Why the Social Media Party Needs to Come to a Close in 2014

by Marcus Sheridan

2014Recently, my friend Nick Westergaard asked me (along w 20 other marketing folks) to contribute to an article he wrote about the trends we foresaw in social media for 2014. After a little bit of thought, here was my response:

2014 will be the year of “Social Media Reality.” The era of fun, games, and rainbows is over. Companies will finally accept that “likes” and “shares” aren’t true KPIs (key performance indicators) of success (in most cases) and will now shift their focus on the platforms that truly work vs the ones that have little returns, and then put the majority of their energies and efforts in said platforms.

Over the last 5 years or so, I think just about every single one of us has gone on a unique ride called “Social Media is Fun.” In a nutshell, it has looked a little like this:

“This Facebook thing is pretty neat… I think I’ll share some stuff here…I just got a “like” on my stuff…I feel happy now!”

Or

“This Facebook thing is pretty neat…I think I’ll share some stuff here…No one “liked” my stuff…I feel sad now!”

You may be thinking that I’m over-stereotyping or simplifying the process, but it’s true, especially if we’re being honest with ourselves here.

On a personal level, I’ve experienced the above many, many times to some degree or another, with a multiplicity of platforms, not just Facebook.

And I’m sure you’re right there along with me, aren’t you?

It’s just the world in which we live.

It is what it is

My thoughts with this post aren’t one of, “Social Media is Evil.”

It is what it is. It has helped me build a career, and I’m grateful for that. It can also changes lives and businesses for the better, without question.

But over these last 4 years, after having taught thousands through speaking and writing, and hundreds more on a direct level through consulting, I truly do believe we’re now ready to enter into a new phase of social media as we look ahead to 2014.

Instead of saying, “Wow, this Facebook thing is pretty neat” we’ll now start saying “We all agree that Facebook is neat, but is it the best way to use our time, money, and resources? Should our focus be elsewhere?”

The answer will change with every industry and business, but hopefully you get my point here.

It’s a process of natural maturation in a nascent arena of marketing and media.

The Difference Between a KPI and a PI

Now don’t get me wrong, I truly believe that just about any social media platform, with enough effort and creativity, can generate leads and revenue in just about any industry.

But even if this is true, this doesn’t mean that every business should embrace, nor worry about, every single social media platform. Such would be an impossible task.

As I look back on my most successful clients over the past few years, almost none uses Facebook Likes, Twitter Shares, or Google +s as a KPI of success.

Now before you try to argue my point, let me state two things very clearly:

1. KPI means *KEY* performance indicator. There is a very big difference between a “performance indicator” and a “KEY performance indicator.” With every client I’ve ever had, social shares have all been performance indicators, but not KEY performance indicators.

2. There are some industries and business models that rightfully use social shares as KPIs. But this article isn’t discussing those minorities of businesses. We’re here to talk about the majority.

The bottom line is this: As businesses, whether it be in 2014 or 2044, we need to make money.

In order to make money, we’ve got to generate sales.

In order to generate sales, we need leads.

In order to get leads, we need to be marketing in the areas and platforms that bring the greatest results.

As always, Pareto’s Law wins.

So as you look to 2014 with your business, I’d challenge you, if you haven’t already done so, to get more serious than ever about your marketing by defining what works, what doesn’t work, and where you need to focus all your efforts and energies.

For some, this may mean a lot of social media.

For others, it may mean a little.

Either way, it’s time for the party to come to a close and get down to business.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanna Burley December 31, 2013 at

And yet, smart marketers and businesses have been doing this since 2009, if not before. That’s the year I saw the trend shifting, and culled many bloggers that still bought into the kumbayah mindset of social media as a non-metric.

It’s actually scary that you’re writing about 2014 being the tipping point. How are these businesses still alive, I wonder?

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Marcus Sheridan January 2, 2014 at

Yep, it’s that time Joanna :-)

Guess we’ll see what happens, but I do think there will be a serious shift this year now that for many, the novelty is over.

Continued success to you in 2014,

Marcus

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Chris Marr December 31, 2013 at

Hi Marcus,

I totally agree with you on this. I’m going to be taking my social activity far more seriously and stop ‘playing’ with it.

I’ve spent the past 3-4 years exploring and now I need to focus on what really works.

This is very relevant to a few conversations I have been having recently and you are making a valid point. It’s almost a shift from immaturity to maturity.

Let’s make it count in 2014!

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Marcus Sheridan January 2, 2014 at

I’d love to know how it ends up going for you Chris in this area—which platforms produced the most fruit and which ones you let sit still.

Again, thanks for stopping by,

Marcus

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Darin "Doc" Berntson December 31, 2013 at

Hey Marcus,

I totally like where you are going here my friend, BUT, like there are so many businesses that do not even use analytics properly, there are a ton more that still do not, or have not given social media a fair shake yet. So, they do not know what works, or what does not work in order to have the focus you mentioned.

