How Brands Listen (Or Don’t) In the Digital Age

It seems almost silly to be looking at how brands are behaving on social media these days. Shouldn’t this be old hat by now?

Sadly, it’s not. A mere 20 percent of 200 businesses questioned by Forrester Consulting in a Dell-commissioned survey said social media efforts were at the core of their marketing efforts. Frighteningly, 27 percent called their social media efforts “experimentation.”

Some of that may be due to the fact that 42 percent of the company representatives surveyed said budget was the greatest internal challenge to their efforts.

Could that be because so many companies run around saying how social media is free? How it doesn’t cost anything? How they spent nothing on marketing, yet got amazing results.

I was at a meetup in New York City recently where the fitness app owner went on and on about how he spent no money on marketing, yet went viral and got amazing results, blah blah blah.

During the Q&A, I asked how much he spent on social media and social media marketing and asked him if it was kind of disingenuous to say they spent no money on marketing, when they obviously spent money on social media. Got a blank stare. Then the explanation, “Oh, I just meant that we didn’t spend any money on traditional marketing.”

That’s not what he said, though.

I’m not going to mention the company, because he’s not even close to being the only one who pretends that social media is without cost.

Can you spend less? Is it possible to go viral and get tons of free publicity on top of what you spent? Is it possible to cut back on ad dollars, go totally social and have better results? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Does that make social media and social media marketing free?


To do it right, you need to spend money and time making sure you’re targeting the right people in the right way. You need to spend time listening. You need to interact.

Marketing is different. Marketing is community now, not just saying, “Hey, our brand is great, buy us!”

Take a look at this infographic from GetSatisfaction, which nicely details the Dell/Forrester report. Very curious to hear from both marketers and brands about how you’re shaping your social media efforts and how you use it.

Just don’t tell me it’s free, OK?

Leave a Reply


  1. Ashwin Abraham

    Hey Amy, this one share a lot about social media for the organization.nice one

  2. Seems to me there are a couple of problems, one people think it doesn’t cost anything, two they don’t think it’s worth paying for at all.

    I started in social media for personal endeavors, then, as the owner of a creative agency, I was asked to use it there. I definitely believe that it won’t work for everyone and that in order to determine if it will, it needs to be plainly stated that there is a hard cost as well as a very real need for someone on staff or on contract to sustain the effort and move with the organic meandering path it can sometimes take.

    I am consistently annoyed by the individuals who go around claiming to be experts and selling people on all the things they “need” and promising the moon. There is virtual snake oil. People need to wise up.

    Free costs, cheap costs, expensive costs; the question is what works..

    And the companies that think it’s safer to stay out of the fray? Sigh.

  3. @Amanda – Yes. Exactly. +1 on everything you said (including how you got started on social, lol)

  4. The only one’s who think it’s free are the one’s that are not putting in the work :)… We’re still a couple years away from brands and businesses from really understanding the amount necessary to budget for social media… As more and more SM platforms like pinterest become a player the more they’ll see the need to budget and diversify their efforts in SM… Like Amanda who commented above a big problem is anyone who thinks their pretty good at FB is now a social media expert… So much more to SM than FB and making posts on FB.. Thanks Amy!

  5. Great article thanks
    Goodnighties, Inc.

  6. @Mike – There is? Oh, yes, Twitter, right? 😉

    @Ashwin & Sarah – thanks!

  7. William D.

    I think we’re just in the starting point of the social age and a lot of brands are still figuring out how to use the tools at their disposal. Too many brands think just showing up at the party is enough – you know – set up a Facebook page, spend a few bucks on Facebook ads, maybe use the type of services found at for example, and boom – magic happens and you’re guaranteed success. That’s now how it works. Social media is a long-term, not a short-term play. Social media works best when you LISTEN to your potential customers and figure out what problems, benefits, advantages, disadvantages, etc your business has over your competitors. IMO that’s the mindset you need to use social media with to achieve the best possible results. Advertising is fine, but you have to be using social media with the right goal in mind to maximize what you get out of it.