Why do NZ firms drastically undervalue social media?

ScalesIs NZ stuck in the past? 

I’ve been conducting a survey of sorts. Every day, I get job notifications from Seek.co.nz with the term “social media” in them. It’s kind of depressing reading.

From Australia, on average there are 6-10 job listings across Australia, with decent salaries and some level of seniority.

The New Zealand listings average roughly one per day, and are most often part of a junior role, with social media just one of the many activities required.

Why? 

I have my theories (NZ is more in recession than Australia, our small market makes it hard to specialise) but I’d love to know your perspective.

Is it because we have an immature, short-term view of business success, focusing on sales and neglecting the vital art of building brands and relationships?

Is it because, as a country, we don’t understand the ROI of social media?

Is it because we have a DIY mentality? 

Is it because we don’t know what really good social media use looks like?

Would love to hear your thoughts! Please comment below. 

 

13 thoughts on “Why do NZ firms drastically undervalue social media?

  • David MacGregor

    Simon,

    The problem probably lies in the terminology.
    ‘Social Media’ really doesn’t describe anything. Having a social media person in a business is a little like having someone assigned to unaddressed mail or skywriting.
    The real matter at hand is how people in comms and marketing (and HR etc) use the tools.
    It’s introspective to think that component parts of a thing are the thing – what’s that old line?: If the only tool you have is a hammer you will regard every problem as a nail.
    It is one of the reasons I no longer attend the Social Media Club. I’m not interested in social media per se, but how to harness the tools, mix and match with others to achieve results. The first phase of SM has passed and now it is about adapting and integrating the tools into a wider frame.
    It is non sequiter to assume that not priotising SM means “an immature, short-term view of business success, focusing on sales and neglecting the vital art of building brands and relationships” or some of the other thoughts you posit.
    Remember Theodore Levitt’s thought about marketing – (another hardware analogy, sorry) When people buy a drill it’s not the drill they want, but a hole.

    Reply
    • Simon

      Thanks David, appreciate you sharing as always.

      To use your tool analogy, what seems to be happening in New Zealand is that people are using an iPhone as a hammer. The tools available, and the skills related to using them, are (in my opinion) undervalued or perhaps undercapitalised.

      About the terminology … yes of course, social media is a loosely-defined term that can mean many different things to different people. But it’s a buzzword that (still) has cachet, and as such, it’s a doorway into the conversation about what one should actually use it for.

      From that aspect, it’s been interesting to see what companies and recruiters mean when they say “social media”. Perhaps that’s a topic for some proper study and a follow-up blog post.

      Reply
      • David MacGregor

        Simon, never underestimate the power of terminology. Horse Mackeral isn’t popular but the world loves Tuna (too much methinks) – but they are the same thing. Psychologists have proved that American voters will favour political candidates called Mark Fairchild over George Sangmeister (on the basis of name alone – some light reading for you from The Journal of Applied Psychology http://ow.ly/nvOJP ).

        Social Media is tainted with the notion it is a time wasting practice, exercised by teens and slackers. We both know that’s not the case. Twitter have changed their description from a ‘what’s on your mind?’ to ‘what’s the world talking about?’ (paraphrased – too slack to look for the actual.)

        I don’t mean to take a pugilistic stance, I am all for deploying the available tools – but your headline “Why do NZ firms drastically undervalue social media?” didn’t really need a question-mark. Asked and answered. One might equally ask why firms don’t advertise more (if that was one’s bias).

        My central proposition is that contemporary marketers need contemporary strategies and business models (or even pre-contemporary/ahead of the curve) – ‘social media’ might be part of that. But every time I utter the words – I come back to point zero. All media is inherently social. TV is the most social medium on the planet. It is strategy, not execution that matters. (Standing by for the ‘entrepreneurial’ trope to kick in “Implementation is more important than conception!” But that’s a whole other story.)

        Reply
        • Simon

          I find nothing to disagree with you here, David. I’m just saying (and also see my conversation with Mark Lincoln) that NZ businesses tend to discount the value of strategy, too, and instead focus on the tool. And perhaps that’s why they undervalue the tool.

          So we seem to have reached one potential answer to the question posed in the headline. What’s another question we might more productively ask?

