Social media: ‘Oversold, misused and in decline’

Social media has been oversold, misused by marketers and could now be beginning to decline, according to marketing commentator David Chalke, who spoke at an event organised by media agency PHD last night.

Chalke, a strategy planner and consultant on the Australia Scan project at Quantum Market Research, told Mumbrella that disillusionment was settling in to the market because social media had been “massively oversold”.

“Snake oil salesmen have been telling us that this will fix all your problems,” he said. “For some brands it’ll work. For others, it’s a complete waste of time.”


  1. richie
    7 Jul 11
    12:18 pm

  2. hit me up for Google+ invites!

  3. Brian
    7 Jul 11
    12:21 pm

  4. Well, if bravely put David. The awful potential for bulk bullshit is demonstrated by those people with 750+ ‘friends’.

  5. Gezza
    7 Jul 11
    12:29 pm

  6. Good commentary David.

  7. jonesy65
    7 Jul 11
    1:07 pm

  8. Really well said- someone has to say this stuff
    Good on you David!

  9. Ann
    7 Jul 11
    1:10 pm

  10. Yes we have been facebooked and twittered out….

  11. Anonymous
    7 Jul 11
    1:14 pm

  12. He has a point.

    I remember when Kilkenny and Caffreys launched in Ireland. Everyone thought it was going to take over Guiness – it didnt. I can’t remeber the last time I sipped a Caffreys…

    Analogies aside…

    Networks and communities exist without technology. However is Facebook and co far more than simply online networks and communities?

    – Who remembers the last time they strolled to the photo shop to get photo’s developed?
    – Who has received breaking news information via an online social network?
    – Who remembers hearing about a distant friends new baby, injury, or berievement via an online social networking site…?
    – Who uses a print diary?
    – Who has sent out a printed brithday invite recently?

    Not only do you discover information on these networks, you interact, engage, share stories, pictures, send invites and get reminded (of events, birthdays etc.)

    Online social networking sites are newspapers that publish information about your interests, friends, family and colleagues.

    Will people who have loaded photo’s onto Facebook for the last 5 years, who rely on reminders from Facebook and keeping up with gossip on Facebook, suddenly leave..?

    I suppose the answer is they might (if something better comes along..?) or if Facebook Fck up?

    Niche networks might well eat into “Facey”

    Anyone got any forecasts and any emerging plays in this space?

  13. Tony
    7 Jul 11
    1:21 pm

  14. Incisive and brutally correct summary of where social media is heading.

    My 20 year old son and his friends recently closed their Facebook and Twitter accounts as it just wasn’t cool anymore….it had become too common and nobody wants to be part of something that is used by their parents!!

    They also had too many ‘friends’ who they had no real connection with anyway and the whole thing became as “shallow as a car park puddle”. Their time in social media is now spent on sites that are much more specific to their interests. The number of real friends who they actually spend time with has increased.

  15. Clinton
    7 Jul 11
    1:27 pm

  16. Excellent, have worked with David before in ‘Big Auto’ in Australia and at Sensis.

    He has consistently been on the money.

    I think he is right, you have to be the right brand in this space with the right messages and the willingness to engage ongoing and real time.

    Which of course adds more cost to the business and will reduce margins whilst making it harder to consitenly satisfy your customer base. They will expect even more immediate action and support.

    The most important point for me was the idea of fragmentation to specialist SM niches.

    This I think is dead right and a diamond in the rough for a crew with the right idea and start-up.

    Maybe even a platform link Ning would be able to cater to this notion.

    Certainly a great stream of thought, thank you for sharing.

  17. Ben
    7 Jul 11
    1:45 pm

  18. yeah! who wants to spend time typing letters into a computer connected by a series of tubes! attempts to subvert the internets’ social networks aren’t functioning good.

    is this really that shocking? PR and marketing jerks overselling something they can make a mint on?ooo it’s so incisive and brutal!
    what a joke.

    i doubt this guy could even set up a profile.

    “Snake oil salesmen have been telling us that this will fix all your problems,” he said. “For some brands it’ll work. For others, it’s a complete waste of time.”

    was this not obvious from the get go? to state this now as if it is some remarkable revelation is quite absurd.


  19. Thomasr
    7 Jul 11
    1:51 pm

  20. It’s about passion. For some brands it can be about cleverness and innovation, but realistically I would rather be trying to do social media projects with a brand likely to get people excited rather than trying to get something out of nothing.

