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Friday, Aug. 28, 2009 at 8:18 am

Social Media Is Not the Message

By Bryan Eisenberg
August 28th, 2009

mediaisnotthemessageSocial marketing is a shiny new toy and almost everyone is wising up and getting involved, as they should. In fact, a rumor is spreading that the new Mac OS, Snow Leopard, is integrating Facebook addresses directly into its own address book app. There’s no question that social applications are becoming central to our online lives, and soon social apps will be a central part of the very operating systems we use. People are tweeting, flickring, and facebooking like mad, with no signs of slowing.

Still, at the heart of it all for marketers is the message. Never forget that these new social technologies are just new ways to communicate. And technology by itself is not persuasive. Beware not to get the media mixed up with the message.

Every status update, tweet, and inbox message is nothing more than a communication between a sender and a reader. What you say and how you say it matters. Be relevant.

E-Mail: The Original Social Media App

Plain old vanilla e-mail still rules. By the numbers, people still interact and communicate using e-mail more than any other social media app, and most companies still earn more from their e-mail campaigns than from their social media efforts.

Yet I wonder how many have put their e-mail programs on autopilot and have starting chasing shiny new objects. I recently received a disappointing e-mail from Nikon. Like most people, I typically just delete promotional e-mails, but I decided to hold on to this one, considering the headline said “My Picturetown — 20GB for just a few cents a day!”

email My Picturetown - 20GB for just a few cents a day! — Inbox

I clicked on the call to action: “Store my photos and videos” and landed on a page offering, “Sign Up For Free” in the headline, with a form and a graphic proclaiming, “2GB FREE!” (Pictured below.) Notice how the landing page scent, or messaging connection, to the e-mail is missing.

Enter Member Information - my Picturetown

As you can see, there’s no mention of the 20 GB at all (I wonder if it was a typo), let alone information about the e-mail’s offer of 20 GB of storage for just a few cents a day. I was wondering how few cents it actually was: 2 cents, 10 cents, or 99 cents?

Nikon clearly did not maintain scent from the e-mail to the landing page. It got my attention but didn’t maintain it on the landing page (among other things). Message matters. Nikon started with the right message but lost consistency. Someone is asleep at the wheel.

Here’s an example of an e-mail campaign from Wyndham Rewards that offers 1,000 free reward points for booking a trip:

Screen shot 2009-08-25 at 5.55.41 PM

On the landing page, I see the message about 1,000 reward points, but there’s no clear call to action. The landing page features mostly a map and some links. I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to do. The call to action is weak. A simple statement of “Click Your Destination to Get Started” would have done just fine to move me through to the next step.

Screen shot 2009-08-25 at 5.55.22 PM

Bottom Line

Don’t get caught up in the flash of Web 2.0 technologies; work to understand how each works so you can use it to deliver a relevant message to your prospect. When you tear away the technology, you’re left with words and the actions they inspire — or fail to inspire. Don’t mistake the medium for the message.

A good message in any medium can be effective, and a bad message isn’t cured by Web 2.0 technologies. Remember, just because e-mail isn’t social media doesn’t mean it isn’t important and worth optimizing. Watch your message and make sure you maintain scent and clear calls to action, or even an effective message will twist in the wind.

If you have something to say, say it well and give readers clear calls to action. Give them a persuasion scenario to follow and you’ll get better results from your efforts.

Otherwise, you’ll just blend in with the noise and no one will hear you at all.

Add Your Comments

Comments (48)

  1. Sad but true ..
    I don’t like social media to “replace” our real life .. But the growth of facebook and other social networking sites afraid me.

  2. It is true that so social media become an integral part of peoples life. However, I don’t agree that it will replace or substitute our real lives. Its just another communication tool where you can do more that just exchanging messages. Email still stays on top but this will change when Google will release the Wave, new approach to email and message exchange, by the end of this year.

