Is social media marketing overrated?

From Nagi Salloum

There has been a lot of buzz lately about social media marketing (SMM), its impact on business, and the feeling of necessity for companies to have a social-media-marketing-strategy. So I wanted to share my opinion and raise some important questions. First, social media is not Facebook or Twitter. It’s way more than this. But considering we want to limit to most popular tools Twitter, Facebook and Blogging, I still fail to see the impact of SMM on real business measures. Here is my rationale. I will give the case for UAE, representing Arabia.

Twitter: How many Twitter users are there in UAE (the most connected country in Arabia with 76% internet penetration)? 40,000? How many of those are active? 20,000? (If you know specific figures, please let me know). UAE has 3,777,900 internet users. So, with a super successful Twitter campaign, the maximum number of users any business can attract is only 0.5% of internet users. Pretty small number, no?

Facebook: I will not refer to Facebook ads reach, because advertising is not marketing. How many fans did the biggest Facebook campaign attract in UAE? How many of those fans were active? The numbers I have seen were close to 30,000 of active fans (I cannot disclose the campaign for confidentiality purposes). Again, it’s a pretty small number, no?

Blogs: I have not seen any active corporate blog in Arabia yet. So blogs are out.

While SMM has definitely its own advantages and clearly addresses some very specific business needs, considering all the time, money and resource investment, I just believe companies should be more realistic about the expected return from SMM whether it’s from reach, sales or revenue. I know the counter argument of the above is that businesses use social media to engage with their customers, but 1) are they really customers or just random users who follow and ‘like’ with a simple click, and 2) the small numbers I mentioned above still do not justify the big SMM investments from my point of view.

Another thing I am still failing to understand is what is a social media marketing expert? The whole social media marketing industry is less than 3 years old, and is evolving every day. Literally, every day. With such a new and nascent industry I am still trying to understand what makes someone ‘expert’ or ‘guru’ in social media marketing.

So are companies adopting social media for the ‘cool’ effect? Should companies adjust their investments and expectation in light of the above? Are they possibly overestimating the impact of SMM?

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