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The report that reminds us what ‘social’ means

Once again, the big hitters of social media are getting a good kicking.

A Forrester report into social media is questioning the value of marketing spend on social – particularly focusing bile on Facebook and Twitter.

The challenge seems to me to be not one of “To Social or Not To Social”. Rather, it is the ludicrous differential between organic social activity and paid social activity.

Consumers rarely love brands. Usually they have a fleeting, ephemeral relationship with brands based on how much they need the product. Many of our largest brands are positively loathed (which is why when energy companies delve into social, they get burned. Again and again).

So when such brands pay to inveigle their way into a community’s consciousness, particularly when this wheedling is accelerated by painfully obvious targeting based on big data acquisition, is it any surprise that the consumer comes out less impressed than ever?

Whereas at least organic social credibility is – by definition – built on the sentiment, misguided or spot on, of the consumer. I might find it daft as a bag of spanners that anyone would choose to like EDF Energy on Facebook. But that’s a person’s choice, and I am glad they have it. Much more daft would be the assumption of a marketing team that paid social, paid Likes or worst of all the bribery of “Like to have a chance to win…” represents any form of real loyalty.

Social media is highly valuable. It’s measurable, too. And there are some low-budget, almost incidental campaigns that latch on to the subtlest of sentiments to yield remarkable emotional capital. But paid love in the social space is turning out to be as dismally unfulfilling as its synonym, the “oldest profession in the world”…