  21. Richard Dirth
    7 Jul 11
    1:55 pm

  22. Ok, so how do you reconcile fragmentation into smaller social networks with the benefits individuals receive via the ‘network effect’? i.e. the smaller the network, the less valuable the network becomes to the individuals involved.

    Yes social media brands like Facebook and Twitter will rise and fall, but the phenomenon of networked communications will continue to proliferate. Further, individuals need to discriminate more, cull the dross and restore value to their social media networks. Reward those who add value to the network, and penalise those who contribute nothing.

    The most obvious statement to make is that social media suits some brands and not others. Further, social media should never be seen as a monolithic solution, but a component of a larger comms platform.

    Why is all of this thinking suddenly considered heresy? An ounce of scepticism and a (ethnographic) finger on community expectations, will guide you well.

  23. Another fairy dies
    7 Jul 11
    2:05 pm

  24. Old news. Who hasn’t known that the social media gurus have no clothes for at least the last three years!?

  25. Love/Hate
    7 Jul 11
    2:11 pm

  26. hahaha – the whole blurb lifted from 2001? find ‘world wide web’ replace ‘ social media’

    they got that wrong, so very wrong. It has taken most major business 10 years to get back to where they were with online in 2001. Those that were smart, hedged and learned and have been light years ahead of their competitors

    An interesting notion to hinge your thoughts on a crystal ball, history tells us that is a dangerous behaviour

  27. G
    7 Jul 11
    2:20 pm

  28. Here is a perfect example of a social media being misunderstood once again…
    Social Media aren’t Facebook and Twitter only.
    So yes, Facebook and Twitter are oversold and misused because treated as traditional media by laziness or just because it’s seen with quick profit potential.
    Viral marketing disappeared because of agencies selling “viral videos” as a quick easy sale. “Social media” as a separate discipline will disappear because of agencies selling Facebook and Twitter. But it was never intended to be separate anyway as all marketing disciplines become social.
    +1 and Panda are a first step toward a semantic web. THIS is how media should use social.
    So sayonara “social media agencies” and welcome costumer centric marketing!

  29. Finzensen
    7 Jul 11
    2:48 pm

  30. “This whole interweb thing is a fad”

    While I respect Chalkie, the old fella probably has an abacus. Sure social media is bloody useless for brands much of the time, but do it right and it’s, err, not useless, it’s just another little prong in the media mix.

    In addition, the web started as totally fragmented niches that slowly became connected – you liked widgets? Go to a widget forum or chatroom. It’s not a new phenomenon, rather it’s old. He’s got it backward.

    Still, I love old Chalkie.

  31. Alison_F
    7 Jul 11
    3:21 pm

  32. I tend to agree with the sentiment of this article.
    It seems to me that traditional marketing is all about pushing your message to new audiences in order to attract new customers, while social media allows brands to merely start a dialogue with existing customers/interested parties.
    The sooner we all stop acting like there are universal marketing opportunities available to all companies/brands from social media, the sooner we can start directing only those brands that have the content and culture that fits with the role of what social media can offer.

  33. Rhys Edwards
    7 Jul 11
    4:21 pm

  34. Every time I have a bone to pick with a brand I go straight to their Facebook page and Twitter accounts and confront their communities managers with my lack of mobile reception (think: OPTUS).

    And they usually respond immediately because FINALLY from a consumer perspective I can hold a brand accountable without having to talk to someone from their overseas call centre, or approach Today Tonight to have an expose on dodgy dishwashers.

    Social media is a break through from the dry, mundane 30 second TVC and has enabled a shift away from push messaging towards engaging, interactive content.

    Social media and the ‘internetz’ are changing the ad game by making brands accountable and empowering the consumer to develop a stronger relationship with a product.

  35. bernard
    7 Jul 11
    5:21 pm

  36. With all due respect to Chalke, I doubt he understands social networks. The value of them goes up as the number of users increases. If it fragments it dies.

    The point of them is that there is one central hub.

  37. Damien Cummings
    7 Jul 11
    5:37 pm

  38. It’s painful to see conversations like this that go for controversy but can’t really back it up. Social media is dying. Really? To me it’s clear he doesn’t really get it.

    Social media like the telephone. It used to be that there were “telephone departments” with employees that had “telephone” in their job title. Nowadays, there’s a telephone on everyone’s desk and it’s just part of the every day routine. Social media is the same. Right now there are specialists, and there’s strange hype around “social campaigns” but the true potential, and where social rapidly is evolving into, is part of everything that we do. It’s not a marketing tool, a campaign or a fad – it’s a fundamental evolution of how we interact with each other and communicate.

