On Wednesday I attended the Social Network Debate which was held by my good friends Lucre Social  and the topic we had up for discussion this time was “Are social networks are a distraction for marketeers?”

There were a lot of senior marketers and PR people in the room from brands like the BBC, Groupon, Intel and Videojug. PR Week was also in attendance and one of the panel members was John Morter who famously took on X-factor mogul Simon Cowell in 2009 with his rage against the machine campaign. I found his insights particularly interesting as he had a very different view to most people.

The debate raged on and it seemed that although many people did believe social networks can be something of a distraction they are also a very good one because of the extra insights that can be gleaned from a social community and the longevity you get from your newly engaged customers. One statistic provided by the panel was that a fan of your Facebook page will spend $72 more than someone that isn’t a fan. I love stats like that – I would be interested to see what you can get for $72? Indeed, there were several examples given of when a brand was using its social channels to share new designs and ideas with its followers – only to find that the best ideas came from those inside the online communities themselves.

Personally, I think social networks can be a huge distraction and so there does need to be a certain level of trust. You need to be reassured that your team are using them for the greater good rather than just sorting a night out with their friends. Although some might argue rightly that that is networking too? In my day-to-day job I use loads of social apps and tools and some can really take the time from your day but that is what I am paid to do which when I think about is pretty great.

However, the interesting part of the debate for me came about when people starting dismissing Facebook’s Pay Per Click campaigns as expensive and ineffective. The point was muted that Facebook advertising had been trialled to secure fans and it hadn’t proven as effective as good strong engaging content.

I don’t have to preach to the converted here as we all know that great content rules these days, but the F acebook advertising issue was an interesting point. Just because advertising hasn’t worked for one Facebook page or business doesn’t necessarily mean it should be discounted entirely from a social marketing strategy. For instance, did the user trial different advertisements, landing pages, keywords and target these adverts clearly to different demographics?

Facebook advertising can be a really powerful tool, especially to a very local business, as you can drill right down to the micro/local town level and just have your advertisements apeearing there which I would argue is hugely targetted. Also if you are offering some kind of incentive for people to become fans and engage with your FB page then I can see it working very effectively.

As with all of these new tools – you need to have clear objectives for what you want to achieve before you set out spending your budget. Carefully draw up your strategy and then (hopefully) you will achieve your objectives and your boss or finance director might give you some budget.

Another interesting point I noticed was that during this debate nobody mentioned blogs as a powerful social media channel they were just discussing the usual suspects and they do so at their peril if you ask me. The most recent statistics from eMarketer found that blogs will be read by more than 122.6 million Americans this year, which represents more than half of their internet population (53.5%), with even more growth expected. So although blogging may seem like old hat it’s still driving social media and is still extremely powerful. I mean you are reading this right when you could be sat chilling in a beer garden in the sunshine.

Do you think Facebook advterising has a role to play in a social media strategy?

About Chris Norton

Chris Norton is the founder of Prohibition and an award winning communications consultant with more than twenty years’ experience. He was a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and has had a varied PR career having worked both in-house and in a number of large consultancies. He is an Integrated PR and social media blogger and writes on a wide variety of blogs across a huge amount of topics from digital marketing, social media marketing right through to technology and crisis management.