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Some Thoughts On Pagemodo’s Social Media Survey Infographics

“One picture is worth ten thousand words,” so goes the Chinese proverb. Just a couple of days ago, Pagemodo posted an infographic that is gaining much attention, visualizing the results of a survey they had earlier undertaken.

No details were provided about the survey itself, only that it presumably asked respondents what they thought were the benefits they got out of using social media in their marketing mix. Instead of writing about it, though, they summarized the responses into a series of informative graphs. Worth ten thousand words, indeed, maybe even more.

The graphs are so clearly presented that the conclusions come across easily and unmistakably; they provide quite a clear lens into the specifics of the respondents’ social media initiatives. For those of you who have not seen it yet, and in order for you to better appreciate the forthcoming discussion, you will find the infographic http://pmblog.pagemodo.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Getting-Results-Social-Media-how-marketers-are-using-social-media-marketing-successfully.png.

There’s the rub, though: the scope and usefulness of the survey is quite limited, and simply confirms what we all already know. In fact, the real value we can derive from the infographic is not from what it explicitly presents, but rather from what it does not mention. The Pagemodo infographic zooms in on a handful of key points based on respondents’ answers to questions in the survey.

The first point ascertains the importance of social media to marketers. 90 percent of the respondents reported that they were using social media, and 93 percent of these social media users claim that the technology is important to their business. No surprise here, given all the media and industry attention surrounding social media during the last few years, as well as all the initiatives pursued by marketers to harness and exploit the social tools that have popped up in the last few years.

It does provide an excellent framework for the next question: what benefits do marketers get by using social media? The answer comes in two stages. First, the report summarizes what marketers feel should be the benefits: business exposure, increased traffic and conversion, improved search ranking, new business, qualified leads, reduced marketing expenses and increase in sales.

Here, the main objective expressed by nearly 90 percent of respondents is generating exposure for the business. The Pagemodo infographic explicitly states its surprise at this fact, and at the fact that less than half the respondents considered improved sales as a major benefit. This is an important talking point. Do we conclude that improved sales is not wired into the marketing plans of these businesses that employ social media?

Is it because, while marketers understand the power of social media to create buzz, draw attention and engage people, they are either not convinced or at a loss as to how to use social media to convert traffic into sales? Curiously, though, the second part of this question points out that marketers who have employed social media over the last three years or more did get good results, even when these were not expected.

These social media “veterans” did realize higher traffic, quality leads and improvements in sales way above the expectations of the total number of respondents. Unfortunately, the numbers provided do not allow us to come to any other conclusions or explain the disparity. But they do bring up a number of questions that beg to be pursued.

It would have been useful, for example, to know the ratio of social media veterans versus the newbies, to give us an idea of whether the veterans were largely responsible for setting expectations for, say, improving sales. The section on the Time Factor spent on social media is likewise interesting, but again it tends to oversimplify the conclusion.

It is widely accepted that the more time you spend on an activity, the better at it you get. In his book, “The Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell sets a concrete figure: you must spend at least 10,000 hours on a skill or activity in order to become good at it. What the graph does not detail for us is HOW to spend that time. We cannot even draw the conclusion that how to spend the time is arbitrary and dependent on the marketing environment the marketer needs to work with.

The infographic concludes by focusing on the social media marketer’s weapons of choice. Again, it is comes as no surprise that the big three social networks -- Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn -- should emerge, along with blogging, as the preferred tools for carrying out social media marketing. The traction, user base and credibility of these networks are well known and appreciated, after all.

The desire to incorporate YouTube into the mix is also understandable given the power of video to drive traffic and sustain engagement. It would have been nice, however, if we had been shown which specific features of the social networks marketers intended to use, and HOW. Borrowing from Swindoll’s observation that “we are faced by opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations,” I dare say that I have just issued to you invitations and challenges to dig deeper into these disconnects, brilliantly disguised as whining and ranting.

By focusing on these disconnects and understanding causes and consequences that hide behind them, we can improve our social media marketing initiatives and succeed in accomplishing our business objectives.

 

Edwin Huertas - Isis CMS

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