by addmustard chairman and managing director Lawrence Hunt.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle to clearly define the value and purpose of social media for brands, considering its indomitable rise and ubiquity.

No doubt Linkedin is helping recruiters and candidates to find each other more efficiently, and Instagram has propelled entrepreneurs like Zoella to fame and fortune. But do Facebook, Twitter, Vibe, Pinterest and the plethora of social platforms available really deliver meaningful sales for brands?

The answer seems simple to me: when a consumer is using social media, surely they are, by definition, socialising. Like being in the pub. Or a café.

However when using a search engine (Google) or e-commerce site (Amazon) they are in the shopping centre or on the high street. Coming to these spaces shows a specific purpose or intent to buy something (or at least browse).

There is no doubt that social media has a part to play in the online purchasing decision: customer service and customer feedback (sometimes painfully public) allow companies to differentiate their service. But there are few case studies of successful brand building, increasing product awareness, and personal recommendations driven by social media and even fewer of businesses being built on this channel.

Growth businesses like Amazon, Expedia, ASOS, Booking.com, and Ocado have – on the whole – used search marketing and later supplemented with above the line. This has allowed them to build themselves into well recognised and successful brands. AirBNB, Uber, and Deliveroo initially used word of mouth as their principal marketing channel, but I don’t hear of many businesses shouting about Facebook et al as the reason for their success.

I read lots of rubbish about massive reach, explosive engagement and building global communities, but just I don’t see the results. We all question the value of every marketing dollar spent (at least we should) and want to understand the return. So far, however, I just don’t see the value of investing in this channel (unless you are marketing beauty products to teenagers – well done Zoella).