brand science institute

Why social media projects fail – a European perspective

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Germany-based Brand Science Institute, a renowned think-tank focused on brand and consumer management, has carried out a fairly extensive study on corporate social media projects over the past 7 months.

Focal point of the research was a desire to understand why (most) social media projects tend to be utter failures. BSI questioned 560+ marketers representing 52 brands from some of the largest companies across 12 European countries, and poured the end results in a presentation.

You can find the slides – which, admittedly, could have used just a tad more textual explanation for people to fully grasp BSI’s findings – on SlideShare, or hereunder:

  • Martin Edic

    As someone who has actively managed social media (I prefer to call it reputation management), I think that they have identified the key issues accurately. Most of this ‘marketing’ is a knee-jerk reaction to the question ‘why aren’t we in social media?’. The real driver is the utter cluelessness of marketing and PR people when it comes to social. They don’t get it and when they do, they realize it marks the end of their media buying gravy train.

    • Adam Boalt

      Agreed, Martin. I think the statistic that only 7% understand the real value of social interactions was particularly telling.

    • pleisahs

      It would be a fail if you don’t have any slightest clue how to leverage social-media for the benefit of your products / business.

      Or, if you play with Twitter, costing you to be fired from your job.

    • Vasco Calais Pedro

      I think that the lack of planning of planing when it comes to a social media campaign is driven by the fact that companies don’t seem to know what to do in that space. At some point they react but rarely take a pro-active approach, at Bueda we think the solution is to un-complicate the process of social interaction by giving companies specific situations where they see the value in interaction. Basically that is why we create fivebybueda ( and so far it seems to be helping.

    • Jenni

      Reputation management is just one small branch of social media.

  • alexis

    a bunch of numbers that mean nothing…

    • Find Phone Number Owner

      I agree to that whole heartedly my friend…..

  • RalfLippold

    Pretty scary to see the results. My own research shows similar, even more devastating approach towards implementing Social Media in corporate environment.

    Interestingly in the private sphere everything seems much easier and faster.

    What can we learn from that and from our kids who will the next generation leaders and who already use the net, as we sometimes try to do?

  • Agustin Lopez

    There are too many social projects available. If you want to stand out from the crowd you have to do something creative and innovative and that’s not very easy to do… doing this in a corporate environment is even harder.

  • Hazel Nieves

    I think Martin hit the nail on the head here!!! The real reason social media marketing is failing is most companies do not have the right motives and intention at heart towards being social and they have no plan or strategy.

    Worst of all is the many ‘professionals’ in the roles of marketing and PR who have no clue on how to create and execute 21st century marketing. They are simply playing the role to keep their jobs.

    You must have fresh thinking, entrepreneurial approaches, more women in the ranks (they understand SOCIAL), and you need to LISTEN to your market audience. Social media marketing works…but only for the few who are getting it.

  • Jeremy Hill

    Its rare to see such clear insights. Honestly – this should be compulsice reading for any Marketing Director – excellent and thanks for sharing. JH

  • Alvin Tan

    The simple reason why most “social media projects” fail is that most companies don’t understand social. Seeing consumers on social media as merely a group to whom to sell is unlikely to produce the results they expect. My take is that social media is here to help companies (who know how to use it) to gain a competitive advantage in customer care, customer development, product development, feedback acquisition, etc.

    If companies and brands merely blast marketing messages or even “valuable content” (e.g. blog articles) all the time, that strategy is no different from that underlying the use of traditional media. Using social media as a broadcaster/megaphone is sub-optimal.

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  • Nick

    This is an absolute crap presentation. No information about methodology, sources, no explanations? Also, this deck looks like an 8th grader put it together. I sure hope it was accompanied by a ton more information when it was delivered.

    If someone at my company had given a presentation that looked like this, they’d be laughed out of the room.

  • Dan Perez

    Ever stop and think that maybe social media isn’t as effective for businesses as the “enthusiasts” want us to believe? Could all these companies be wrong? Think none of them understand “social”? That they don’t “listen” to their customers?

    I know, I know, there have been several successful social media campaigns but those are usually larger companies with the budgets (and resources) to invest, no? Maybe we need to take another look at social media and really determine it’s effectiveness for businesses…because the facts are the facts – everything else is just chatter.

    Nuff said.

  • Jef Kalil

    Great insight, and powerful. I believe a major contributor to the demise of social media is social media itself. The day-to-day introduction of “new” social media tools contributes to marketing Attention Deficit Disorder. You need to pick your tool and work it so it benefits your company. Having a plan is key. And the social media strategy is an important a part of your overall marketing plan.

  • Matthew

    jesus fucking christ.

    can we PLEASE stop with this nonsense rattling off of stats – the same stats that have been presented to whole villages of marketeers at just about every single fucking trade-show and event under the sun for the past 3 years? I’m so sick of this “open your naive eyes” approach to selling ‘research,’ planning and strategic consulting. Social media gurus and enthusiasts are oft self-taught hacks, who lean heavily on packaging and repacking that which is impossibly packaged, providing simplified how-tos and ‘road-maps for success’. I have yet to meet a social media whizz who can speak in depth about measurement, nor have I yet to meet a social media expert who has come from an engineering background, or who has been involved in any sort of actual architecting, delivery and running of platforms, or applications.

