Businesses Warned Against Social Media Gold Rush Fever

Last week saw the much-heralded IPO of Facebook coming just days after General Motors decided to stop buying advertising on the popular social networking site. While time will tell if buying Facebook shares was a good investment, word of mouth experts Ed Keller and Brad Fayargue, General Motors may be the first of many businesses to re-evaluate the role of social media for their companies.

Keller and Fay found through their firm’s exclusive, award-winning data that just 10% of talk about brands takes place online, while a full 90% happens offline, IRL (“in real life”). This leaves thousands of American businesses out in the cold when it comes to real social opportunities for their goods and services. In their new book, THE FACE-TO-FACE BOOK: Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace, they do not discount the extraordinary growth of online social media in recent years. But their findings prove that the greatest impact for businesses and products occurs when conversations happen face to face, and that many types of marketing can help to motivate those conversations. This is a message that no business or organization can afford to ignore.

“Human beings are social animals,” said Keller, “and social influence has a much bigger impact on purchase decisions than marketers have realized.”  Adds Fay, “Our research proves that all forms of media and marketing motivate conversations and recommendations. It’s a mistake to assume that social media is the best tool for implementing a social marketing strategy.”

Keller and Fay are the principles behind The Keller Fay Group, a word of mouth research and consulting firm. Drawing on research conducted continuously over the past six years, as well as case studies of a number of leading companies (such as Toyota, Dell, General Mills and Zappos; ad agencies such as Crispen, Porter + Bogusky; small businesses like Indianapolis’s Flat21Bierwerks; and female-centric brands such as Kotex), THE FACE-TO-FACE-BOOK offers strategies for how brands can succeed today by engaging with consumers off-line. They share their insights on companies that have hit pay dirt with a balanced and holistic approach to marketing, and they also discuss those that have bet big—and lost—by over-committing to online social media alone.

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