Social Media Marketing appears 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 around be?
S.M.M companies are actually springing up all around the place today and they’re telling anyone that will listen about how incredibly 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 surpass all the hype? Is spending a small fortune on hiring a SMM company really worth it? And has anyone really done their research on this before they hired someone to create there Facebook business page? Some SMM companies are creating things such as Facebook business pages (which are free) for $600 to $1,000 or more and telling their clients which they don’t need a website because Facebook is the greatest social network on earth and everybody features a Facebook account.
Now while it might be true that Facebook is the greatest social network on earth and yes, Facebook’s members are potential consumers, the real question is are they really buying? Social media marketing companies are all too happy to point out the positives of social media like how many individuals use Facebook or just how many tweets were delivered last year and how many individuals watch YouTube videos etc. but have you been getting the entire picture? I once sat close to a SMM “expert” at a small business seminar who had been spruiking to anyone who came within earshot about the amazing great things about creating a Facebook business page for small business (with him of course) and selling on Facebook. So, intrigued by these “experts” advice I looked him up on Facebook only to get he’d only 11 Facebook friends (not an excellent start). So being the investigation nut that I am, I made a decision to take a good look into SMM in regards to selling to see if it really worked, who achieved it work for and when it did why did Social Media Marketing work for them? And should business rely so heavily on social networks for sales?
As a net 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. smm panel For small and medium-sized business I always recommended creating 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 more like LinkedIn). I understand that sounds simple but it’s true and the statistics back it up.
Truth be told that social media marketing fails to share with you that Facebook is a social network not a research engine and despite the amount of Facebook users and Google users being around the exact same, people don’t use Facebook in the exact same way which they make use of a search engine like Google (which has around half the search engine market), Yahoo and Bing to search for business or products. They utilize it to keep in touch with family and friends or for news and entertainment. In a current study done by the IBM Institute for Business Value around 55% of most social media users stated that they do not engage with brands over social media at all and only around 23% actually purposefully use social media to talk with brands. Now out of all individuals who do use social media and who do talk with brands whether purposefully or not, almost all (66%) say they should feel a company is communicating honestly before they will interact.
So how will you use social media marketing? And can it be 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 media generally particularly if you really are a small to medium-sized local business because far more people are likely to key in “hairdresser Port Macquarie” into a research 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 passing up on all of this potential business. However despite all the (not so good) statistics I still believe it is still advisable for business to use social media not in the exact same way that a lot of SMM professionals are today, Why? Because it’s clearly not working in how they claim it does. Basically SMM Companies and Business in general viewed 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 business (in June 2004) and since them a couple of 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. However since Facebook’s humble beginnings up to now (2012) both SMM Companies and Business have failed to truly capitalise on the huge number of Facebook users online. The reality is 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 people to believe that companies can sell en masse by advertising and marketing using them? Obviously it is. In early 2012, Facebook disclosed that its profits had jumped 65% to $1 billion in the last year as its revenue that 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? Well… statistically no, but that doesn’t necessarily show that it never will.
I think the major difference between social networks and search engines is intent. People who use Google are deliberately looking for something so when they do a look for hairdressers that’s what they are seeking at that specific time. With something similar to Facebook the primary intent is generally to connect with friends and family. In October 2008, Mark Zuckerberg himself said “I don’t think social networks could be monetized in the exact same way that search (Search Engines) did… In four years from now we have to figure out what the optimum model is. But that is not our primary focus today” ;.One of many biggest problems business face with social networks and SMM is perception. In line with the IBM Institute for Business Value study there were “significant gaps between what businesses think consumers care about and what consumers say they need from their social media interactions with companies.” As an 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, so the old adage “what’s inside it for me?” comes into play. So the primary reason many people give for interacting with brands or business on social media is to receive discounts, the brands and business themselves think the key reason people talk with them on social media is to master about new products. For brands and business receiving discounts only ranks 12th on the list of reasons why people talk with them. Most businesses believe social media will increase advocacy, but only 38 % of consumers agree.
Companies need to get more innovative ways to connect with social media if they wish to see some type of derive from it. There have been good quality initiatives shown in the IBM study of companies that had gotten some type of a handle on how best to use social media with their advantage, bearing in mind that whenever asked what they do once they talk with businesses or brands via social media, 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 the products on the 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 benefit is actually in the favour of the potential customer & the great trick to social media marketing is to offer without trying to sell (or looking like your selling) unfortunately most social media marketing is focused the incorrect way.