Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bob Says "Social Media Marketing Is Worthless"

Bob Hoffman does an entertaining talk called 'The Golden Age Of Bullshit.'

It's about how, in his opinion, social media doesn't work and we should mostly just make TV ads.

This blog post isn't about whether he's right or wrong. (Though for what it's worth, I think he's wrong).

What I want to say here is that even if Hoffman were right, it would be our duty to make him wrong.

Bob was cock-a-hoop last week, because he found a research report which concludes, according to his post on The Ad Contrarian, that "social media marketing on Facebook and Twitter is substantially worthless." 

Bob's writing is full of such zingers; here's another: "As an advertising medium, the web is like communism. It's never very good right now, but it's always going to be great some day."

Bob is now making his living from 'debunking' social media.

He often compares social media practitioners to snake-oil salesmen, which is a bit harsh. It's an evolving medium - the frontier of commercial communications - and you're always going to get a few shysters on any frontier.

But let's leave aside the occasional shyster. Let's leave aside the occasional gloomy research report.

Instead, let me lay a fact on you:

Twelve per cent of Australians' entire media consumption today, is Facebook.


That - to me - is an absolutely staggering, world-changing figure.

We just have to make it work, people.

We just have to.

Every time a new medium is invented, it takes the ad industry a little while to crack the code, and figure out the best way to make advertising for it. Ever seen the first TV ads? They were crap. But eventually, we managed to make TV effective as an advertising vehicle.

Bob reckons social media advertising doesn't work. I disagree with him.

But as I said at the beginning... if Bob IS right, we need to make him wrong.  


Anonymous said...

At least Bob cites his sources, rather than just writing "12%".

Anonymous said...

I think Bob is partly right in that social media is proving to be most effective when it is used more like a broadcast medium. Changes to way Facebook allows brands to promote on the platform only serve to support this. Once all the crinkles are ironed out I think brands will use Facebook as a mass marketing medium - albeit one they have to pay to reach that audience, just as they do with more traditional channels.



First, I didn't say "social media marketing is worthless." What I said was, "Forrester Research released a report saying that social media marketing on Facebook and Twitter is substantially worthless." A very different thing.

While, in fact, I believe that most social media marketing is worthless, I would appreciate it if you are going to put quotes around words and assert that I said them, you take the time to get the words right.

Next, your assertion about Facebook is irrelevant. Facebook is a no longer a medium for social media marketing. It is a medium for traditional paid advertising. Look at your Facebook page. For every "social" comment about a brand, there are 100 paid display ads.

The fantasy of "brand advocates" who were supposed to be on Facebook sharing their love for brands is dead. You are living in a 5 year old dream world. Facebook has evolved into TV -- brands paying money to scream at consumers.

Scamp said...

Hi Bob, thanks for visiting! Long-time fan of your blog.

I readily accept that my journalism is normally spectacularly shoddy.

However, in this case, I think you're being a little persnickety.

You've repeatedly said that you believe social media marketing to be worthless. Repeatedly. You have though, haven't you.

And even in this most recent post, your full quote reads: "Forrester Research released a report saying that social media marketing on Facebook and Twitter is substantially worthless. This is a conclusion some of us reached years ago."

Come on, that's not really different in any significant way from my headline is it.

I do take your point about Facebook evolving in a broadcast direction, and there's nothing wrong with having a new broadcast medium.

I guess my point is it would be a great shame if brands failed to take advantage of the social possibilities these media offer, and ended up using them as broadcast-only.


RonDarks said...

This year facebook has moved into promoted video posts, which are essentially paid video ads running on their platform. If those ads are good enough then people seem to like them and share them.
It's no different to people seeing a TV ad and talking about it down the pub.
I think what Bob is saying, and what savvy marketers are starting to figure out is that people don't want a conversation with a 99.9% of brands, unless they are having a whinge. So if someone has a terrible flight, a dodgy kebab or a leaky diaper they'll vent on the brand's social media channels. But very few brands have an engaged audience on facebook or any other social channel.
So yes, people spend 12% of their time on facebook, but as they do in the real world, they actively avoid advertising unless it's something cool. The big brands realise that of course they need a social presence, but they also need mass marketing comms like tv/video that are easy for people to watch and consume. Some of these may have an element of digital interactivity eg. The recent Honda video piece where you could flip from day to night and the action was a mirror image, but you can't ask people to do to much, they just don't give enough of a shit - unless there's a cool brand with a cool prize eg Lynx apollo.
I think we'll see a lot of brands scaling back their spend in social, or at least using it to pump out video assets rather than pieces of static content showing their product and #seizethepizzaday.
Paul Catmur wrote a nice piece which sums up the digital revolution and how marketers are re-assessing their approach.

