Why Do We Oversell Social or Digital Media? Data on Trust and Influence

by admin on September 23, 2013 · 7 comments



To those favoring social and online media, the digital world is one big happy running of the bulls where everyone is moving in the same direction.

Yet many data sources say otherwise thus indicating that some of us are not paying attention or zealots or both.

It’s not hard to be impressed by the huge growth in Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and endless other social platforms. It gives us a voice; it solves our problems and keeps us entertained and connected.

What social media is–a bill collector from Target:

We were contacted by bill collectors from Target when were mistakenly targeted (pun intended) for being three days late paying a credit card bill. It was as if the Russian Mafia descended on us via phone with scripted messages warning us that anything we said during the conversation would be used to drain every last dollar we had. We immediately shredded our Target credit card.

They didn’t call valued customers to find out what happened; they called to threaten and intimidate.

There, through the power of this article and social media sharing, we communicate corporate heavy-handiness. We’re not alone. We’re not powerless. We shared.

But social has limits as to actions taken:     

There are vast differences between communicating, advertising, branding AND people taking desired actions. The advertising industry are the experts as to what moves people.

Needless to say, they are also the backbone of the digital revolution; Google’s not a search engine so much as it’s an advertising platform.

If social was that powerful, the bulk of advertising dollars would be digital or social. Toyota sells cars on TV, not on websites, not on Facebook. It may “use” digital advertising, but it DEPENDS on traditional media.

We already know that the majority of advertising dollars remains in the hands of traditional media. We believe that social media is great for branding but not so much when it comes to taking actions.

We are aware that the personal recommendations of friends AND strangers via the internet are powerful inducements to taking action thus the “promise” of social media.

“Recommendations from people I know” and “consumer opinions posted online” are two of the top influential forms of advertising in the data posted below.

Finally there is additional data indicating that there is growth in social media advertising and many of us see social as the future of communications.

Who do you trust? Research on advertising and actions taken:

But as stated many times on this site, it ain’t soup yet; social has a ways to go.

Marketing Charts offered, “Which Forms of Advertising Do Consumers Trust – and Act On – the Most;”  Nielsen [download page] in its latest “Trust in Advertising” offers:


“As  to the most trusted forms of advertising, the study finds that traditional paid media continues to gain high trust ratings, with ads in newspapers (61%), ads in magazines (60%), billboards and other outdoor advertising (57%), ads on radio (57%) and ads before movies (56%) getting the vote from a strong majority.

“Traditional paid media ads continue to outperform online ads in consumer trust, although the latter are coming on strong. 48% of respondents indicate a level of trust in ads served in search engine results, an impressive 14% point gain from 2007. “


When it comes to what works as to influence, ads on traditional media tended to work much better than adds on social networks, online video or banner ads and ads on mobile devices.

E-mail messages and TV product placements (actor holding the bottle of Coke) do better than digital and social advertising.

Consumer opinions online and branded websites, however, are at the top of the list as to influence.

The study also addresses the incredible power of recommendations and the fact that online media is catching up to traditional media as to taking actions. Recommendations as to the kinds of ads and what works (i.e., humor, real life and family oriented themes) are included.

Quick observation:

We all love social; we’re all trying to figure it out. For some of us in government, associations and nonprofits, it’s virtually the only game in town.

But for the moment, data indicates that social has its limits and we can do more harm than good by overplaying our hand.

Let’s spend some time trying to figure it out before we become evangelists for the wrong reasons. We can love and promote social but we can’t harm customers and people who come to us for information.

Best, Len.

Please follow or share.

Source: http://www.marketingcharts.com/wp/television/which-forms-of-advertising-do-consumers-trust-and-act-on-the-most-36767/





Josh Light October 3, 2013 at 7:41 pm


Great post. You’re an excellent writer.

I agree that traditional advertising drives more conversions in many cases, but I’ve seen examples of social driving more sales than traditional in my personal life. A friend of mine launched a watch company. He crowdfunded his initial order by using Kickstarter. He then proceeded to sell watches everyday solely through posting Instagram pictures.

My brother helped found http://www.thepowerpot.com. They funded the Power Pot through a kickstarter campaign. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/david-toledo/the-powerpot One of the key reasons it was successful (and campaigns after the Power Pot for other products) was by using Twitter to get earned media. The earned media converted a large portion of their funding on the crowdfunding platform.

Those social media may not work for all kinds of companies as far as driving sales…I’ve seen it work with certain products very effectively. I also think this trend will continue in the future (especially considering that 80% + 13 year olds are on some kind of social network).

admin October 6, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Hi Josh: Thanks for the compliment. Yep, social has it’s place and can deliver powerful results in some cases. For many of us in government, associations and nonprofits, social and websites remains the only game in town. Yet as much as I love social, I have to remind those within the marketing community that traditional advertising still rules. Social is gaining and will become increasingly important but we’ll only get there through realistic appraisals (like yours) and an honest discussion of the research. Best, Len.

Josh Light October 10, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Very true. Traditional still dominates. Keep producing great content!

Adrian October 4, 2013 at 3:27 am

You’re spot on with this Leonard.

The Google being an advertising platform is a line I often use and there’s nothing wrong with that. Social media certainly has its place but you are right in that many of us are still grappling with where it sits commercially. My own opinion is that if you want consistent, trackable traffic then you need to pay for it, i.e. advertising.

admin October 6, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Hi Adrian: Thanks for the comment. Agree; we are all trying to figure social’s rightful place. I’m puzzled that so many emphasize social when it remains clear that traditional advertising continues to rule. Social is gaining, true, but an over-emphasis doesn’t serve communicators. Best, Len.

Greg Cooper October 4, 2013 at 4:46 am

Leonard I was interested in your comment about Toyota and how they still use conventional advertising to win sales. Ford now spends 25% of their marketing budget on social media. When they launched the new model Fiesta this was done entirely through social media and resulted in 10,000 pre-orders before launch.

Social media is not the magic marketing bullet but it is increasingly the ammunition of choice by large brands.

admin October 6, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Hi Greg: Thanks for your comment. I agree that social is gaining ground and it’s the communication platform of the future. My only point is that the vast majority of advertising remains traditional. It’s something that those of us in marketing need to keep in mind. Best, Len.

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