KEY TAKEAWAY: It was going to change business forever. It was going to make traditional advertising irrelevant. It was going to revolutionize marketing. It was social media marketing and it’s been the biggest bullshit ever shoveled on marketers.
The idea that consumers were enthusiastic about having conversations about brands online, and they would activate their network of friends and followers to share their enthusiasms and create a socially transmitted tsunami of sales has proven to be deeply fanciful. The idea that social media would become a channel in which consumers would share their strong enthusiasms by having “conversations about brands” has turned out to be a delusion. The second idea that they would engage a pharma company is a dumb as cutting taxes on the wealthy.
Most brands are finding that their social media programs are more time-consuming, more expensive, and less capable of driving sales growth than was promised. Consequently, they are abandoning the “permission model” and reverting to the “interruption model” in their online advertising.
Social media sites are quickly evolving into just another channel for delivering traditional interruptive advertising . Social media is not going to die or go away. It will continue to grow. But the fantasy of consumers having conversations about their health is simply foolish.
Take, as an example Facebook. A few years ago, the company was telling brands to increase the number of people following their pages. Now it says fans are largely irrelevant as they become just another advertising portal. Facebook is the ultimate Seinfeld episode: it’s a show about nothing.
The other issue with social media is that while the big companies in “The Valley” tell government to lay off they are collecting more data on users than anyone could dream of. Google knows where you go on the web and Apple knows how you use your iPhone. I’ve already heard from clients who searched a medical condition on Facebook only to be bombarded with legal and illegal ads for prescription drugs.
Pharma was very late to the social media party and actually this is one example where being late made better sense. Social media is not going to help pharma as much as good old fashioned consumer marketing 101.