Is any publisher making social media work?

Two years go we asked if any website or publishing company was making money from social media.

Today, we ask the same question. If you know of anyone, please tell us!

Here is a list of the most popular platforms:







Social media is great for consumer contact. But where is the money?
There is no doubt social media is an enormous advertising platform. But who is making it work? Where is the money?

Companies like Dell and Starbucks have raised awareness of their products and have changed their strategies and products according to the feedback they receive. It works well for them. In a way.

Social media is great for targeting
Companies can target individuals based upon specific interests shared on social media. For example, if an individual watches a YouTube video about jogging, a running shoe company can place an ad near it. Those that are gadget-minded will get ads for new mobile phones and netbooks etc. Social media has allowed advertisers to refine ad nets extremely narrowly because it’s such a massive platform.

But is social media great for publishers?
Those that have read so far may have already picked up a clue to the answer. In the paragraph above we said: “Dell and Starbucks have raised awareness of their products”.

So social media is great for awareness advertising. But to our knowledge, no publisher has yet made money from advertising subscriptions, or website memberships. These, of course, are sold through direct marketing, not by awareness ads. Awareness advertising response is difficult to measure.

Conversely, you know almost immediately if your direct marketing promotion is working: you start receiving money.

This is not to say social media will never work for publishers. It’s just that no publisher has yet demonstrated the ability to target prospects through social media and convert significant numbers into paid subscribers. I don’t think any have tried!

Social media looks good because it’s free. But:

“If it’s free it’s not worth anything”.

(That’s my quote by the way).

Here’s another quote from Drayton Bird, author of Commonsense Direct Marketing:

“Put no faith in easy answers …. which reminds me of all the ballyhoo I have heard over the years about CRM, Social Networks, rebranding and other miracle solutions”.

Facebook members are asked for their ‘likes and interests’ so it should be possible to successfully advertise specialist titles alongside golfers, athletes and fishing enthusiasts. I have see twitter used to advertise events such as publishing conferences. But so far, no publisher has claimed financial success with social media.

Peter Hobday

Reader response

“Peter – I think social media puts a lot of businesses in a Catch 22 situation. It’s not worth doing unless you do it really well, and you can’t do it really well unless you put the time and resources into it, but you can’t do that unless you know it’s going to work. As a result, they end up doing it half heartedly, don’t get any good results and wonder why.
Another thing to consider is that our success (not revenue, I grant you) is measured in different ways now; web hits, newsletter sign up etc. While these don’t necessarily instantly drive sales, this is where our advertising now takes place. Driving numbers in these areas is what is expected of us.
Also by guiding more people to your website (provided it’s any good) people should, in time, convert to subscribing (also provided you don’t give away too much for free!).
I think the real problem is trackability, we need to find ways of measuring the customer’s journey from social media engagement to subscribing.
Everything’s too disparate at the moment. We need someone to come up with a product that will link everything together and match online users to their real life selves, enabling us to track conversion rates. If only I was a programmer…” Kristin Crilly,
Crafts Council

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