Social Media Marketing appears to be the most recent buzz word for anybody looking to increase their online presence and sales, but is Social Media Marketing (SMM) all it’s cracked as much as be?
S.M.M companies are actually springing up all around the place these days and they’re telling anyone which will listen about how exactly incredibly important social media like Facebook twitter and YouTube are to your organization but, for the typical small to mid-sized business, does marketing to social networks really surpass all of the hype? Is spending a small fortune on hiring a SMM company well worth it? And has anyone really done their research on this before they hired someone to setup there Facebook business page? Some SMM companies are creating such things as Facebook business pages (which are free) for $600 to $1,000 or more and telling their clients that they don’t need a website because Facebook is the biggest social network in the world and everybody has a Facebook account.
Now while it could be true that Facebook is the largest social network in the world and yes, Facebook’s members are potential consumers, the real question is are they actually buying? Social media marketing companies are typical too happy to indicate the positives of social media like how lots of people use Facebook or just how many tweets were sent out a year ago and how lots of people watch YouTube videos etc. but have you been getting the entire picture? I once sat next to a SMM “expert” at a company seminar who was simply spruiking to anybody who came within earshot concerning the amazing benefits of creating a Facebook business page for business (with him of course) and selling on Facebook. So, intrigued by these “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 chose to have a good consider SMM regarding selling to see if it really worked, who made it happen 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 with several social networking challenges when potential clients would say that having a website sounds good but they had a Facebook business page and have been told by various sources (the ever present yet anonymous “they”) that social networks were the action to take, 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 just wanted it. For small and mid-sized business I recommended developing a quality website over any type of social network, why? Well it’s simple really because social media is Social Media, and social Networks are Social Networks they’re not business media and business networks (that could be similar to LinkedIn). I realize that sounds simple but it’s true and the statistics back it up.
The truth is that social media marketing fails to inform you that Facebook is a cultural network not a research engine and despite the amount of Facebook users and Google users being around the same, people don’t use Facebook in the same way that they work with a se like Google (which has around half the se market), Yahoo and Bing to look for business or products. They utilize 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 most social media users stated that they cannot engage with brands over social media at all and only around 23% actually purposefully use social media to interact with brands. Now out of all those who do use social media and who do interact with brands whether purposefully or not, most (66%) say they should feel a business is communicating honestly before they will interact.
So how will you use social media marketing? And is it even worth doing?
Well first of all I would say that having a well optimized website remains going to bring you far more business that social media generally particularly if you really are a small to mid-sized local business because far more people are likely to enter “hairdresser Port Macquarie” into a research engine like Google, Youtube Panel Yahoo and Bing than they ever will on any Social Media Site and if you don’t have a website you’re passing up on all of the potential business. However despite all of the (not so good) statistics I still think it is still a good idea for business to utilize social media just not in the same way that many of SMM professionals are today, Why? Because it’s clearly not working in the way they claim it does. Basically SMM Companies and Business all together looked over 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 several venture capital firms have made investments into Facebook and in October 2007, Microsoft announced so it had purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million. However since Facebook’s humble beginnings up to now (2012) both SMM Companies and Business have failed to truly capitalise on the huge amount of Facebook users online. The fact remains numbers does not 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? Of course 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 idea of SMM is working out for them but it’s working out for you? Well… statistically no, but that does not necessarily show that it never will.
I believe the major difference between social networks and search engines is intent. Those who use Google are deliberately looking for something so when they do a look for hairdressers that’s what they are seeking at that one time. With something like Facebook the primary intent is usually for connecting with friends and family. In October 2008, Mark Zuckerberg himself said “I don’t think social networks can be monetized in the same way that search (Search Engines) did… In four years from we now have to find out what the optimum model is. But that’s not our primary focus today” ;.One of the biggest problems business face with social networks and SMM is perception. Based on the IBM Institute for Business Value study there were “significant gaps between what businesses think consumers worry about and what consumers say they desire from their social media interactions with companies.” For example in today’s society people aren’t just going to hand you over there recommendations, Facebook likes, comments or details without getting something back for this, and so the old adage “what’s inside for me?” makes play. So the primary reason many people give for interacting with brands or business on social media is to get discounts, yet the brands and business themselves think the primary reason people interact with them on social media 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 media will increase advocacy, but only 38 % of consumers agree.
Companies need to find more innovative ways for connecting with social media if they want to see some kind of be a consequence of it. There have been some great initiatives shown 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 asked what they do once they interact with businesses or brands via social media, consumers list “getting discounts or coupons” and “purchasing products and services” as the utmost effective 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 superb 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 benefit is clearly in the favour of the potential customer & the fantastic trick to social media marketing is to offer without attempting to sell (or looking like your selling) unfortunately most social media marketing is focused the incorrect way.