And this piece from mumbrella is further evidence of marketers changing their mind on the best way to achieve reach and scale.

Anonymous said...

LOL...kid got owned by bob 'i dont do bullshit' hoffman.

Anonymous said...

Owned no way. He didn't even get rented, from my read of the conversation.

Anonymous said...

The grand irony. Debate about the value of social media on a blog. Lol. Generalisers be gone. Social media is worthless - just like online marketing was going to fade away. It took 15 years for ad agencies to accept putting a URL on a tv spot. Such bravado. 20 years to catch up to consumers. Well played. Don't make the same mistakes. First define worth. There are entire segments able to avoid advertising almost all together. The games has changed. Advertising can be very worthless. Even social media allows you to get in front of these people. Yes, it's not free. Grow up. Foxtel has ignored it's own customers forever. Now it's about to bite them. Were they measuring the right things? What about telling a year long story and creating deep loyalty? What about the pure power of advocacy? Hard to measure... Ask yourself how you should measure things for yourself and what it all really means to your success before following the headline grabbers. Last time I checked no two situations for any marketer were the same. The one you can't deny is people have moved on. Don't let the wool be pulled over your eyes. Good on Forrester for putting all the secrets behind a $499 report. So, a fair post Simon. Open minds will prevail...

Scamp said...

Dear person who made first comment questioning why I didn't list the source.

I didn't list the source because I'm lazy.

But since you asked, here it is.

The exact quote: "This is something we were quite surprised by, and quite humbled by. What we now know, for a Facebook user, Facebook makes up 12 per cent of their total media consumption,'' Facebook Australia's head of measurements Helen Crossley said.

mark@quirk said...

Hey Scamp, glad you posted the original source and quote, because it doesn't say "Twelve per cent of Australians' entire media consumption today, is Facebook." (your claim), the quote says '...for a Facebook user, Facebook makes up 12 per cent of their total media consumption." - which means something entirely different. So we would all be rightly staggered by the fact that '12% of all media consumption' in Australia is Facebook if it were true (but isn't), instead we should be fairly underwhelmed by the fact that ONLY 12% of Facebook users media consumption is Facebook....88% of their consumption is other media. This supports Bob Hoffman's position more than yours....

Scamp said...

OK, busted. But what percentage of Australians are on Facebook? The majority, right? So whatever the exact number, I think we can still agree that Facebook still represents a VERY significant percentage of Australian media consumption.

Anonymous said...

I spend 12% of my time on the toilet. I don't want a brand to reach out to me there any more than I do when I'm socialising on Facebook. Unless of course they earn their place. Analogy over.

Scamp said...

OK so we give up, do we? No, we don't. We never give up.

People don't really want adverts at all, anywhere.

It's our job to make our ads entertaining/useful enough to be effective, whatever medium the person is on.

Even the toilet.

P.S. do you really spend 12% of your time on the toilet.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Bob. And his pesky facts.

Scamp said...

Bob, I know that's you.

Anonymous said...


Assuming that you include your blog in the broad category of social media, and that on some level your comments about advertising here are essentially an effort in building your own brand, I'd say that this particular conversation with your consumers, those who buy Simon Veksner as a product, a spokesperson, a consultant and advisor . . . DDB, their clients, your future employers, your readers, are all coming away with a fairly negative opinion of that brand you're promoting.

Let's see, lazy (admittedly), inaccurate (proven), loose with the facts (proven again), and basically made to look rather incompetent on an issue that is in theory core to your brand's very existence.

