do.

But there’s one really, really big difference between rocket surgery and social media: A lot of people have been doing rocket surgery for quite a while now. True, there may few people who are good at rocket science or brain surgery, but there’s a science there.

There is no science with social media. There are no documented processes or best practices. And despite the popularity of some social media bloggers and authors, there is absolutely no one certified as a social media expert.

To Amy’s point, it doesn’t sound complicated. But, for years, firms have been “listening to customers” (market research is hardly a new field), “offering their knowledge” (plenty of salespeople in stores and in call centers have helped me make product decisions), and providing “interesting content” (I’ve received excellent newsletters from Vanguard and Fidelity for years).

What we’re talking about when we talk about social media is something different. And despite all the folks rushing to publish their books and get hired to speak at conferences (the consultainers), there’s no science here yet.

So for the time being, social media is rocket surgery.

There’s a reason why this is important: While many marketers are (rightfully) excited by the changes taking place in marketing, in many firms (across many industries), marketing (the department) doesn’t enjoy a great reputation.

There are plenty of reasons why this is the case, and they vary across firms. Diagnosing the reasons why isn’t of importance to this post. What is important is understanding what marketers can do to change perceptions and demonstrate contributions to bottom line results.

Re-establishing marketing as a legitimate business discipline would be a good start.

The lack of process orientation and measurement discipline in so many marketing groups isn’t helping. And quite frankly, many social media gurus and experts aren’t helping either. Anecdotes and “best practices” which consist of nothing more than examples of what some other firm is doing is not helping to create a marketing discipline.

Nor are the ridiculous attempts to create new measurement approaches. For an example of what I’m talking about, see the YouTube clip in this blog post. As I’ve said before, this is mind-boggingly stupid.

There’s a mindset that exists in the social media — no, make that marketing — community today. That it’s “easy.” Marketing isn’t easy. It is rocket surgery.

One last point: While I disagree with Amy’s assertion that social media isn’t rocket surgery, her description of the five reasons why firms are failing is excellent and spot on. It’s a great blog post.

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