    A few models to consider if you really want the most out of social media:

    Social media/PR – Facebook, Twitter, etc.: Evolution of traditional PR. Take a media release and add comments and conversation.

    Social commerce/group buying – Groupon, LivingSocial, Cudo, Dell Swarm, etc.: The next evolution in e-commerce. Group buying realises significant discounts. And if done correctly, it’s great for product inventory management and driving website traffic and foot traffic into retail.

    Social customer service: Have employees interact directly with customers via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc. It’s great to catching issues before they become big problems and an exellent way to create customer intimacy.

    Social marketing: Think YouTube (Old Spice Guy, Tippex, Will It Blend, etc.). Immensely entertaining, and the logical next step for TVCs to “self select” their audience.

  39. Dan
    7 Jul 11
    6:21 pm

  40. Being ‘social’ has existed since time began, its just that we found a way to make it more ‘public’ via technology, which we classify under the domain of ‘media’ i.e. a medium… the only people over-selling it are the idiots who don’t understand it a la comments above about it ‘being Facebook and Twitter’…

    Australia is just a little speck (population wise) in the big bad wide world. The world ultimately doesn’t care what goes on down here, as much as we’d like to think it does.

  41. SocialMediaIsAFad
    7 Jul 11
    8:36 pm

  42. Social Media is a Fad the same as having dot com after your name or a My Space page was.

    Rhys, what you’ve demonstrated is that Social Media is good for Customer Service Support, a lot different from advertising.

    The VC or Video Commercial will be with us for a very long time be it in TVC form or some other, like holographic imaging. As it has Scope, Audience and durability (It can be ran over and over again for years, like they should have done with Imperial Leather). Facebook may not be with us in by the end of the decade as the sheeple move on.

  43. Jessie
    7 Jul 11
    8:58 pm

  44. I think social media can be amazing for savvy clients. I have a client who gets the majority of business through FB and if you are if in 5 years the ‘cool’ kids aren’t on FB – isn’t that only if you are targetting that younger audience? I firmly believe that in 5 years time 25+ will still be on FB and the nature of FB allows you to target just about any niche. If you have a smart FB strategy brands can do very well but the key is interaction and if your brand is just a “brand” and provides no interaction of personality on their FB page then they will just disappear into the newsfeed abyss. Smart people will do well, dumb brands will fail – just like all marketing

  45. scott
    7 Jul 11
    9:32 pm

  46. Fragmentation doesn’t mean it’s dying… probably the opposite… just like Ford used to be the only car manufacturer in town… the problem is the businesses that were to eager to sell to untold millions and not heed the real cultural change to customer engagement that the new technology implied.. they feel oversold… the term social media is lame anyways, I think ‘customer engagement’ is a more accurate way of describing the process and FB and twitter are just two of many tools that can be used to do this… and like the real world their are gonna be places the cool kids want to hang out that are no where near where their folks are hanging out… see you on tumblr.

  47. Tony
    7 Jul 11
    10:49 pm

  48. I seriously question if consumers in purchasing mode (remember our job is to get paid to actually sell stuff) really think about whether they are ‘engaged’, ‘become part of a conversation’ or have ‘built a stronger relationship with a product’.

    Are we simply blowing smoke up our own arses through imagining that these fluffy reactions actually lead to a consumer making a commitment to actually purchase our clients product.

    I’m perfectly fine if that’s the case but I’ve have the confronting priviledge of sitting on a client’s marketing board and seeing marketing managers being challenged to prove that the limited marketing dollars they had, really delivered a return on investment.

    If any one of those under immense pressure individuals had offered their board:
    ‘engaged’, ‘became part of a conversation’ or ‘we have built a stronger relationship with our product’ , they would have been burnt at the stake in the boardroom in which they stood..

    Has our industry forgotten that our job is to sell stuff….now!!?

    Are we ignoring that our clients are under more pressure than ever to deliver a return on investment and continually prove we are doing so?

    If that happens through social media that’s bloody fantastic. If it happens through any of the many marketing tools we now have at our disposal, be damn well proud of what we do and show our clients that return on investment is far from a cliche.

    But please…let’s not bore our clients to death with hollow platitudes and leave them to be burnt at the stake in their own boardrooms and then at the same time whinge and moan about why clients are continually putting their business out to pitch.

    Just make sure everything you do…sells stuff!

  49. Australia the little battler
    7 Jul 11
    11:03 pm

  50. Australia has a tall poppy syndrome? Surely not.

    Facebook isn’t cool or niche. It’s a tool.

    Now go hug your families.