Sadly. a lot of businesses do not know a KPI or a PI from a ham sandwich.

I am not sure I have ever been in the camp thinking social media is fun. I mean, it can be, right? But for the last 4-5 years I have been preaching that social media is work. Hard work. And the sad reality is, many businesses just want easy.

So I agree, it is time to get down to business. Meaning, businesses need to finally take social seriously, and stop treating it as an afterthought. It’s hard to measure, KPI or otherwise, if you do not go all in.

Happy New Year Marcus

Doc

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Marcus Sheridan January 2, 2014 at

Doc, wise words. I’m in complete agreement.

Guess we’ve got to talk more about ham sandwiches then, ehh? ;-)

Appreciate all your support my friend, and hope to see you some in 2014.

Marcus

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Darin "Doc" Berntson January 2, 2014 at

Marcus, indeed we do!

Hope to see you around ins 2014 as well. Need to get you out to Salt Lake City one of these days!

Doc

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Jennifer Hofmann December 31, 2013 at

Thank you! This post answers the email I was just about to send you.

I’ve noticed how Facebook, in particular, is making it harder and harder for posts to get visibility (without paying for it) with the very fans who signed up for it. Not whining, just noticing.

Proof’s in the numbers. It’s time for a serious strategy change.

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Marcus Sheridan January 2, 2014 at

Glad it helped Jennifer :-)

And I hope your 2014 is off to a bang!

Continued success,

Marcus

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Scott Porman January 1, 2014 at

Not sure I can give the love like the other comments. I think the Social Party is just heating up. While I agree with the underlying theme, is this really a Social Media issue? Or is it that too many marketers are trying to justify their efforts with the wrong numbers? I am going to go out on a limb and say it is lack of attention to business fundamentals (yes Math). We should be treating our marketing numbers just like we treat P&Ls.

What it boils down to is are you generating sufficient revenue from your efforts (blog, social, seo, ppc, etc) to justify continuing with these tools? In other words are you making more than you are spending (money, time and effort)?

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Marcus Sheridan January 2, 2014 at

I think we saying the same thing Scott. This article is a call for responsible marketing and general marketing smarts–which I feel in many ways is the opposite of what so many have been caught up in at times over the past 5 years.

Thanks for stopping by man and I hope you have an exceptional 2014 ahead. :)

marcus

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Selena Horner January 1, 2014 at

Hi Marcus,

I spend my clinical time getting people back to life, yet I find social media intriguing.

Isn’t social media great for sharing, connecting and building relationships – professionally or even as a business? That focus takes a lot of work and time and care. So, isn’t it more relevant to focus on serving the community: provide relevant material that has clicks and to be truly available to interact/engage in conversations? Doesn’t that in a backward way result in meeting some KPI where relationships are created which at some point would turn into a sale?

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Marcus Sheridan January 2, 2014 at

Could it Selena? Of course, for some.

That’s the thing about this post. I’m not saying Social can’t be a KPI. I could for some businesses.

But most never define this,and because of it, their SM campaigns are without a rudder in a vast sea of noise…

So glad you stopped by Selena, hope your 2014 is a great one!

Marcus

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Jon Loomer January 1, 2014 at

Important post, Marcus! I know this is a topic you and I have discussed before, and it’s worth revisiting. Facebook is a great example of a popular marketing platform where brands/marketers are stuck on the wrong numbers and don’t seem to know what they need to measure for success (if they measure anything at all).

Some of the latest Facebook dustups may actually do the platform some good since it could push away those who are either not serious enough or ill equipped for success. But since it’s so popular, everyone is there, which every freaking marketer as well. And the measure tends to be the Like. And once we get the Like, the measure tends to be Reach.

And it’s all wrong. Yes, you want to build a highly relevant audience, and if you take any shortcuts along the way everything will eventually collapse on you. But once you’ve built that audience — whether on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ or somewhere else — you eventually need to get serious about measuring what’s important.

And what is important is what leads to your business goals. It could simply be referral traffic to your website. At least measure that (most aren’t). But what’s great about Facebook is that you can also measure direct conversions (you can imagine the percentage of marketers measuring that).

KPI. All. Day. Long.

Happy New Year, my friend!

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Marcus Sheridan January 2, 2014 at

This is exactly why I appreciate you as a professional Jon. You’re a huge Facebook guy. You know more than most “experts” about this stuff. And you also embrace the idea that Facebook should be a focus for some and not for others.

And that’s exactly what I’m talking about.

Keep preaching the good word bud.

Marcus

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Adam Kielich January 2, 2014 at

There’s nothing I would love more than abandoning having to pay attention to social media but with the search engines putting more influence on social media shares it’s difficult to ignore social media.

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Marcus Sheridan January 2, 2014 at

I understand what you’re saying Adam. Personally, I don’t want to abandon anything, I just want to be better at choosing the right platforms,and having a much clearer social focus, assuming it fits what we’re trying to achieve as a company.

