'Everyone else is doing it' is no social strategy

Just before Facebook's much ballyhooed IPO a week ago, news got out that General Motors would be pulling its ad spend from the social network, causing quite a bit of discussion about Facebook's revenue potential and, more importantly, how digital advertising activities should fit into the marketing mix.

Just before Facebook's much ballyhooed IPO a week ago, news got out that General Motors would be pulling its ad spend from the social network, causing quite a bit of discussion about Facebook's revenue potential and, more importantly, how digital advertising activities should fit into the marketing mix. Since that point, cooler heads appear to be prevailing. While there's no “right” answer for whether GM's move was the proper one for the brand just yet, at least we're spawning discussions about how advertising should mesh with other activities focused on engagement on the platform.

Certainly, this topic has hit your in-box (read: Twitter account, Facebook Timeline, Instagram account, et al) once or eight times. If you're like me, you've had teammates and/or clients asking what this means and if they, too, need to rethink Facebook advertising strategies.

The short answer is that you always need to be reviewing and evaluating your activities and strategies in order to maintain any level of growth within social. This goes the same for editorial content on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth. If we aren't asking ourselves if things are working on a regular basis, we're not doing our jobs. This doesn't mean we should be making snap decisions, but we should be making justifiable decisions based on results.

Additionally, it's critical that we are always focused on the goals of any activity or spend, along with the audience we are looking to reach. If the timing isn't right for ad spend, or doubling down on Twitter, or building a mobile application, it's important to remember that “everyone else is doing it” isn't an excuse.

A few days ago, Buddy Media CEO Mike Lazerow (disclosure, Buddy Media is an Allison+Partners client) spoke to CNBC about advertising on Facebook. He pointed out that the concept of monetizing on Facebook – and determining what ad mechanisms will perform most successfully – is still nascent. I include this here not because Mike and his team are my client, but because I agree. Just because GM is choosing to pull hard ad dollars today doesn't mean it won't return in the future. This could evolve into some other sort of branded content, or an “advertising” play with a third party, or a promotion of some sort that takes place on Facebook. At the end of the day, we all have to make smart decisions with where we spend our dollars, whether those translate to cutting a check or applying a team's hours against community growth and management.

On Tuesday, BusinessWeek's Ben Kunz delivered a piece that adds some nice perspective to the discussion. Noted in his article is the customer acquisition, something critical to most ROI calculations, as there are a number of factors to think through here – or re-think, at least. Can all ad spend, especially in this minutiae-driven world we live in, be drilled down right to customer acquisition? When we are supplementing a campaign with ad spend in order to drive “likes” or promotion/contest entries, we're tracking the success of those actions and building those results into future calculations. The more ad units, places to spend our money, and mix of engagement platforms we have to choose from, the more complicated (though perhaps more easily “measured,” as there is no lack of data at our disposal nowadays) our decisions may become in what is providing us the ROI we need.

My mom always suggested that I not jump off a bridge just because my friends were going to do so. Neither should you or your marketing dollars.

Tom Biro is VP at the Seattle office of Allison+ Partners. His column focuses on how digital media affects and shifts PR. He can be reached at tom@allisonpr.com or on Twitter @tombiro.

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