          Reply
  • Max Bronson

    It’s probably the same reason why about half of NZ businesses don’t even have a website. Scary, perceived as difficult and technical, “I don’t use then internet much so my customers probably won’t either” attitude. Plus the cliche negative perceptions of social media being for teenagers and people who share too much. In general I feel that our managers are just behind the times. I know my ex boss from years ago still doesn’t even use a computer. It’s all done on paper still. Lol!

    Reply
    • Simon

      Thanks Max! Yep, I think MYOB showed that less than 50% of kiwi businesses had a website. It’s a lot of missed opportunity but I wonder if our companies are feeling the pain enough to change? Or is ‘business as usual’ working?

      Reply
      • Max Bronson

        I read last year in a study where NZ business owners value lifestyle over growing their business to a very large size. They love the self-employed lifestyle and fear that if the business grows much bigger, then they’ll lose that. They’re willing to sacrifice the risk of much bigger income for their current lifestyles. That was the gist of the study. This differs from American business owners who really want to grow, grow and grow. 🙂

        Reply
  • Mark Lincoln

    Absolutely. Something I hear far too often is the rule that sales staff are in a special category all of their own, all down to the fact that they ‘generate revenue’. Meanwhile, marketing staff aren’t necessarily given the recognition they deserve, even in terms of physically having a dedicated marketing department or job title. I’ve experienced marketers given a corner seat under the IT or Admin departments.

    Recently I’ve been on a few online media workshops and spoken with people who are responsible for their company’s Social Media marketing and these guys are in roles of anything from finance managers to receptionists. Sometimes for large organisations. And often those organisations are outsourcing the majority of their marketing work to advertising agencies who have the freedom to take their client for a ride based on the fact that there’s no marketing specialist to direct them.

    Reply
    • Simon

      Thanks Mark, so what you’re saying is we don’t have a problem with social media so much as marketing! I agree. Maybe it’s a side-effect of being a nation of small business owners, where few people do many things, and often margins are super-slim so it really does matter to see a direct ROI.

      Do we turn to the familiar solutions, professionalising (e.g. the Marketing Association’s chartered marketer programme), and building up more case studies? Any other ideas to change this situation?

      Reply
      • Mark Lincoln

        Yeah for me it’s all about the case studies. Actual hard evidence that what we’re doing is making a difference and producing results. Something that the CEOs can get their teeth into. Yes, this guy made so many sales this month but here’s some data to show that actually so many of those leads came from activity in Social Media.

        But then again, this is focusing a lot on sales. There’s obviously a lot more to engaging with the community than sales alone. It’s just that sales is the measure-of-choice for so many business managers! Long-term community building and brand image is too hard to measure 😉

        Reply
        • Simon

          It is indeed. A pity that common sense understanding, or looking at the world through your customer’s eyes, seems so rare.

          Reply
  • Mark

    If you take the view that companies will tend to do what makes commercial sense and combine that with the reality not that many are doing it then something’s not commercially right about social media for them. They’ve almost certainly heard of it, but most have not done anything much about it.

    Social media is of course about being social and business is a rude interruption to that for the vast bulk of people, especially in NZ where the focus is on lifestyle and friends and nothing too challenging is appreciated.

    For the whole thing to work commercially however you must have businesses mixing with the public and so in essence social media in NZ will probably not hit huge heights due to our casual cultural inclinations.

    I’ve looked at what i think is missing for business in social media and think that the inability to relate social media directly to a specific sale and for it to therefore become fairly meaningless is important. eg “Love your icecream @giapo” is a fun statement but essentially other than gaining numbers of approval it is effectively without meaning to giapo who have nothing much to work with.

    Businesses need substance and customers are loathe to provide it, it takes a few more seconds of their precious day and the world becomes this horror filled instant gratification void that serves no purpose to anyone really. It takes seconds to write, means practically nothing and (unless you are mining social media) its gone again in the next breath and businesses can’t operate well with flimsy things like that.

    But i do believe NZ businesses want to work with it more, if it would only just grow up a little bit and do what David suggests and take the next evolution.

    Reply
    • Simon

      Thanks Mark. You nailed it with “unless you are mining social media”. There is valuable data in there, in what people are saying, where and when they are saying it, and to whom they are saying it.

      However, those outside the industry don’t realise the possibilities. They are too busy operating within “business as usual” until a crisis alerts them to the opportunity to save money or make money with this data.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Reply

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *