Social Media Marketing seems to be the newest buzz word for anyone looking to increase their online presence and sales, but is Social Media Marketing (SMM) all it’s cracked up to be?
S.M.M companies are now springing up throughout the place these days and they’re telling anyone that will listen about how incredibly important social networking like Facebook twitter and YouTube are to your organization but, for the common small to medium-sized business, does marketing to social networks really surpass most of the hype? Is spending a small fortune on hiring a SMM company worthy of it? And has anyone really done their research with this before they hired someone to setup there Facebook business page? Some SMM companies are establishing such things as Facebook business pages (which are free) for $600 to $1,000 or even more and telling their clients which they don’t need a website because Facebook is the largest social network in the world and everybody features a Facebook account.
Now while it might be true that Facebook is the largest social network in the world and yes, Facebook’s members are potential consumers, the actual question is are they actually buying? Social networking marketing companies are all too happy to indicate the positives of social networking like how many people use Facebook or how many tweets were sent out a year ago and how many people watch YouTube videos etc. but have you been getting the total picture? I once sat next to a SMM “expert” at a small business seminar who had been spruiking to anybody who came within earshot concerning the amazing great things about establishing a Facebook business page for small business (with him of course) and selling on Facebook. So, intrigued by the aforementioned “experts” advice I looked him through to Facebook only to find he had only 11 Facebook friends (not an excellent start). So being the investigation nut that I am, I made a decision to take a good consider SMM in regard to selling to see if it really worked, who did it benefit and when it did why did Social Media Marketing benefit them? And should business rely so heavily on social networks for sales?
As a website developer I was constantly (and now increasingly) confronted by several social networking challenges when potential clients would say that having a website sounds good but they had a Facebook business 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 needs it became quite clear that those potential clients didn’t actually know why they needed social networks or SMM to generate online sales, They only wanted it. For small and medium-sized business I usually recommended building a quality website over any kind of social network, why? Well it’s simple really because social networking is Social Media, and social Networks are Social Networks they’re not business media and business networks (that will be a lot more like LinkedIn). I understand that sounds simple but it’s true and the statistics back it up.
The fact is that social networking marketing fails to tell you that Facebook is a social network not a search engine and despite how many Facebook users and Google users being around the same, people don’t use Facebook in the same way which they use a se like Google (which has around half the se market), Yahoo and Bing to look for business or products. They use it to help keep in touch with family and friends or for news and entertainment. In a recently available study done by the IBM Institute for Business Value around 55% of social networking users stated that they cannot engage with brands over social networking at all and only around 23% actually purposefully use social networking to interact with brands. Now out of all of the individuals who do use social networking and who do interact with brands whether purposefully or not, almost all (66%) say they need to feel an organization is communicating honestly before they’ll interact.
So how will you use social networking marketing? And is it even worth doing?
Well to begin with I would say that having a well optimized website continues to be going to bring you far more business that social networking generally particularly if you certainly are a small to medium-sized local business because far more people are going to key in “hairdresser Port Macquarie” into a search engine like Google, Yahoo and Bing than they ever will on any Social Media Site and in the event that you don’t have a website you’re missing all of that potential business. However despite most of the (not so good) statistics I still think it is still recommended for business to make use of social networking not in the same way that many of SMM professionals are today, Why? Because it’s clearly not in how they claim it does. Basically SMM Companies and Business all together looked at social networks like Facebook as a fresh market ripe for the picking and when Facebook started getting users measured by the millions PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel invested US$500,000 for 7% of the organization (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 purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million. smm panel However since Facebook’s humble beginnings up to now (2012) both SMM Companies and Business have failed to seriously capitalise on the huge amount of Facebook users online. The fact remains numbers doesn’t equal buyers. Can it be in a Social Media Marketing company’s best interest to talk social networks up? Absolutely. Can it be in a Social Network like Facebook’s best interests for individuals to trust that companies can sell en masse by advertising and marketing together? Obviously it is. In early 2012, Facebook disclosed that its profits had jumped 65% to $1 billion in the previous year as its revenue which is mainly from advertising had jumped almost 90% to $3.71 billion so clearly the thought of SMM is working out for them but it’s working out for you personally? Well… statistically no, but that will not necessarily show that it never will.
I think the major difference between social networks and search engines is intent. Individuals who use Google are deliberately searching for something so when they do a look for hairdressers that’s what they are searching for at that one time. With something similar to Facebook the principal intent is normally to connect with friends and family. In October 2008, Mark Zuckerberg himself said “I don’t think social networks could be monetized in the same way that search (Search Engines) did… In three years from we now have to determine what the optimum model is. But that is not our primary focus today” ;.Among the biggest problems business face with social networks and SMM is perception. Based on the IBM Institute for Business Value study there have been “significant gaps between what businesses think consumers value and what consumers say they desire from their social networking interactions with companies.” For example in today’s society people aren’t just going handy you over there recommendations, Facebook likes, comments or details without getting something back for this, and so the old adage “what’s in it for me personally?” has play. So the principal reason many people give for interacting with brands or business on social networking is to get discounts, the brands and business themselves think the main reason people interact with them on social networking is to master about new products. For brands and business receiving discounts only ranks 12th on their set of explanations why people interact with them. Most businesses believe social networking increases advocacy, but only 38 % of consumers agree.
Companies need to find more innovative ways to connect with social networking if they want to see some sort of result from it. There were good quality initiatives shown in the IBM study of firms that had gotten some sort of a handle on the best way to use social networking to their advantage, remember that when asked what they do when they interact with businesses or brands via social networking, consumers list “getting discounts or coupons” and “purchasing products and services” as the top two activities, respectively a U.S ice cream company called Cold Stone Creamery offered discounts on their products on their Facebook page. Alternatively there is a great program launched by Best Buys in the U.S called Twelpforce where employees can respond to customer’s questions via Twitter. With both Cold Stone Creamery and Twelpforce the power is actually in the favour of the potential customer & the great trick to social networking marketing is to sell without attempting to sell (or looking like your selling) unfortunately most social networking marketing is focused the wrong way.
Building a tangible buyer to consumer relationship via social networking is challenging and the most benefit to business’ using social networking to enhance their websites Google rankings. But business’ need certainly to recognize that you can’t just setup a Facebook business page and expect the best. SMM requires effort and potential customers need certainly to see value in that which you have to provide via your social networking efforts provide them with something worth their social interaction and time and then you can find better results.