(Editor's note: This article was written and edited prior to the late June release of Gallup's "The State of the American Consumer" report. Check it out if you'd like a few more social media facts to keep you up at night.)
Like email marketing and search marketing before it, social media marketing is now enjoying its transition into the realm of "of course" among marketers.
"Do you have a social strategy?"
That said, just because you've been banging the social media drum for more years than you can remember (and people are starting to step to the beat), it doesn't mean that marketing via these networks is without its challenges and problems. In fact, new challenges continue to arise, and marketer tunnel vision can blind us to some realities. Let's take a look at a few of the realities that continue to inhibit social media marketing. Check out the below infographic for a fast overview.
Social media is not as ubiquitous as you think
Everyone is on social media, right? I mean, come on -- your grandmother just friended you on Facebook.
In fact, Pew Internet found that more than 50 percent of internet users either don't use any social networks or use only one. These numbers are probably not in line with the blanket "everybody" penetration rate you've been touting to your CMO. On the upside, it also means that the social media opportunity is far from saturated. On the downside, your social strategy still can't necessarily be your only strategy.
Consumers expect immediate results from social media
According to the American Express OPEN Forum, 25 percent of consumers who complain about products on Facebook and Twitter expect a response to their gripes within one hour. Dang. That's a lot of pressure. Are you on top of it?
Most certainly, some larger brands are, with their dedicated social customer service teams and robust monitoring tools. But for a lot of brands, the always-on resources for social media listening still just aren't there. How often are you letting already-peeved customers fester in their disgruntlement due to your lack of reply?
It's true -- the kids just don't care about Facebook
More than 11 million young people have abandoned Facebook since 2011. That breaks down as more than 4 million fewer high school students and nearly 7 million fewer college-aged students. Most marketers realize that Facebook isn't the place for the kids these days. But most also don't know where they should be finding them. In some cases, we're happy to dismiss the Facebook aversion of the youth since they have yet to become the ones with disposable income to blow. But if you subscribe to Whitney Houston's belief that "the children are our future," you better start looking down the line. Because those children who are our future just aren't interested in the platform where marketers are currently pouring most of their efforts.
Consumers won't protect their own privacy on social networks
Despite widely touted privacy concerns, only 25 percent of Facebook users use their privacy settings.
"So what?" a marketer might ask. Well, if you don't care about consumer privacy habits, you should. Online privacy is becoming increasingly legislated. And when those fat cats in Washington realize that consumers won't protect themselves, then they'll step in and do it for them -- likely with burdensome and rash legislation that will stall (if not squash) portions of our industry.
There's still a fake Twitter user problem
Italian researchers recently claimed that at least 10 percent of Twitter accounts are fake, and the estimated cost to buy 1,000 followers is only $11. Granted, marketers shouldn't be hanging their hats solely on follower numbers anymore. But still -- that's a lot of fraud, uncertainty, and loose dealings in a network that is serious business for many brands.
Facebook doesn't really care if your brand stays on Facebook
Most marketers who have played in the social space for any amount of time have realized that dealing with Facebook can be a little -- well, tricky. But deep down, we like to think that the company gives at least half a crap about brands because -- hey -- they're ultimately footing the bill.
That's why it was a little disheartening to see Facebook's response to Eat24, a food app with 70,000 Facebook followers that penned a snarky breakup letter to Facebook out of frustration over its promoted posts policies. Eat24 contended that Facebook's news feed algorithm is unfair and rewards only page owners who pay to have their posts promoted. Rather than try to smooth things over or address the concern, Facebook's communications director retorted with the equivalent of "don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out."
Even the "free" part of social media is no longer free
We used to bitch about CMOs who assumed social media was free. Yes, getting on the platforms was, but maintaining presences there, in terms of manpower and producing content, surely was not. But now, increasingly even having a meaningful presence on a network is going to cost you. More and more, advertising on Facebook is the only way to ensure eyeballs, even those of your biggest fans. In fact, a recent study found that, as of February, companies' posts typically reach only 6 percent of their followers, versus 12 percent in October.
Social ad ROI depends heavily on your user's mobile OS
Late last year, a study found that Facebook mobile ads on iPhones generate a 1,790 percent higher return on investment than ads on Android. At that time, the study pointed out that advertising on Android actually costs more than it returns. The study didn't speculate as to the reasons for the disparity. But as iPhone sales continue to wane and Android takes its place as the world's dominant smartphone platform, that's a finding that should raise a few anxious eyebrows.
Companies still don't have social measurement figured out
As of late last year, 44 percent of companies still weren't measuring social's value in their organizations. Perhaps even more worrisome, nearly a fifth of the companies that had measured its value determined that it was yielding a negative ROI.
First off, how can social marketing truly venture into its mature years if we're still not quantifying its value? And secondly -- uh oh. What if its assumed value turns out to not be what we'd hoped when it comes to the bottom line?
Many senior social marketers are dissatisfied with results on social media and are stepping back
Building off the previous point, a recent survey of 1,700 U.S. and Canada-based businesses (detailed here on iMedia Connection) found that satisfaction levels with existing social marketing campaigns are quite low among senior marketers. In fact, only about 8 percent of respondents were truly happy with results, while a whopping 21 percent labeled themselves as "dissatisfied" with social marketing.
While social media is indeed accepted and an assumed part of any marketing strategy, many of the above points remind us that the channel still has a ways to go to alleviate concerns. And it remains to be seen how social will succeed or fail to live up to its promised marketing potential.
"Male in bed browsing the internet" image via Shutterstock.