Social Media is bigger than ever before, but it’s time we forget it! - Stephen Fell
A quick 4 day trip to San Fran, a little work and R&R

Earlier this month I attended Linc15 a conference centred around delivering an excellent digital customer experience with communities and social was a key topic. Of all the speakers and people I met, Nate Elliott, Vice President & Principal Analyst @ F​orrester Research, really cemented in my mind why marketing and engagement across social is largely a waste of resource & time, "stay with me, I have a point"

This year in the US, marketers will spend almost 10 Billion on social and by 2020 that's expected to hit 20 billion in Europe we're looking at 3.1 billion by the end of 2015. Despite all that spend, marketers still can't prove that its working, in the latest report from Forrester the number one response from marketers when asked what their biggest challenge was, 53% said the biggest challenge they face is measuring the performance of their social spend.

So why should we forget about social

It's generally accepted that when a customer buys something they go through a 6 stage life cycle which starts with Discovery, if a customer don't discover you, there's no chance of them purchasing your stuff and if, in that moment of discovery they like what they see they will move on to exploring your products then hopefully move on to buy, use and so on.

What's interesting is that you would expect "I certainly did" that social media would play a massive role in consumers lives when they start to consider purchasing something, after all where spending billions globally on it however I was surprised to learn that when surveyed and asked about the different channels used to influence a purchase, social plays a very small part:


​Top3
- 47% TV Ads
- 41% Word of Mouth
- 41% Internet Search

​Bottom 3
- 12% Messages and Ads on Social network sites
- 13% Smartphone messaging
- 16% Radio Ads

What amazed me is that newspaper ads are more effective at influencing than social media "who reads newspapers these days…" As consumers move to the explore phase, they're still x4 times more likely to use Search or visit your own website rather than use social to help them make a decision.

It's actually not all bad for Social and targeted activity along with word of mouth can be effective, last year Wilkinson Sword increased their market share to more than 9% doing just that. But the reality is that less than 0.1% of top brands fans and followers interact with their posts on social networks "that's a lot of spend for not much in return" Forrester advocates that branded communities hold the biggest opportunities and can help brands engage with customers all the way across the life cycle.

I guess our biggest challenge is how we re-purpose and use our own branded community to go beyond its initial brief and drive revenue growth especially if it started its life as a support community. 

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