Kirk Klasson

The Search for El Dorado Continues

About ten years ago in a post entitled “The Search for El Dorado” we explored the burgeoning conundrum that social media posed for marketers of all stripes. At the time, social media was still a relatively recent phenomenon but one that was growing appreciably year after year. Shifts in media mind share on the part of consumers is always top of mind for marketing types and back in 2011, with the US still emerging from a self induced financial recession, it had captured a good deal of attention. To a large extent, the same conditions exist today. As the world slowly emerges from a pandemic induced recession, consumer marketing is poised to grow aggressively and social media is predicted to once again receive the lion’s share of that growth.

Source: GroupM courtesy of the WSJ

So it might be reasonable to ask whether advertisers’ faith in social media channels is well placed or merely wishful thinking. Have the last ten years sharpened consumer behavior and marketers pencils or are we still throwing spaghetti at the wall? Those of you craving a refresher might wish to revisit “The Curse of the Walled Garden” here in Epilogues.

A few months back a company called Bango, a mobile payments application that services some of the bigger internet platforms, conducted a survey of CEOs about the efficacy of digital and social media marketing that they published under the title “Board to Death”. More than ten years into internet media advertising and the feedback from the leaders of these companies wasn’t all that optimistic. The survey of 200 US and UK executives found that 77% didn’t believe in the efficacy of digital marketing and another 60% thought that the benefits of social media marketing were greatly exaggerated.

Source: Courtesy of Bango

Over the past few years there of been several studies into the impact that vanity metrics, such as “likes”, have on consumer behavior with most finding that they really don’t measurably change buying behavior (see Social Media: Trouble in Paradise – May 2012). What they can be useful for is identifying marketable cohorts of like-minded buyers who might then be subsequently engaged through other means including social, digital or conventional media advertising. This might explain the current craze for “influencers” and the use of tik-tok as a primary advertising digital media, where the media is the advertising and the advertising is the media, a regular QVC or HSN; no need to find the eyeballs, they’re already looking for and at your ad.

This might also go along way to explaining why digital, and in particular, social media is a preferred means of marketing other nefarious commodities such as drugs and sex. The comment filter of this blog alone is constantly clogged with advertisements for the same along with payday loans so you can do your banking and buying all in one convenient spot.

Which might also go a long way to explaining why the Texas Supreme Court recently ruled that section 230 does not provide Facebook immunity from being sued by plaintiffs who were lured into sex trafficking while using its platform.

So some ten years later, while the CEO’s of major corporations are still searching for a profitable way to employ social media marketing, it appears that some other folks have already figured it out.


Graphic courtesy of “A Direct Approach to Evaluating Technical and Allocative Efficency in Marketing” by researchers at Ohio State, Notre Dame and National Taipei Universities.

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