  • Catbackpack

    It’s just another means to an end. Any serious company worth its salt would use SM as a part of a more traditional ad-based campaign, with only some part of it going viral. The internet is unpredictable, and most savvy browsers dislike adverts. What’s an adman to do? There are some companies (dubli springs to mind) which are fully focused on a SM-only campaign – but is it working? Only you can tell, I guess :)

  • Single Malt

    Here is some advice.
    1. don’t be a logo: After the recession nobody trusts big business anymore.
    2. don’t sell: just tell the story of your company or how a product got imagined. “How do they do that” is huge and the story of how something came to be is full of human drama.
    3. engage in comments: my view count in a video when from a 1000 to 10000 just by answering comments in the video.
    4. answer negative comments: the ego of the troll can be used to generate multiple user comments. Comments indicate emotion and emotion likely tells search engine you are a good video.
    5. screw political correctness: Old Spice created a narrative which allowed them to be politically incorrect without damaging the core brand.
    6. Know the rules for the different web communities: Lets just say youtube is a different animal than Facebook.
    7. Hire me because while you were in school I spent an unhealthy amount of time in social networks.

    • Vasco Calais Pedro

      I totally agree, knowing the characteristics of which platform you are tackling makes all the difference. You got to respect the culture of the ecosystem.

  • Amourmaitre

    Self-serving quasi-scientific nonsense from a social media consultant trying to sell something.

  • Ted

    There are too many social media sites out there. They fail because they can not attract a large number of users and fail to reach critical mass.

    • Jan

      @Ted, social media is not about attracting large number of users, you just showing traditional media thinking!

  • Hazel Nieves

    The reason social media marketing fails is we forget this is all about PEOPLE and relationships not our methods or tools. Successful SMM starts with truthful caring, sharing and listening to the people then joining in those conversations without just self promotion on the mind.

    Most businesses will fail at this because they do not have the patients nor the foresight to see the long term payoff in investing in social interactions with their customers.

    The rule of thumb should be…it’s about the people, for the people, by the people = real relationships = people buy in.

  • Paul Jones

    Interesting presentation but I think that the people who took the survey may have had unrealistic expectations about social media. I think many of the corporations expected to just put up a couple fan pages, twitter accounts, and let an intern run it and they would achieve great results. When they did not see big numbers, they deemed it a failure without going through the process of understanding the medium and putting the numbers in context by looking at other competitor campaigns and both the length of time they have been using the channel as well as the level of interaction that they have.

    I also believe that management may have deemed it a failure because they had a limited number of metrics available. They had a hard time associating the value of a follower or fan or understanding how much traffic that the campaign drove to the main website. They were unable to even get close to a ROI so they simply wrote it off.

    The problems that are cited within the presentation are things we have been hearing for awhile at Reeli. It is why we built out in depth analytics tools–so that the advertisers and larger corporations can accurately measure and understand the value of their social media efforts and campaigns.

    Here is a video if you are interested in learning more.

  • Iqbal Gandham

    Social Media fails because everyone you meet is a Social Media Strategist AND we fail to realise that we were ALWAYS social even in 1994 when hotmail was a letter which had caught fire.

    The term has been so overused its now becoming a pain. Everyone thinks that they can get you customers just by saying they are a social media strategist, but with old media there are known numbers, you know what delivers and what does not.

    Admittedly not all media works all the time, but the large brands have worked out what does. What to use for brand recognition, what to use for a new launch, and what to use when just trying to sell.

    The social media stuff is being linked to customers and increasing revenue, it’s not about this. Its about bringing you closer to your customer, understanding them better, so that your larger campaigns, the old school TV types, can work better.

    I live on the web, but I also see TV adverts, if Nike got to know me and millions like me better, they would know what would get mind recall with us when they spend millions on their next TV advert.

    Social media should not be about getting customers, it should be about getting to KNOW your customers, that’s all, with a bonus that you may just get them as a customer somewhere down the line.

    Millions are spent at creative agencies designing the next TV ad commercial. Why not spend some of that money on the web and just ask the customer and learn about them instead, it would make your Ad much better.


  • Fred

    The day that social media is approached first by other departments than Sales & Marketing and also the day social media is not seen just as a way to get more leads/sales, those companies will be making serirous progress…
    Social networks are a new and enhanced way of communication. Companies don’t need to stop everything they’re doing to do “social media”. They have to start thinking how can they deliver the same quality but providing a unique social media twist to that specific action/message.

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  • Joe

    The real problem with Corporate america and social media is most decision makers are too set in their old school thinking and completely out of touch with todays trends and technology . Maybe you can’t teach old dogs new tricks ……

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  • Natasha

    Okay.. So what is the solution here?

  • brainmaven Research

    Thanks for posting Robin – we’ve spent some time doing research on this also, happy to make the report available to techcrunch readers. Our report covers successful and unsuccessful social media projects globally.

    brainmaven takes particular care to source and cite information carefully, the report linked to (400k PDF warning) was compiled in about 4 hours. Happy reading:

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