  51. Mat R
    8 Jul 11
    12:25 pm

  52. Social networks have and always will exist. Its only the platforms that change.

  53. Steve H
    8 Jul 11
    1:18 pm

  54. Is social media dead or just facing a maturing growth curve? The fact is growth has been significant, back in March 2006 there were about 2,895,000 using social media networks on a regular basis in Australia and that reflected around 17% of people 14 and over.
    At the end of March 2011 that number had grown to around 9,870,000 or 53.4% of people 14+
    Every brand or product reaches a stage of maturity and growth starts to slow and while FB may have been first to market, it will be the new innovations that provide the catalyst for the next growth curve, so check back 12 months from now and watch this space

  55. Chris Oaten
    8 Jul 11
    1:28 pm

  56. Props for the quality audio track.

  57. Steve H
    8 Jul 11
    1:45 pm

  58. What about some credible research from HBR

  59. jean cave
    8 Jul 11
    1:59 pm

  60. The user is the chooser.

  61. Doug
    8 Jul 11
    3:01 pm

  62. The self professed Social media Gurus of a few years ago are falling by the wayside as people realise that the introduction of a new communication conduit happens all the time and is a challenge for brand owners and media buyers each time it happens. Social media is just a new way to get to people – with the additional challenge of having the customers actually demanding to be “spoken to” – not “spoken at”. Remove the “gurus” and their secretive mumbo jumbo and show clients that this conduit to customers is and important part of the communication mix to consider…. but more importantly, show clients that once you remove the mumbo jumbo, social media is totally understandable as a medium.
    I work with clients to remove the mystique, and once you do, they can make clear and decisive decisions if they want to be involved and how much budget and resource they want to commit to it.

  63. more hot air
    8 Jul 11
    4:53 pm

  64. damien @ 5.37 i love that you used the telephone as an example of a technology that became part of the social fabric, likening it to social media. the telephone proved to be a brilliant communication tool, but not so hot as an advertising/marketing medium (unless you count annoying and soon to be legislated out telemarketing). I agree social media is like the telephone, great for people, not so great for brands/products/companies to use as a marketing tool.

    and the old spice campaign? tv led from the get-go, the social stuff came later. that campaign was backed by a huge national tv budget before it went “viral”. the others? key word is entertaining, and that’s a hurdle most who play in this space can’t get over.

  65. Damien Cummings
    8 Jul 11
    5:37 pm

  66. more hot air – Thanks, the point about social media being the new “telephone” goes beyond telemarketing though. My point was about the evolution of how we communicate. Telephones have evolved into Mobiles – and I think there’s general consensus that a device that is always on, broadband enabled and always with you is a great opportunity for brands to engage with customers through marketing. Social is the same. It’s frustrating to see so many people mistaking Facebook and Twitter for Social Media. They are just tools (and there are many more).

    And by the way, I’m a client (full disclosure, I run Online & Social Media for Dell across Asia Pacific, including Australia). We’re making around a billion dollars a year in revenue in Asia from online marketing activities (and over ten billion globally), of which a significant and growing percentage is from social media, group buying and social-enabled marketing. As an example, it’s in the public domain that we make over $15m revenue from just Twitter alone, so there’s clear opportunity for those who understand how social and marketing work together.

    My parting words of advice for those that don’t feel you can sell social media to clients or to consumer – try harder. Know your craft, understand what social media really is and demonstrate that you can make money from it. There are many such examples (such as Dell) to look at for inspiration.

  67. jean cave
    8 Jul 11
    7:45 pm

  68. The aspect of Social Media (label needs a re-brand) that I enjoy most, is that stuff can be locally focal. It is about global-sized happenings seen at a human level. Love it!.
    The old Tofflerism that the consumer is also the producer has come home to roost.

  69. Alana
    8 Jul 11
    11:36 pm

  70. “It’s merely reached a plateau … it’s appeal is finite, so it’s growth will flatten out….” – it will keep changing, brands will find better ways to use social media, social media platforms will get better at supporting brands and users.

    “so and so got smashed on the weekend” – most of my contacts don’t share rubbish like that and brands certainly don’t.

    “It’s been massively oversold” – yes, by people who aren’t qualified to be strategising in this area. The same can be said for people saying that social media is dying.

    Here are some other predictions….

    “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” — Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

    “Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons.” — Popular Mechanics, 1949

    “I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” — The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.

    “But what…is it good for?” — Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

    “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

    “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” — Western Union internal memo, 1876.

    “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” — Sir William Preece, chief engineer of the British Post Office, 1876.

    “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” — David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

    “While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility.” — Lee DeForest, inventor.