The problem for social media marketing #SMWLDN


This week I’ve spent much of my time attending events as part of Social Media Week London. There has been insight, there have been poorly camouflaged product pitches, and there had been a lot of beyond-parody waffle.

Coming out of the experience it strikes me that there are a few fundamental challenges facing the social media world, particularly in the context of marketing.

Let’s deal with the buzzwords first. Any industry (indeed, most companies) develops its own language to be able to make sense of what it does. Sometimes it’s shorthand to allow practitioners to more easily converse amongst themselves. Sometimes it’s to describe new thoughts and concepts that had no prior existence. Sometimes it’s merely a way to allow those in the know to make simple things appear more complicated to those outside. I have worked in the tech industry for twenty years now and have seen all in equal measure. Problems tend to lie mostly in the later case, particularly when the words used have real meanng outside of the chosen few (see

But cutting through the buzzwords and bullshit, there are a couple of fundamentals that indicate a bigger challenge to the world of marketing posed by social networks.

The first is that marketing appears hardwired to act first on broadcasting principals. Marketing and advertising are synonymous in the outside world. But within the industry the cachet appears to still be with “the big”. The big TV campaign. The social media campaign that goes viral and reaches millions.

In our hyper-connected world of “conversations” reaching the right person, rather than the mass audience, surely becomes the goal? You wouldn’t think so, given the themes being discussed most often.

The second challenge, though, is that most businesses still aren’t taking it seriously. I was chatting to a chap from a global PLC yesterday, and their social media is looked after, three days a week, by a (no doubt very capable) 24-year old. 2 days a week she’s the office admin.

Get that? The online presence of this publicly-held firm is being balanced off against photocopying.

This is not uncommon.

For as long as companies put such things in the hands of juniors and interns, they just aren’t getting it.

This stems from the top. Most CEOs don’t get it. Most senior marketing folk (agency and client sides) don’t get it.

Maybe it’s a flash in the pan. The latest media hype that will, like 3D TV and “the red button”, will pass. But we need to get a lot more serious, and a lot more personal, if that’s not the case.

Poorly camouflaged product plug of my own now… That’s where personal digital strategies come in. Social media isn’t something you’ll get if you’re not engaged. Or your top team aren’t engaged. Find out more at

Published by ballantine70

Matt has spent the past two decades helping organisations to make sense of where technology, media, content and people collide. He currently is Head of Technology and Transformation for London housing provider RHP. In 2013 he founded Stamp London. Previously he’s worked for Microsoft, Imagination, Reuters and the BBC amongst others.

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