Social Media Marketing Doesn’t Matter? A flawed argument, Prof. Kane!

Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling that product or service.  This fundamental hasn’t changed since the advent of digital marketing and all of the platforms that this encompasses.  Social media marketing is a very important part of this process and I shall endeavour to explain why.


In his sensationally entitled article “Social Media Marketing doesn’t matter” Prof. Gerald C. Kane states that “A social media presence, on its own, isn’t enough to give you the upper hand.”  While this may be true for many top brands, much has still to be done in the Small & Medium-sized Entreprise (SME) marketplace because SME’s often don’t have the budget to implement paid advertising (SEM / PPC), or the knowledge + time to implement SEO, or the internal resources to deliver a content marketing (CM) strategy.  Social media marketing (SMM) often seems the easiest way to market their products and/or services.

Ask any digital marketing professional and they will tell you “social media marketing is not a stand-alone marketing strategy.”  In fact, I cannot think of any traditional or digital marketing tactic that stands alone – everyone usually speaks in terms of “the marketing mix.”  As such, I believe Prof. Kane’s argument is redundant.

Kane’s main premise is that “everyone is now on social media” in the same way that since the 1990’s “everyone has had access to a computer at work” as Nicholas Carr postulated in a now infamous piece in Harvard Business Review entitled “IT Doesn’t Matter.”   Carr was broad in his analysis when he stated “as their availability increased and their cost decreased—as they became ubiquitous—they became commodity inputs.”  What he neglected to mention was complacency, incompetence and/or tardiness, e.g. we all have laptops/tablets nowadays but how many people bother to check their spelling and grammar before they hand in their work to college or publish on the web?

I have working with computers since 1986 and I was one of the first students in my university to have access to a wordprocessor in the early 1980’s.  This didn’t make me smarter but it did make editing essays quicker and my presentation better (than when I was using a typewriter).  True, it gave me an edge in terms of time but nothing else.  During my professional career, I have noticed the following :-

  • most people use spreadsheets to less than 20% of the spreadsheet software’s features
  • most people use wordprocessors to less than 10% of the wordprocessing software’s features
  • most people use social media without any regard to the damage it may be doing to their employer or their career

So, having a computer doesn’t make you smarter or more competitive, in the same way as having a website + blog + social media account doesn’t make you a marketer!  Social media accounts may be ubiquitous but that doesn’t make ‘savvy’ social media marketing obsolete.  For example,

  • getting lots of followers is easy – but getting lots of relevant followers is not
    • buying followers, likes and shares is easy – but is this of any commercial benefit (I think not)
    • buying backlinks is now outlawed on Google (with severe penalties)
    • it is only a matter of time before buying followers, likes and shares on social media is banned too
  • opening accounts on lots of social media platforms is easy – but choosing the right platform(s) is not
    • posting on Facebook and Twitter is easy – but getting shares, likes and re-tweets is not
    • writing blog posts is easy – but getting your target audience to ‘open and read’ them is not
    • getting people to respond to blogs and microblogs (engagement) isn’t easy either
    • it is not enough to have a social media account, companies must learn to engage

In short, social media may be ubiquitous but effective social media marketing is not.

Kane’s arguement that “Having a presence on Facebook and Twitter is no longer sufficient to provide any source of competitive advantage for companies — not when all of their competitors have a presence on Facebook on Twitter, too.” is fundamentally flawed.  It is flawed because not everyone is doing social media marketing well.  And not everyone is doing social media marketing the same way – the premise of “we’ll do it because our competitors are doing it” may not be the best strategy for your company.  This includes many of the top brands.

In addition to the above, Prof. Kane might also like to note the following:

Educating businesses and CMOs on how they can “make the best of the Facebook suite of services” remains the prime challenge

  • 143 million smart phones in use in the U.S., plus 71 million tablets. (Heidi Cohen)
    • 751 million (or 75%) of Facebook users access the network from mobile devices at least some of the time. (Digital Buzz Blog)
    • Twitter has more than 500 million total users. 288 million users are active monthly, collectively sending out over 400 million tweets each day. (Digital Buzz Blog)
  • 93% of marketers say they use social media as part of their marketing mix
    • Social media marketing budgets are projected to double in the next five years. (SocialTimes)
      • 83% of B2B marketers invest in social media to increase brand exposure
      • 69% to increase web traffic
      • 65% to gain market insights. (Social Media Today)
  • Though more than 90% of marketers now use content marketing
    • but, just 42% of B2B marketers believe they are effective at this.
    • and 34% of B2C marketers believe they are effective at this. (e-Strategy Trends)
  • 62% of marketers say they use a blog
    • but only 9% of US marketing companies employ a full-time blogger(s)

The above statistics allude to Prof. Kane’s assertion that social media is ubiquitous may have some degree of truth but his assertion that “social media marketing doesn’t matter” has little basis in fact.  Social media has been described as ‘micro-blogging’ and ‘blogging’ is perceived as ‘social’ by many users and analysts, therefore I am including blogging as part of my argument.

The statistical data simply doesn’t agree with Prof. Kane.  For example:-

  • 76% of B2B companies maintain blogs. (FlipCreator)
  • B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads than those that don’t. (SocialTimes)
  • Among U.S. adults aged 18-34, four-fiths say bloggers “can be very or somewhat influential in shaping product or service purchasing decisions. (New Media and Marketing)
  • I am going to repeat one statistic – Though 62% of marketers blog or plan to blog in 2013, only 9% of US marketing companies employ a full-time blogger. (Fast Company)

Facebook Marketing Facts

  • Facebook now has nearly 1.2 billion total users. (Digital Buzz Blog)
    • but Facebook has indicated that brands should pay to promote their content (Jim Tobin)
    • and now, 47% of marketers say Facebook is overrated as a marketing platform. (iMedia Connection)

Twitter Marketing Facts

  • B2B marketers who use Twitter generate, on average, twice as many leads as those who don’t. (Social Media Today)
  • Advertising on Twitter costs nearly six times as much as Facebook ads on a CPM basis; however, the CTR for Twitter ads is 8-24 times higher. (Smart Insights)

Digital Marketing Facts

  • 79% of B2B marketing executives report noticeable skills gaps in the teams they manage. The top areas for skills gaps are in data analysis, customer insight, and digital marketing techniques. (B2B Marketing)
  • Social media experts are in demand. Job postings on LinkedIn for social media positions have grown 1,300% since 2010. (The Strategy Web)

This last statistic is the final nail in the coffin of Mr Kane’s argument, i.e. social media will continue to be an important element in the digital marketing mix.  As long as it’s data continues to stay open, it will continue to be a rich source of data and insights into consumer behaviour.  Admittedly, the data can be a bit messy but that has always been a problem for IT and ‘persistent’ analysts have always been able to find a way around this.

A Global Perspective


Global Internet Statistics

  • Adding up all the users in individual countries around the world, there appear to be around 2.5 billion global internet users today – roughly 35% of the world’s population
  • Roughly 75% of the above use social media, so it is the largest digital pool of data available to marketers
  • The key to this massive pool of daily information is data analytics
  • This is WHY we are only getting started with social media marketing
  • This is WHY social media marketing really DOES matter and will continue to matter



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