Social Media’s Value Problem


In this AdAge article, Coca-Cola’s CMO, Marcos de Quinto, was quoted saying “Social media is the strategy for those who don’t have a true digital strategy.” This is in the context that Coca-Cola has seen their TV investment returning $2.13 for every dollar spent on TV, while their digital investment is only returning $1.26 for every dollar spent. As such, Coke recently brought on a new Chief Digital Marketing Officer from Bank of America, whose focus will be “the digital transformation of global marketing and align our system around a single digital marketing agenda.”

de Quinto’s statement about social media resonated with me. I entered marketing through social media, working across General Motors brands (Chevy, Cadillac, Buick and GMC). In those early days before Facebook and Twitter went public and social media was still an earned media channel, I really believed that social media could help brands create stronger relationships with audiences that ultimately led to more commerce for brands. This was coming off of at least a decade of digital marketing where display ads lacked creativity and storytelling and were becoming increasingly disruptive. Social media forced brands to become storytellers again – to create great content that audiences love and engage with.

But, as I took on more roles across marketing, I too began to see what de Quinto is seeing: TV still drives high ROI for brands that can afford to spend there. Social media has become purely a paid media play, and the ROI on different channels is very different. For example, targeting on Facebook is pretty remarkable. And, despite recent struggles with their analytics, I’ve still been seeing high quality traffic compared to other social and digital advertising channels. Twitter on the other hand is purely an impressions play. You might get tons of impressions and even video views, but those do not convert at any meaningful rate to website traffic where you can continue to develop a relationship with your customer.

And, this is the rub with social. Whereas, social media used to be the place for brands to create fresh, memorable experiences for audiences, it’s become a place of fleeting moments and a lead generation tool to drive audiences to a different experience: a website, an app, a webinar, etc. To drive audiences to an experience that brands can own and use to develop a richer relationship with their audience. As marketers continue to face increasing pressure on the ROI they deliver across their activities, social will face more scrutiny. And, marketers will need to be more purposeful about their digital marketing efforts – selecting tools and channels that support the specific marketing problems they’re trying to solve.


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