This post on AllThingsD by Ben Elowitz of Wetpaint gets it excrutiatingly right: social isn’t automatically viral, and marketers who think so are missing the boat. The net-net has to be about content — if you ain’t got it, and it isn’t worthy, you’re not going to get viral traction.
Mention that to some clients and you can see the barriers start to rise. “Sounds like a lot of work,” they say, and they’re right. So it’s important to sell them on the real impact of social media, on the fact it’s not always a direct response strategy but a long, gradual play that pays off in a host of ways that go beyond leads and sales. But there are tools out there that are beginning to redress the ROI side of the equation, too, in ways that play to social media’s strength in allowing marketers to precisely gauge and target people’s real interests.
But there again, the issue is all about execution: you’ve got to engage with a message or offer that’s meaningful to the target. Content is king in social media, even when it’s intended as part of a selling strategy.