Social Media Marketing looks like the newest buzz word for anyone looking to improve their online presence and sales, but is Social Media Marketing (SMM) all it’s cracked up to be?
Social Media Marketing companies are currently springing up around the place these days and they are telling anyone that will listen about how amazingly important social media like Facebook twitter and YouTube are to your company but, for the typical small to medium sized business, does marketing to social networks really live up to all of the hype? Is spending a small fortune on hiring a SMM business truly worth it? And has anyone actually done their research on this before they hired someone to set up there Facebook business page? Some SMM companies are setting up things like Facebook business pages (which are free) for $600 to $1,000 or more and telling their clients that they do not need a web site because Facebook is the largest social network in the world and everybody has a Facebook account. Now while it may be true that Facebook is the biggest social network on the planet and yes, Facebook’s members are prospective consumers, the real question is are they really buying? Social media marketing firms are all too very happy to point out the positives of social media like how many folks use Facebook or how many tweets were sent out last year and how many people see YouTube videos etc. but are you getting the total picture? I once sat next to a SMM “expert” at a business seminar who was spruiking to anyone who came within earshot about the incredible advantages of setting up a Facebook business page for small-scale business (with him of course) and selling on Facebook. So, intrigued by the aforementioned “pros” advice I looked him up on Facebook simply to find he had only 11 Facebook friends (not a great beginning). So being the research nut that I’m, I chose to take a good look into SMM in regard to selling to see if it actually worked, who did it work for and if it did why did Social Media Marketing work for them? And should business rely so heavily on social networks for sales?
As a web developer I was always (and now increasingly) confronted with several social networking challenges when prospective customers would say that having a website sounds good but they had a Facebook company page and had been told by various sources (the ever present yet anonymous “they”) that social networks were the thing to do, but after discussing their demands it became quite clear that those prospective clients did not actually know why they desired social networks or SMM to generate on-line sales, They merely wanted it. For small and moderate sized business I constantly recommended assembling a quality site over any type of social network, why? Well it is simple actually because social media is Social Media, and social Networks are Social Networks they are not business media and company networks (that would be more like LinkedIn). Go to this website for invaluable information covering Lifehack. I know that sounds easy but it is accurate and the data back it up. The fact is that social media marketing does not inform you that Facebook is a social network not a search engine and despite the number of Facebook users and Google users being round the same, folks don’t use Facebook in the same way that they use a search engine like Google (which has around half the search engine market), Yahoo and Bing to search for company or products. They use it to stay in contact with family and friends or for news and entertainment. In a recent study done by the IBM Institute for Business Value around 55% of all social media users stated that they don’t participate with brands over social media at all and only around 23% really purposefully use social media to interact with brands. Now out of all of the folks who do use social media and who do interact with brands whether purposefully or not, the majority (66%) say they must feel a company is conveying honestly before they will interact.
So just how do you use social media marketing? And is it even worth doing?
Well first of all I ‘d say that having a well optimized site remains going to bring you much more business that social media in most events especially if you’re a small to moderate sized local company because much more people are going to type in “hairdresser Port Macquarie” into an internet search engine like Google, Yahoo and Bing than they ever will on any Social Media Site and should you not have a site you’re missing out on all of that potential company. However despite all the (not so good) numbers I nevertheless believe that it’s still recommended for business to use social media simply not in the exact same manner that a large amount of SMM professionals are today, Why? Because it’s clearly not working in how they claim it does. Fundamentally SMM Businesses and Company as a whole looked at social networks like Facebook as a fresh market ready for the picking and when Facebook started getting users quantified by the millions PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel invested US$500,000 for 7% of the business (in June 2004) and since them a few venture capital firms have made investments into Facebook and in October 2007, Microsoft announced that it had bought a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million. Yet since Facebook’s humble beginnings up until now (2012) both SMM Firms and Company have failed to truly capitalise on the large numbers of Facebook users online. The truth is amounts does not equal buyers. Is it in a Social Media Marketing business’s best interest to talk social networks up? Absolutely. Is it in a Social Network like Facebook’s best interests for individuals to think that businesses can sell en masse by advertising and marketing with them? Of course it is. In early 2012, Facebook divulged that its profits had soared 65% to $1 billion in the prior year as its earnings which is mainly from advertising had soared almost 90% to $3.71 billion so clearly the notion of SMM is working out for them but it is working out for you? Well… statistically no, however that does not automatically mean that it never will.
I believe the significant difference between social networks and search engines is motive. Those who use Google are deliberately hunting for something so if they do a search for hairdressers that is what they’re looking for at that special time. With something similar to Facebook the main intention is usually to connect with friends and family. In October 2008, Mark Zuckerberg himself said “I do not believe social networks can be monetized in the same manner that search (Search Engines) did… In three years from now we have to determine what the optimum model is. But that is not our main focus today”. One of the biggest problems company face with social networks and SMM is perception. Based on the IBM Institute for Business Value study there were “significant differences between what businesses think consumers care about and what consumers say they need from their social media interactions with firms.” For example in the current society people aren’t just going to hand you over there recommendations, Facebook enjoys, opinions or details without getting something back for it, so the old adage “what is in it for me?” comes into play. So the primary reason many people give for interacting with brands or company on social media is to receive reductions, yet the brands and company themselves think the main reason folks socialize with them on social media is to learn about new products. For brands and company receiving reductions only ranks 12th on their record of reasons why individuals socialize with them. Most businesses consider social media will raise advocacy, but only 38 % of consumers agree.
Companies have to find more innovative approaches to connect with social media if they would like to see some sort of result from it. There were some good initiatives revealed in the IBM study of companies that had gotten some kind of a handle on how best to use social media to their advantage, bearing in mind that when questioned what they do when they interact with businesses or brands via social media, consumers list “getting discounts or coupons” and “buying products and services” as the top two tasks, respectively a U.S ice cream business called Cold Stone Creamery offered discounts on their products on their Facebook page. Alternatively there’s a superb program started by Best Buys in the U.S called Twelpforce where workers can answer to customer’s questions via Twitter. With both Cold Stone Creamery and Twelpforce the benefit is certainly in the favour of the possible customer & the great trick to social media marketing would be to sell without attempting to sell (or looking like your selling) regrettably most social media marketing is focused the wrong way.