Gallup Questions Social Media Marketing’s Power

Gallup Questions Social Media Marketing’s Power


Social media was supposed to be a gamechanger for marketers.

But a few days ago, Gallup released the findings of their survey on the state of consumers in America. Among their findings, was that social media wasn’t a very influential marketing channel. In fact, 62% of respondents said that social media marketing had zero influence on their purchasing behavior and only 5% said that it was very influential. Pretty dismal, right?

What went wrong? There was so much promise and potential!

First of all, self-reported estimates aren’t known for being scripture-consumers have bias and like to think of themselves as “above the power of marketing.”  They (we, to be fair) also aren’t able to account for what happens subconsciously. Still, even if we take that with the largest grain of salt, the numbers aren’t encouraging.

There’s a few possible reasons why this could be. One possible reason is that social media might just not be a place for brands. And two, brands could be doing a poor job using social media-wrong content, wrong people, wrong social channels.

In regards to the first possible reason, 60% of Facebook users have liked a brand page and Twitter reported that 88% of Twitter users follow at least one brand. Those are both opt-in actions. Users are voting with their actions that they don’t mind and may even like brands on social media. Maybe not the strongest argument for social media being a place for brands, but a neutral, at the very least.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of research saying brands need to step up their social media game. Facebook said that brands could maintain their organic reach if they put out good content. Gallup gives us a start on defining what “good content” is, adding that “businesses stand to benefit when they utilize a more service-focused approach rather than one dedicated to simply pushing their products.”

Gallup’s analysis is interesting because it brings our two possible reasons for social media’s lack of success together. Social media isn’t a place for brands when they try to treat it like other types of media. TV spots, even if they’re great content on TV, aren’t necessarily good content on social. Digital banner ads, even if they’re effective on other websites, aren’t necessarily good content on social.

Social is a unique channel with unique behaviors. That’s why it’s so hard for marketers to master, but it’s also why there is so much potential.

While it made fewer headlines, the Gallup survey also gave us data about what consumers do like to do on social. 94% say they use social to connect with family and friends. 53%, the second highest, say they use social to share with others. This is where brands need to be. Since they’re already involved in consumers’ lives, brands can help facilitate and add value to these connections and conversations. Say my friend just went on vacation to Los Angeles. If Virgin America made the flight great, that will naturally be a part of the social conversation when she tweets or writes a Facebook post about the highlights of her weekend-the use case that 53% of consumers say they like about social media. Or, in a private message, her great flight will naturally come up-the use case that 94% of consumers say they like about social media.

These social activities are earned social-it’s word of mouth, but taking place on a digital platform. And we know word of mouth is the number one influence on purchasing behaviors, so why is there such a disparity between social media’s reported influence and word of mouth’s influence? We believe it’s because people don’t see these earned social interactions as advertising. When my friend sends me a Facebook message about her vacation and flight, it’s just an interaction between friends-which feels different than any paid social ad or any post coming from an owned channel. So as we discussed earlier about the problems of self-reporting in surveys, such as Gallup’s, it is especially be under-reported when measuring the influence of earned social marketing efforts.

Brands, like Virgin America, can leverage earned social by promoting her post, so that more of her friends see it, or learn from the way she talked about her flight so that their owned posts feel more authentic.

If brands want to be successful on social and impact the 64% of people that say social has no influence on their consumption, they need to be a part of the activities and use cases that consumers say they like the social media for-and a huge part of that is earned social.

Social media’s power and potential shouldn’t be in question-the question is how brands are using it.


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Written by Jordan Con