  3. Excellent post, Bryan. I really appreciate your point that online marketing campaigns have to consider the complete experience in their design and not just the initial vehicle. While the same point is true for offline campaigns, it’s way more obvious when there’s a disconnect online because the connection between the media vehicle and destination is immediate. To your point, regardless of the vehicle, it’s always important to get the basics right. Thanks for the detailed examples.

  4. Great post, everyone needs to remember it doesn’t matter as much where you are posting, it is what you are posting that counts.

  5. [...] think Bryan Eisenburg is right when he says social media is not the message. Everyone is so keen to utilise social media as part of their website marketing plan they are [...]

  6. As it has been throughout marketing ages, message consistency is key. These social media outlets are wonderful avenues for marketing but we must maintain that consistency in our messaging in order for the different avenues to add value to our marketing.

  7. “maintain scent”…excellent visual…uh…I mean olafactory image for understanding how a tease travels.

  8. excellent article. Thankz but I dont like social media. . .hmm

  9. It doesn’t matter as much where you are posting, it is what you are posting. Gr8 stuff.

  10. Excellent read. Very important to stay on top of already proven methods and not let them die out for hopes to cash in on the next one. I am sure both these big companies have full time marketing people working on each kind campaign though ;]

  11. I usually read this in RSS but for the last two weeks your items haven’t been displaying images. Just wanted to throw that out there.

  12. Great artice and so true!

  13. I wish my boss could see you article… Thanks

  14. These social media outlets are wonderful avenues for marketing ,nice post

  15. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? That is, that the message must be consistent and maintain the scent. Amazing how many neglect it. … However, I must disagree with the comment that what you post is as important as where you post — if you post where something is never seen, it is like the tree falling in the forest with nobody there to hear it: It doesn’t matter at all. I believe where you post is of utmost importance.

  16. Great post.

    As I’ve watched the “social media” phenomenon unfold, I’ve been amazed at how easily a fad catches on, whether it really adds to peoples’ life experiences or not.

    People somehow imagine that by texting, tweeting, or blogging, they will automatically gain a huge number of customers … kind of the same way people think that if they build a Website, “customers will come.” In fact, so many people get caught up in the technology, that they spend less and less time DOING anything other than write about what they’re thinking of doing.

    I try to remind people that whether they communicate in person, on the phone, or across the Web, they have to connect with their audience, understand their needs, and use language that resonates with their listeners.

    Sadly, many people I deal with are actually losing their ability to effectively interact with others “in the flesh,” because they’re spending all their time networking online.

    Their actual communication skills are suffering. Why? Because when they interact in person, they’re forced to connect, to listen, to read body language, to know when to be patient, and when to jump in. But when they interact on line, they get no practice whatsoever with recognizing the visual and audio cues that help us determine whether we’re “getting through” to others and making a connection.

    I sometimes wonder how the generation of tomorrow is going to discuss and solve the huge issues our world faces today. 140-character byte tweets and cryptically short text messages just aren’t going to hack it!


  17. Great comment Martha, it is very true that people get impatient and tend to forget to make a real connection offline.

  18. Since mankind was created an developed language, communication has been the key to both our existence and success, but also to our innate need for connectivity. We ARE social animals. Any technology that does a better job of more intantly connecting people (texting, tweeting) will likely grow exponentially, particularly in the younger generation, who have more need to urgently express themselves. I for one want to learn all I can about these technologie and how I can integrate by effective messages into them, or I’ll be leaving more and more money on the table. Links to free ebooks on these subjects would be a valuable post plz :-) . To the person who said he/she “doesn’t like” social media, may I humbly submit that what YOU like is not relevant in the sales business one bit. Keep up or die. LOL

  19. I think you are right Bryan, my 2 cents. but in my opinion Social media would be great point later 5 years down the line.

  20. Great post. It always amazes me how some of the bigger companies seem to make such ridiculous mistakes like this. It is so obvious to keep the scent right through the conversion process yet so many don’t.