Hope your 2014 is off to a great start my friend!

Marcus

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Chris January 3, 2014 at

I honestly think that social proofs (likes, retweets, +1) may not affect the bottom line of any business, but it enables them to build a vibrant community of brand advocates and followers that can convert other people into followers as well, if not customers. This is perhaps one of the reasons why people stick to this metric in gauging their online reach. I know there’s no tool to exactly gauge performance of followers, but I’m just trying to put my shoe’s into the perspective of businesses.

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Brand Arrows January 3, 2014 at

Really scared about the future of companies in 2014 after reading the line “2014 will be the year of “Social Media Reality.” The era of fun, games, and rainbows is over” .

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visavietnamonlines January 5, 2014 at

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Angelina January 6, 2014 at

This is perhaps one of the reasons why people stick to this metric in gauging their online reach. I know there’s no tool to exactly gauge performance of followers, but I’m just trying to put my shoe’s into the perspective of businesses.
thanks for the post..!!

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Alan | Networking Secrets January 8, 2014 at

As always Marcus, you’ve boiled down a discussion which is actually happening under different guises all over the web to the crucial point.

I think for a while (and probably an overly elongated period) people were jumping on the social media bandwagon because they didn’t want to miss anything.

As social media becomes more of a norm and less of a shiny new object, people are no longer wowed by these platforms and possibly seeing it for more of what it is. It is what it is, as you say.

As with anything, where barriers to entry are low, the marketplace will be flooded and the chances of standing out and getting big results for minimum effort (which is what I think a lot of people hope with respect to social media – translated as their content ‘going viral’) becomes less and less likely, if it ever was in the first place.

Social media is just another channel at the end of the day, useful, but to be considered with all of the other tools at our disposal.

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Troy January 9, 2014 at

Yes, with the new algorithm Facebook has started using, it has become increasing difficult for ‘little guys’ to get in front of the eyeballs. without many people engaging with you your posts fall farther and father down the feed and fewer and fewer people will see as some previous commentors have stated. I wonder about sites like StumbleUpon or Pinterest and if these places would be good places to be and concentrate effort as they seem a somewhat ‘shotgun approach’ to me.

PS- Lions are SUPER cool!

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Davina K. Brewer January 10, 2014 at

Read this when it hit my email, finally getting around to commenting. BTW I’ve read other ‘reality checks’ like this … getting me thinking. (which is code for “warning, long rambling comment ahead”)

The reality – as Doc so eloquently put – is that too many businesses and companies really don’t know what they want, what they need, couldn’t order a ham sandwich if they tried. Sales, NOW! and revenue is all they see, but at what cost? We’re often talking about is short term, quick hit social media used as a ‘marketing channel’ – and nothing more.

The reality check I’ve been pushing for years now: get back to the WHY. People are Social b/c they are – this is a convenient, digital extension of our lives. It’s for fun and connecting, some work and some play, some listening to others and a lot of sharing our random thoughts and feelings with the world, to see if we’re alone in our hair-brained ideas or if anyone is even listening.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t own a TV so I can watch ads.. I want the entertainment, the information. I don’t think anyone has ever joined FB just to talk to Brand X or like Company H; well maybe Twitter to rant. People use social networks to share pics of kids and puppies and complain about their bosses; they hunt for jobs and search for how to make quiche or fix their computers. Interrupting that, disturbing that, trying to co-opt that with the same tired, easy to ignore, crappy sales pitches .. IMO, that’s not much of a plan.

I so often quote Ogilvy on this – good marketing only makes a bad product fail faster, or something like that. IDK Marcus. Brand is more than sales, Value is more than lead conversions, Leadership, Innovation, Reputation, Recruitment.. so much more goes into being a successful, sustainable company. SM can be a powerful tool, not to be undertaken lightly; you better have a plan, know how it fits overall business strategy and measure results. But it’s just that – one tool of many. You’re right, we’re hitting a critical stage when businesses will have to crunch the numbers, do the math and figure out if/how/where SM – and its use for the very necessary marketing/sales – gets the job done. FWIW.

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Stan Eigi January 13, 2014 at

I think I agree with you. Social media is a good thing to promote your stuff and everything, but maybe for real business people should be focused on something real as well? I agree that Facebook, Google+ and other social networks are like a “party-fun” stage, like a transition , so now it’s time to get serious.

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Antoinette January 19, 2014 at

Maybe you just have to choose whom you are going to add and do stuff like in professional way!

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Tollywood Film News March 13, 2014 at

Social media really helps to promote your services and products in abetter way but we should not depend completely on it.We have to think some thing new to have better result.

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Satta Matka March 27, 2014 at

Innovative thoughts will really help to promote your business or services.It’s not good to depend completely on social media though it promotes your services well.

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