Nobody Goes To Facebook To Shop, Therefore Social Media Marketing Is A Failure

This “How People Use Social Media” report has been making the rounds on the blogosphere yesterday and today, and it’s finally time to put a stop to the madness.

Consumer research company Knowledge Networks released the social media report yesterday, and in it, says that though 83 percent of Internet users use social media, less than 5 percent of those users “regularly turn to these sites for guidance on purchase decisions” and only 16 percent of social media users are more likely to buy from companies that advertise on social media.

David Tice, vice president and Group Account Director of Knowledge Networks said: “Obviously, a lot of people are using social media, but they are not explicitly turning to it for marketing purposes, or for finding out what products to buy. It’s really about connecting with friends, or connecting with other people.” He and Knowledge Networks conclude that social media’s marketing value “isn’t at the bottom of the list, but it is somewhere in the long tail of marketing – about the same as print ads, or online [display] ads.”

Okay. What’s wrong with this picture?

We think that Knowledge Networks is dead wrong. True, slapping an ad on Facebook is not going to have amazing results—it’s the same as slapping an ad on any web site. Most people will ignore it, some will be annoyed by it, and a small percentage will block it.

But the true value of social media from a marketing standpoint isn’t as simple as “we put an ad up, you look at it.” It’s got to be more real, or at least fake in a way that feels real. How many people have become Zappos customers thanks to CEO Tony Hseih’s much-publicized Twitter account? I’m not sure you can even count that, just as you can’t ever really be sure how many people saw a newspaper ad or heard about your product through word of mouth. How many people have decided—maybe not even consciously—to buy a certain model of phone or eat at a certain restaurant because all their friends online were talking about the same one? That kind of thing is not going to show up in a survey where you ask Internet users whether they “refer to social media websites or features as a resource for information, reviews, or recommendations when in the market for ____.” It may not even be a conscious decision on the users’ part. But to ignore it completely because of a survey like this? Suicide.