Social Media Is Not the Message

  |  August 28, 2009   |  Comments

A good message on any medium can be effective; a bad message isn't cured by Web 2.0 technology.

Social marketing is a shiny new toy and almost everyone is wising up and getting involved, as they should. In fact, a rumor is spreading that the new Mac OS, Snow Leopard, is integrating Facebook addresses directly into its own address book app. There's no question that social applications are becoming central to our online lives, and soon social apps will be a central part of the very operating systems we use. People are tweeting, flickring, and facebooking like mad, with no signs of slowing.

Still, at the heart of it all for marketers is the message. Never forget that these new social technologies are just new ways to communicate. And technology by itself is not persuasive. Beware not to get the media mixed up with the message.

Every status update, tweet, and inbox message is nothing more than a communication between a sender and a reader. What you say and how you say it matters. Be relevant.

E-Mail: The Original Social Media App

Plain old vanilla e-mail still rules. By the numbers, people still interact and communicate using e-mail more than any other social media app, and most companies still earn more from their e-mail campaigns than from their social media efforts.

Yet I wonder how many have put their e-mail programs on autopilot and have starting chasing shiny new objects. I recently received a disappointing e-mail from Nikon. Like most people, I typically just delete promotional e-mails, but I decided to hold on to this one, considering the headline said "My Picturetown -- 20GB for just a few cents a day!"

My Picturetown E-mail
click to enlarge

I clicked on the call to action: "Store my photos and videos" and landed on a page offering, "Sign Up For Free" in the headline, with a form and a graphic proclaiming, "2GB FREE!" (Pictured below.) Notice how the landing page scent, or messaging connection, to the e-mail is missing.

Sign Up For Free
click to enlarge

As you can see, there's no mention of the 20 GB at all (I wonder if it was a typo), let alone information about the e-mail's offer of 20 GB of storage for just a few cents a day. I was wondering how few cents it actually was: 2 cents, 10 cents, or 99 cents?

Nikon clearly did not maintain scent from the e-mail to the landing page. It got my attention but didn't maintain it on the landing page (among other things). Message matters. Nikon started with the right message but lost consistency. Someone is asleep at the wheel.

Here's an example of an e-mail campaign from Wyndham Rewards that offers 1,000 free reward points for booking a trip:

Wyndham Rewards E-mail
click to enlarge

On the landing page, I see the message about 1,000 reward points, but there's no clear call to action. The landing page features mostly a map and some links. I'm not exactly sure what I'm supposed to do. The call to action is weak. A simple statement of "Click Your Destination to Get Started" would have done just fine to move me through to the next step.

Wyndham Specials Landing Page
click to enlarge

Bottom Line

Don't get caught up in the flash of Web 2.0 technologies; work to understand how each works so you can use it to deliver a relevant message to your prospect. When you tear away the technology, you're left with words and the actions they inspire -- or fail to inspire. Don't mistake the medium for the message.

A good message in any medium can be effective, and a bad message isn't cured by Web 2.0 technologies. Remember, just because e-mail isn't social media doesn't mean it isn't important and worth optimizing. Watch your message and make sure you maintain scent and clear calls to action, or even an effective message will twist in the wind.

If you have something to say, say it well and give readers clear calls to action. Give them a persuasion scenario to follow and you'll get better results from your efforts.

Otherwise, you'll just blend in with the noise and no one will hear you at all.

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Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES,, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at

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