'Reg’ (John Cleese) in Monty Python’s Life of Brian famously questioned whether the Romans ever actually delivered anything worthwhile. Yes, there was the aqueduct of course. And sanitation. Roads obviously. And Irrigation. Plus medicine, education and wine. And public health, law & order, a fresh water system and peace. But, let’s face it, other than that what did Romans really do?
Similarly, there are still plenty of nay-sayers who, like Reg, try to convince us - or perhaps themselves? - that this social media marketing caper is all a bit, let’s face it, over-hyped. Yes there’s the brand awareness side of things. And the increased website traffic. Plus improved customer loyalty. And obviously it’s absolutely essential for PR nowadays. Not to mention the SEO impact, direct access to industry thought leaders & opinion formers, enhanced staff engagement, cost-effective recruitment, unrivalled market intelligence and a regular source of new business leads. But, such trifles aside, when is social media marketing going to start delivering some real business benefits?
Perhaps one of the reasons social media marketing is still so under-valued in some business quarters is that it remains tainted by distinctly non-commercial roots. Social media did not, of course, develop as a tool for business. And in the early days of myspace, Friendster and Friends Reunited it would have been hard for anyone to imagine - as we learned just this week - that global CMOs rank social marketing as their top priority for marketing technology investment over the next 3-5 years(Source: Economist Intelligence Unit Study).
According to another recent study, this by Hubspot, the vast majority of marketers (92%) reported that social marketing was important for their business over the past year, with 80% reporting increased traffic to their site as a direct result. And Ad Age has reported that social plays an absolutely crucial role amongst B2B buyers, with 86% of IT buyers saying that they now use social media in their purchase decision process.
In fact things have moved on to such an extent that businesses who are still in denial about the commercial imperative of social media are themselves in severe danger of going the way of, well, myspace, Friendster and Friends Reunited.
Like Rome, a successful social media marketing strategy will not be built in a day. But the overwhelming weight of evidence confirms that we’re well past the point where the business benefits of SMM can be seriously doubted. Just don’t ask Reg.