Interesting Times – Unique Opportunities in Social Media

Marketing is going through interesting times all right. I think social media has turned it all upside down on its head. I also think that’s a good thing.

I hear a lot of talk in the industry about WHY to jump into social media. To me, as someone who has been measuring results from coupon codes in the ‘70s through DRTV (direct response television) on to Internet performance-based advertising, the reasons are clear. Once I heard that consumers were in social media talking about products and services, I was in. But the hit-my-palm-on-my forehead moment is the incredibly low cost – basically time! I’m dumbfounded that this point isn’t being screamed from the rafters.

Strike While the Price Is Hot (read: low)

I think of myself as a fairly early adopter, although I felt late to the Social Media party. I like to learn new things and there is clearly a ton of variety to put together great social media strategies. It’s fascinating to me: part publicity, part customer service, relationship and trust building to yield WARM leads so you never have to work another cold lead. How cool is that!

Let’s step back for a little media history lesson at the risk of dating myself to make my point. I remember when the earliest infomercials were doing a 15:1 (mid to late ‘80s). In infomercial-speak, that’s getting $15 in sales for spending $1 in advertising. Infomercials were new and the audience wasn’t skeptical – yet! So I could spend $1000 on a half-hour of programming and yield $15,000 in revenues for my client. And we knew by the next day and certainly within a few days. We were into measurement and immediacy with constant refinement against those first benchmarks. Now that was something to write home about.

Especially when you see that today, a winning infomercial is one doing 2:1. Yup, $2 back for $1 spent on media. Media and other campaign costs, like telemarketing, multiplied. This evolution of deterioration in returns took several years. So we were able to enjoy the tremendous profits of the earliest days for awhile.

The early adopters to infomercials were entrepreneurs. People willing to dump the habit of paying traditional advertising dollars out with no idea of what sold their products and services. (Granted, I started out as one of those.) When we added telemarketing to media and we could measure sales from every TV airing and voila! We had accountability and beaucoup bucks. But I’ll come back to these folks…

I also remember the early days of Google Adwords before buying keywords like “mortgage” went over $10 a click and made it impossible to convert. A click doesn’t mean a sale. A click doesn’t even mean a lead. It didn’t take long for folks to figure out that they had to bite the bullet to stay in the game and forget looking at short-term conversions.  The time from keywords costing pennies a click to dollars a click was more like months than the years it took with the infomercial industry experience. The gaps of greatest prosperity have been closing rapidly.

It was also a crazy time in ’99 when each month we were looking at a flurry of new formats from email to banners and pop-ups to co-registration. Kind of like social media, Internet marketing had different creative formats and they weren’t all right for every client. In the days before the CAN SPAM law, we also didn’t have the overwhelmed inboxes like we do today. Click-thru rates were higher. With time, the costs went up and the returns have gone down.

The Big Difference

Looking around, the media cost of social media can be as little as the time and effort put forth to make contact with customers. That looks like a pretty great business investment to me. A real no-brainer.

So here we are – in the early days of social media. Where things are changing at the speed of light. There is a lot to learn and that will keep on being the case. And we will learn as we go. Stumbling in the dark.

In lean times, training budgets go by the wayside. But the great thing about marketing with social media is the professionals from freelance copywriters to IT staff and marketing professionals are using it to SHARE and teach each other in open, joyful, comradishness. “Hey, we’re all in this together.” And there is so much to learn with not only the speed, but also the VOLUME of jigsaw pieces to put together, not just to make the picture, but to do them in the right order from the get-go.

Get out there and learn – some webinars will take an hour to get just one good tip – and if you find some great how-tos, I hope you will share – whether it’s a book, URL, webinar or University.

So let me suggest some folks to follow who have given me a hand up the social media ladder:

Mari Smith, a delightful spirit and creator of the ABC’s of Social Media:

Mike Stelzner, White Paper Czar and Wrangler for #SMSS09 (Social Media Summit): Writing White Papers,,   @Mike_Stelzner

Darren Rowse of ProBlogger, King of Blogging: and @problogger

Denise Wakeman, Queen of Blogging at The Blog Squad,

Jason Alba, the Uber hero of “I’m on LinkedIn – Now What?” at

David Meerman Scott, author of  World Wide Rave, The New Rules of Marketing, and @dmscott

And one of those special few to make the early transition from DRTV to Internet and now to Social Media: Marty Fahncke, @fawnkey

My Prediction and Strong Recommendation

It surprised me greatly how slowly it was for many direct marketers to embrace the Internet. It seemed like such a natural. And it seemed like it took forever for the big players and early adopters of DRTV to get websites up, let alone great landing pages that converted well. You’d think they would have jumped on it. Clicks were cheap in the early days. Cost per sale/lead advertising was more prevalent and better converting early on. Email open rates, click-thru rates and closes were easier and results more cost efficient. So I wondered if it was comfortable to stay with what they knew. Some said they were swamped with their current business and had no more bandwidth to learn and allocate the resources. I’d say that’s a very different story today. They’ve learned, embraced and apply measurement to their Internet strategy. Shrinking profits will do that. But I’d say many missed the early days with the best efficiencies by waiting. So where am I going with all this?

Mark my words, the cost to use social media will go up. Some services have started to monetize their services with ads and premium services. The squeeze has started. It will never be any cheaper to use social media to make your point, find new leads, and sell more products. This is the time to get the best return for your time and any costs. Make hay while the sun shines!

Just the Beginning

So I hope you’ll follow us. I’ll share links to webinars, tips that worked for me and lessons learned along the way.


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1 Response

  1. Madeleine Newman says:

    A very interesting blog post. What would you say was the most common problem?

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