On the opening day of Social Media Week in New York City, JWT executives warned of "Facebook fatigue" and other factors that could hurt both brands and social networks alike.
Ann Mack, director of JWT's Trendspotting practice, described a scenario that may occur when the social network becomes publicly traded and is under pressure to increase revenues. One way it can grow, she said, is to turn its customers' data into cash. "That will inevitably raise privacy concerns," potentially prompting people to leave or cut back on using Facebook.
JWT North America CEO David Eastman said some marketers are failing to develop creative approaches for connecting with consumers on Facebook.
Facebook "has become the default tool for lazy marketers who really don't know what to do," he said, recalling the days when businesses bought IBM computers because they were a safe bet. "No one got fired for buying IBM. Today's equivalent is no one gets fired for marketing on Facebook," he said.
As a result, some brands are pursuing "me-too marketing" on Facebook instead of developing marketing strategies. He pointed to a Business Insider article headlined, "P&G To Lay Off 1,600 After Discovering It's Free To Advertise On Facebook," as an example of a brand potentially using Facebook as a "default" marketing strategy.
"Brands need to have conversations with people. Ultimately it doesn't matter where you are having these conversations," he said. However, these conversations must not be boring, or else they will turn off consumers.
Eastman also warned that interactions on social networks have their limitations. Case in point: "Likes" on Facebooks or "pins" on Pinterest, a social network that allows users to create a virtual pinboard showcasing images of items they find or like online.
"Pinterest - it's a beautifully laid out visualization of all the stuff we like, but am I the only person who feels there's something human missing here?" Eastman said. "It all feels a bit empty." The problem with Piniterest or Facebook, he said, is that you can 'like' or 'pin' everything with the same casual action. So if a person 'pins' a recipe for a lemon meringue pie, an image of Revlon lipstick, and photos of a newborn and a tank in front of Tiananmen Square [on Pinterest], it's difficult to determine if a person feels differently about each item," he said.
Brands must also ensure consumers aren't bored by "hyper personalization" and hyper targeting, he said. "As hyper personalization makes niche content experiences ever narrower, brands will place greater emphasis on reintroducing randomness, discovery, inspiration, and different points of view to engage us," he predicted.
Despite the warnings, Eastman had praise for Facebook, along with Amazon, Apple, and Google. "Today's heros are geeks, not Gordon Gekkos," he said, suggesting that the executives behind these companies wield more influence and importance that Wall Street wizards or media titans from the 20th century.
The discussion at JWT is one of 350 events planned this week in New York City and 1,200 worldwide as part of Social Media Week.
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Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.
March 19, 2014