Social media is the future of the Internet’s business model. You don’t need us to tell you that: Practically everyone is saying it.

It’s not just the hundreds of millions of people who have embraced Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other related sites (though those are the biggest ones). It’s also the many companies who are now eagerly trying to best figure out how to market to all those users.

For their part, the social media sites are trying to help advertisers reach all these millions of people. And for good reason: After five years of unending hype, Twitter has yet to turn a profit. And as LinkedIn prepares to go public, company leaders know that monetizing all that traffic will help them compete in the long run.

So, a new question is emerging amidst all the hype: Does social media really work as an ad platform? Does it make sense for Internet marketing companies (and affiliate marketers, of course) to invest so much resources in it?

Perspectives and numbers
“Right now, perhaps the biggest ‘new job’ in online media is the social media manager, and similarly the social media management company,” notes Pace Lattin at, explaining something many of us have noted: That companies of all stripes, online, offline, big, small — are scrambling to maximize their social media presence.

As affiliates, you’ve been told time and again that social media represents the future of Internet marketing, and, with these kinds of numbers, it’s hard to argue that point:

Impressive numbers, but the fact remains that it’s hard to measure their value.

“The pundits are constantly talking about how they engage users on Facebook, how to use it to engage clients and make new clients, how to get people to click on ‘like,’ and so on,” Lattin continues.

Perhaps a bit too pessimistically, Lattin likens this scramble to the last decade’s similar race to master search engine optimization (SEO), the results of which have transformed the way the Internet works (in a good way, most SEO experts would argue).

The case against
But Lattin does make good points. To paraphrase his reasons why social media may not have the marketing power some think it does:

1. It’s called social media for a reason. People use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to keep in touch with friends, family, and business colleagues. While on these sites, they’re not as receptive to advertising as they would be, say, searching on Google, when they may be more specifically looking to purchase something.

2. “The actual engagement ratio is close to 0 percent,” Lattin notes. With all those hundreds of millions of users, a very small percent (even a few thousand here would be a small percent) is out there “liking” and “retweeting” the marketing element of social media — even for big brands like Starbucks. The “real” posts “where there is actual feedback and involvement is close to zero,” he adds.

3. There’s no real way to engage users beyond superficial “like” levels; it’s tough for marketers to process comments and then engage those who have commented.

4. Facebook has too many groups to properly engage users beyond superficial means. “Facebook has become the flea market of online media. While everyone once in a while loves going to a flea market, no one would enjoy living in the middle of one.”

5. Buying actual ad space on Facebook is the best way to reach prospects — but that can be done on Google more effectively.

The case for
So, that’s the negative viewpoint. To be fair, there are plenty of positive angles, too; here at, we’ve covered them a few times before. In fact, it’s just that enthusiasm for social media that Lattin is presumably writing in response to.

What are your thoughts? Will social media continue to dominate the Internet marketing landscape? Or are companies overreaching by spending so much time and resources

And more to the point, has exposure on Facebook or Twitter worked to maximize your affiliate marketing reach? Sound off in the comments and let us know your experience.

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