Maybe you could use a social media adviser to tell you what Bob has tried to tell us all, that when you put yourself, your brand out there in this social medium, you're doing less to promote your values and build your brand than to defend against those who would use your own efforts to destroy the same.

As Paul Newman was famous for saying in 'Cool Hand Luke', " . . . sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand."

Good advice. I'd take it, were I you.

Scamp said...

Bob, I can see your IP address, you know.

Scamp said...

Guys, let's be careful about saying that when someone gets a fact wrong, the opinion it is based on is wrong. Ain't necessarily the case.

For example, what if someone said "We can't ignore China - there are 2 billion people there"? The population stat would be wrong, but their point would still be correct - China has a massive population, and can't be ignored.

GOUT-LEGS said...

did you just use the china defence?

Bingo said...

Don't worry about the facts, I still think Scamp has a good point to make. There's a shit load of people spaeding a shitload of time on social media. If it is worthless then we should find better ways of engaging with them. And not like facebook. I fukn hate facebook and its sponsored posts. In 'Hey Whipple' Luke Sullivan said to just be interesting. I think that is the simple key to this.

Anonymous said...



If you are insinuating that the anonymous comments above are coming from me, I am really pissed off. I have never left an anonymous comment in my life.

I hope you are trying to be funny, because if you are serious I am thoroughly disgusted with you.


Unknown said...

Hi again, To answer your question, I found an article in SMH (from August 2013) that says 40% of Australians are on Facebook (it quotes FB's own stats). So let's assume it's about the same now. That's 12% of the media consumption of 40% of the population, which is under 5% of the total media consumption of Australians. So we can't 'agree that FB represents a VERY significant percentage of Australian media consumption.' It's patently not the case. So, if as you ask we ignore the mistake, what are we left with? Your opinion that we need to make FB work b/c it's a new medium, and b/c 'social media advertising works' (no evidence given to back that up, btw). We are all entitled to our opinion, of course, but your opinion is based on a false assumption about FB's importance as media. Your 'China defence' doesn't stack up. Irrespective of the exact figure you give, no-one disputes the fact that China has a big population and so the view that it 'can't be ignored' is widely held. So getting the figure wrong doesn't affect the validity of the point you're making. But in the FB example, your premise is fundamentally wrong. <5% is not significant by any stretch of the imagination. So, unlike the China analogy, it's hard to accept the opinion. Bob can fend for himself, but I think your blog is symptomatic of the point he's making. We make assertions about FB and social media and its importance, when the facts say otherwise....

Scamp said...

Mark this is just so funny. You reckon i've got my facts wrong, but you've got yours wrong!

The article you quote says 40% of Australians are on Facebook, indeed. But that's daily.

The monthly figure (industry standard measurement) is much higher. It's 33% bigger.

That's just one line later in the same article.

You're the guy who cares about facts, not me, and you've failed.

I shall dress you as a chicken.

Anonymous said...

Is that you, Bob?

Anonymous said...

Ok, lets take out money from this equation. Get down to brass tacks. I agree with Bob. Nice one Bob. I could be very wrong, however, my take on this is this. Facebook is my personal time. I don't want brands forcing themselves upon me when I'm more concerned with other peoples personal lives.

This in your face advertising has now just elevated to fill any space we can before the next man/woman does. It's downright offensive now. I can open a youtube video without wasting 5 to 30 seconds of my a life waiting for brands to piss off. I hate it.

It just seems to be, fill the void, quickly, forget that the audience doesn't want to buy your shite, they might, however, give us a choice, don't force the issue.

TV ads on the other hand, I can change channels if it doesn't catch my attention.

I think what I'm trying to say here is, don't do things for the sake of it because someone else hasn't. It's what is taking this industry down.

Make us want to watch, enquire and explore on our own. We would if the content of half this crap was any good.

Bottom line, make great stuff, don't settle for bread and butter to make cash for yourself. It's offensive.

Anonymous said...

I reckon Bob is right. And instead of trying to prove him wrong, we accept that we've been trying to prove he's wrong for ten years and we haven't managed it and we give the hell up.
Like a man, a medium has got to know it's limitations.
Isn't the definition of madness trying the same thing over and over again expecting a different result?
Social media had it's chance. It had plenty of chances. It's still getting chances. Chances it doesn't deserve because it isn't going to happen no matter how much some douchers want it to.

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

"Facts Schmacts. You can use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true."

Personally, I agree more with Simon than Bob. Most of what's on there is useless, but it's an evolving medium that isn't being properly utilised yet - regardless of whether it is a social or broadcast medium. The point of social, and what it's role actually is leads strongly into how effective it is - and the role is different for that of broadcast.

Unknown said...

Hi Scamp,
You're right. Two figures were given in the article. One was active daily users (9m=40%), one was monthly (12m). I picked the 9m b/c daily usage seemed the most relevant seeing as we are talking about how 'significant' FB is to people's daily lives. But hey, let's use the 12m instead. So that's now about 53% of the population. And 12% of that is just under 6.5%. So, to my mind your claim still doesn't stack up. 6.5% of total monthly media consumption is 'VERY significant' (your words, your emphasis). But as you say, you don't care about the facts. Which, going full circle, is Bob's main point. Why let the facts about social media usage and importance get in the way...

Hoffner Veksman said...

It appears that most people are unaware of what Bob has to say. Including Scamp. Facts matter if you are claiming to be talking about a person's opinion. If you haven't watched this, maybe you should. It takes a little time, but that's one of the hardships of getting things right.

Anonymous said...

Bob's right. Advertising on social media is crap. I'm there for fun. And it doesn't matter how many people are on it – when did you last click on an ad?
The online space is saturated, people grow old and tired and want to come home and flop in front of the TV having precisely zero conversations with a brand.
Yes a company has to have a presence there, but Bob also makes the point that it isn't where brands build their brand, it may compliment it.

It's no coincidence that at a time when digi-planner-charlatans were ranting that it's all about 'engagement, then 'conversation', then 'content', then it was 'storytelling', then it was 'interaction' (or was that before 'engagement'?), 'TV ads are dead', 'shops will cease to exist', that Apple did more TV advertising than ever and opened their stores which in no small way helped propel them to become the most valuable company in the world.

The social media schnozzle has made our jobs harder and more boring. This is one of the reasons why sane voices like Bob's are important. I'll watch a funny video online, I'll research a produce online, but that's about it.

Anonymous said...

There's a massive irony here. I know Scamp in real life, very well infact. And he actually agrees with Bob. Scamp doesn't give a toss about social media. He's only saying all this because he wants to appear relevant.

Scamp said...

Mark, think about what you just said. 6.5% of total media consumption IS undeniably very significant. It's bigger, for example, than both magazines and newspapers put together.


Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, advertisers are salesman looking for any angle and opportunity to sell whatever it is they're trying to sell.

Facebook is just another opportunity available to the salesmen to flog something.

A good salesman will adjust their sales pitch based on how much money they've made.

If they are making no money? they adjust their technique and pitch until they make a decent buck.

The point is they don't stop using the opportunities available to them, they just adjust their sales pitch.

I think this is the point Simon is trying to make, regardless of whether or not media consumption on Facebook is high or low its there, and its not going away any time soon.

It's time to look at ways of trying to make it work because a great salesmen will always make it work.

Anonymous said...

At this point, I'm really curious about what percentage of people have EVER bought ANYTHING off of a facebook ad.

mark@quirk said...

Hi Scamp, thanks for the article. It's an interesting read. And shows beyond any doubt that digital media (in the US) is huge. In the end, you are - it seems - arguing that 6.5% of total media consumption (as opposed to 12%) is VERY significant, and therefore you points on social media and Bob Hoffman stand. I am not sure I agree that 6.5% is that significant (even if other media claims a smaller %), but all I can say is now we have a more accurate reading of the stats, let the debate rage!
My point was never about the significance or not of FB in the media landscape - that's an important discussion to be had. Only that if you are going to make a claim for its importance and base it on stats, it's a good idea to get the stats right - or you risk undermining your own argument.

Scamp said...

Risk is my middle name, Mark. Or perhaps would be, if it wasn't James.