  21. No doubt that social media started to affect our real life , its like the crazy movement spread quickly into our lives, i rode an article for someone he believes that social media ( like twitter ) will kill search engines later

  22. Social media provide social traffic, search engines provide buying traffic. What do you do with zillions of social visitors to your site that don’t buy anything? I prefer a few targeted everyday that actually buy my products ;-) SY

  23. From my experience with Social media, you really need to stay away from pitching anything, let your website or blog do that. First be real and connect with the community.

    Josh Fuller

  24. So true, Social media is now consider as great way to keep in touch to peoples and interact with them.

  25. While the same point is true for offline campaigns, it’s way more obvious when there’s a disconnect online because the connection between the media vehicle and destination is immediate.

  26. Excellent! With the fascination about new tecnologies, many people forget they are only a tool to succed, they won’t do the whole job. If the message is confused, you only gonna get a bad image for your brand.

  27. Great things to know. It must be of great help for new search engine optimization professionals as well as an intermediate SEM SEO person. This is a must read post.

  28. Very true and very nice to know. Thanks.

  29. Email remains my primary means of communication. If you are busy like a bee, email communication provide a better mean to stay in touch and is less disruptive. Over form of social media such as Twitter are too demanding in terms of time investment. If I have to follow someone just to be informed that he’s about to take a nap on a hammoc then what’s in for me. I kinda see the value of Facebook but do not want to make friends just for the sake of numbers (just like followers in twitter). I need to make real friends not just images to fill my wall.

    Social media is still in its infancy and hope when it’s mature enough we all we be able to use it to its full potiential both social and business side.

  30. Just wondering if you can back up this statement: “By the numbers, people still interact and communicate using e-mail more than any other social media app, and most companies still earn more from their e-mail campaigns than from their social media efforts.”

    I’d love to use this statement when advocating the power of email marketing but it would help if I had some figures or at least a source to qualify it. Great post!

  31. Social Media is a difficult animal to tame. On the one hand, you have to participate because so many messages about your brand are being circulated with or without you. Yet at the same time, it’s extremely difficult to generate measurable ROI for the organization.

    Perhaps most importantly, the basic rules of clear and effective messaging across any communications and associated landing pages still apply.

  32. Nice Post….and also like your thoughts……

    we are totally involved with the social media. we unable to give up networking because it’s become also a time pass of our life……

  33. the joke came to my head: how much during the day you spend for sex Answer on the forum: 200-400 Mb hourly . come back to real life)

  34. Email still stays on top but this will change when Google will release the Wave, new approach to email and message exchange, by the end of this year.

  35. I hate the internet marketing persons i dislike them as they spreading lot of humors then and relally

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  38. I have to admit that social media has become an major part in our life.
    But there is no way to worry about it because it is just a kind of communication tool.
    so i believe it will never replace our real lives.

  39. I love the use of social networking sites and the opportunities they afford marketers. The internet is an incredible free testing ground for many marketing ideas and as a college student I am loving it.

  40. [...] Social Media Is Not the Message | FutureNow’s GrokDotCom … [...]

  41. I read blogs on a similar topic, but i never visited your blog. I added it to favorites and i’ll be your constant reader.

  42. Very true and very nice to know. Thanks.

  43. Wow, that is incredible. I can definitely see that Mac is becoming a frontrunner in innovation, and Microsoft needs to be careful, because Mac puts out incredible products that are definitely cutting edge. Social media is a new foreign frontier and it is exciting to be riding the wave!

  44. Social Media is really getting popular after a revolution of facebook and twitter. People are getting more closer with it. You have mentioned some of the effective points which people should follow.

  45. what about some voice through social media?

  46. I think social media is voice revolution

  47. The article is very wonderful. You analyse in the round. I will go on to attention your other wonderful posts. Thank you.

  48. With a variety of social media sites that we follow, do not forget to keep all my authentic self, as well as privacy and confidentiality of our personal data. Distinguish properly, which can be shared where that should not be shared.

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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