Several camps are starting to chant that 2011 may well be the year of The Social Media Bubble. I would not proclaim to be able to predict the future by any means, but it sure seems more probable than not. While having little experience predicting the future, we have had an up close and personal relationship with the real estate bubble. Developing real estate used to be a pretty fun endeavor, however the past couple of years of operating our boutique apartment rental business in SE Michigan has had more challenges than we ever imagined. But as with all struggles, there has been a bright side, a bubble burst quickly trims out the weeds and the low hanging fruit.

Perhaps a Social Media Weeding is forthcoming
2010 has been the year that many small and mid size businesses have taken the plunge, and embraced the throws of Social Media Marketing. With that, nearly every unemployed straggler has hung out their Social Media Consultant shingle.

As reported in the Harvard Business Review...
"During the subprime bubble, banks and brokers sold one another bad debt -- debt that couldn't be made good on. Today, "social" media is trading in low-quality connections -- linkages that are unlikely to yield meaningful, lasting relationships."
Low Barrier to Entry
Whenever the barrier to entry is low, to non existent, pitfalls loom. While the real estate bubble happened due to a multitude of reasons, whenever someone can sell a condo several times before the builder finished construction, and each selling party profits, all is well and good until the market falls off. It then becomes musical chairs and the last person standing is holding the bag. When profit occurs absent anyone really doing anything or adding any value, a Weed and Trim typically follows. Problem is, we aren't very adept at history or awareness.

Panera Bread is My Office
Nothing against the Nomads or Entrepreneurs, we all started somewhere, but when your only cost of business or overhead is your laptop, lots of crazies are suddenly Internet marketers and social media marketers. And, by all means, some of this lot are pretty smart. However once the check writers (the business owners) start requiring results, many of these Cast of Social Media Characters will evaporate as quickly as they spawned.

What is the Correction
Results, or lack there of will lead the correction. Business isn't as complicated as we try to make it. If you are doing Internet marketing or social media marketing for your client, and they aren't selling more stuff, you may well get fired, as you should. Marketing is and has always been about selling more stuff to more people for more money.

Engagement, Conversation, Connections and all of the buzz words of today won't cut it if sales leads don't increase. The truth is, Social Media Marketing is so much more than a Facebook page and a Twitter account. While there are lots of businesses and agencies doing a stellar job, many are not, and it seems the honeymoon may be coming to a close for those that lack the experience of delivering a real and measurable result.

Are your clients selling more stuff from your Social Media Marketing Campaigns?

We would love to hear your feedback. You can connect with Eric on Twitter or at The Urbane Way.
August 28, 2010

Eric Brown has (30) years in the Multi-Family Apartment Business having built and developed over 17,000 apartment units, both market rate, luxury and tax credit apartments. Having started Urbane Apartments in 2003 after leaving a lengthy stint as a Senior Vice President at Village Green Companies, a national apartment developer, Eric decided he wanted to create wealth, and set out from Corporate America on his own and created Urbane Apartments in Royal Oak, MI.


Comments from our facebook posting;

Dennis Fassett
Outstanding piece Eric. Social Media use in business that's decoupled from measurable results is nothing more than a waste of time.
Saturday at 9:50pm · Like · ·

The Urbane Way
Hey Dennis, Thank you, I appreciate the comment. Let's catch breakfast soon,

Comments from our facebook posting

Mark Juleen
I've heard you say this a bunch, but here's my question Eric. How do you measure it for yourself? You have a limited number of apartments to lease, and keeping those full is a result of new and renewing customers. The idea of "selling more" doesn't seem to fit our industry. I'm not sold that this metric alone for any industry paints the picture anyways.

And as a side point, I know for me the "engagement" in social media has never been the number one reason I'm there. So maybe the idea of "engagement" is really the only thing that could/should burst in 2011. I think what Facebook and Twitter look and feel like today are an indicator of that. I'm not saying the idea of engagement isn't a great strategy, however, I do believe it is not realistic for the majority to achieve it at a high level online without a significant investment and dedication. Therefore, most will give up. Which is unfortunate because the search benefits of social media are still significantly undervalued. And in the end isn't marketing about being found or discovered anyway?

The Urbane Way
Hi Mark, Thanks for weighing in
I measure our success and our clients success first and foremost by how much traffic did we drive to their web site. All else is secondary, and although has value, it doesn't pay the freight.

There is a direct correlation to increased web traffic and selling more stuff.

Perhaps I didn't articulate my thought exactly well, as I do not think that Social Media Marketing will blow up, I think that the array of small to mid size businesses that flocked onto the Social Media Scene, will look back at what they have spent, with little to no real return or business result, and they will flee as fast as they came because someone sold them a bill of goods.

Nearly every client we have are obsessed with facebook and twitter, yet that is the lowest leverage piece of the equation, at least in our experience.

As much that has been written and talked about, very few businesses are using Social Media to increase their web traffic, as they are way to hung up on Engagement, Conversation, Listening, and whatever other buzz word is out there. All of which are important, up not primary.

I think what Twitter look and feel like today are an indicator of that :)

Social media is the big craze, however there are two problems with it:

1. Nobody wants to learn it and, thus understand it which leads to misconceptions such as "I have a blog and I'm into social media."

2. It is hard to make money off of. If Facebook is having trouble, you can bet your bottom dollar that its going to be easier to make it as a Hollywood actor.

Ken Sundheim

Ken, Good Morning,
Yes, you are spot on, Social Media is hard, which is one of the points here. Similarly, all sales folks have a phone, yet only a handful are great sales people. Likewise with Social Media. The good news is, it is pretty easy to measure progress if you start looking at results and stop looking at what you did, who really cares about what you did.

Great post, its so true too. Companies are finally realizing the importance of social media. Some think its all about backlinks and seo but its really not. Social media is all about networking, and marketing. It helps small businesses grow

I think social media will only grow more in importance as people look to brand advocates and reviews of products online to make their purchasing decisions. I see social media more like public relations in that it is a measure of engagement rather than in a direct sale. It is harder to measure but more credible and authorative than advertising and other traditional forms of marketing in my opinion.

Well, there's only one way to find out – let's wait for 2011 to come, for now Seo's must continue making good optimization.

From The Urbane Way facebook wall regarding this post;

Todd Brittingham
Social media will change the way we think and how we operate our businesses. There may be a social media bubble that will burst, but it will weed out the those that are not using it to their full advantage. Marketing is only one aspect on how social media can improve your business.

How is social media changing the way we think? Well, I for one have used social media to build my power team in a very, very short period of time. I now have individuals I can go to and seek advice, and it would have taken me months if not years to make these connections. 5 years ago I would have gone about this task in a completely different manner, and it would have taken me much longer to build my team.

In his book, Jeff Stibal states that "The Internet is a Brain". When you look social media from this viewpoint, you can quickly see that social media is a great problem solving tool. For example, by simply posting questions on Facebook or Twitter you can generate a discussion about a particular problem and get perspective from several different points of view. This is very powerful stuff, and the possibilities are endless.

I for one am continually amazed at the power of social media and I am striving to come up with new and effective ways to levarage it in running my business

This comment was posted on The Urbane Way facebook wall regarding this post;

Carmen Krushas
I think Mark raises very good points that are worth further discussion. So Eric when you discuss driving traffic how are you measuring driving traffic? Are you discounting the hits that crawlers make (which impact counts significantly) on a daily basis? for example...crawlers from the leading sites will "hit" a blog and its link between 17-38x per day (I know this as I have verified it with Garry Tan, a colleague friend of mine and Founder of Posterous). what other measures or tools do you use and/or provide to clients to show that traffic amounted to a transaction? also, it is a fair point that Mark brings up when it comes to portfolio size and how stats are measured. It is one thing to have to continuously rent an apartment community with 600+ units versus one with 60. have you been able to effectively measure the marketing of your clients that have an average portfolio size of 300+ units per community to determine whether your engagement has produced significant impact on their website that has lead to verifiable transactions? Yes, we understand correlations, but is the real traffic significant and if you can say yes, then what are these stats compared to other marketing sources/efforts? And if your stats fall below benchmarks how are you managing to increase on behalf of your clients? Social media is a tough one that involves much more than engagement and I think people would appreciate your insight into the points I raise to help them better understand the actual effect it has on their marketing mix. Thanks!

Social Media is going to blow up, today we are involved in Social Media Extasis, and almost everyone wants to be part of this, most of the SME that you say about are freelance, and people who thinks that because they have a blog, and they post a lot stuff, and they have a facebook or twitter account, they think that they're social media experts. I have a couple of friends that think they are the best in social media, because they use facebook a lot, and they dont know about market segmentation, or trends, or marketing.

I'm pleased to see more consideration of what I've been talking about for at least a year, and that it is the potential for a bustup a la 99-2000. No question it's coming, though I've indicated I believe it won't be in full freefall until 2012.

However, it's already started. If the example of the bust holds, and by all indications we have a replay, we'll see, in 2011, an increase in social media companies closing, being acquired, folding due to VC refusals etc. Already delicious is scheduled for demolition or drastic change, and a lot of smaller players are getting out.

The numbers for Twitter continue to show it's at high risk, and likely to be acquired, or lose much of its value in 2012. User patterns are horrific, abandonment of accounts is high, and it's features are too limited to have much business use. Contraction has already started in North America but is compensated by growth overseas. Once that stops, it will become obvious that as it is, Twitter will be the first major to go.

The faith in social media is based on belief, not data, and as was the case with the 2000 bust, companies will realize that they can't make money advertising on these platforms, that conversion rates for social media are terrible (they have always been bad), and that ad prices are crazy. They will also realize that there may be 600 million people on Facebook, but there's only about 12 that will have any interest in the product/service on offer.

It's not a question of whether there will be a crash. It's when. It's how deep. And, sadly, it's about all the smaller support companies that will disappear, leaving even more people unemployed during tough times.

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