Social Media Marketing seems to be the most recent buzz word for everyone looking to boost 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 throughout the place these days and they’re telling anyone that may listen about how incredibly important social media marketing like Facebook twitter and YouTube are to your organization but, for the typical small to medium sized business, does marketing to social support systems really meet most of the hype? Is spending a small fortune on hiring a SMM company well worth it? And has anyone really done their research with this before they hired someone to create there Facebook business page? Some SMM companies are setting up such things as Facebook business pages (which are free) for $600 to $1,000 or maybe more and telling their clients which they don’t need a website because Facebook is the largest social network in the world and everybody includes a Facebook account.
Now while it may be true that Facebook is the biggest social network in the world and yes, Facebook’s members are potential consumers, the true question is are they actually buying? Social media marketing companies are too happy to point out the positives of social media marketing like how many individuals use Facebook or how many tweets were delivered last year and how many individuals watch YouTube videos etc. but have you been getting the total picture? I once sat next to a SMM “expert” at a business seminar who was simply spruiking to anybody who came within earshot concerning the amazing great things about setting up 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 up on Facebook only to get he had only 11 Facebook friends (not an excellent start). So being the research nut that I am, I decided to take a good look into SMM in regard to selling to see if it really worked, who made it happen work for and when it did why did Social Media Marketing work for them? And should business rely so heavily on social support systems for sales?
As a net developer I was constantly (and now increasingly) met with several social networking challenges when potential clients would claim 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”) cheap smm panel that social support systems 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 support systems or SMM to generate online sales, They just wanted it. For small and medium sized business I always recommended building a quality website over any kind of social network, why? Well it’s simple really because social media marketing is Social Media, and social Networks are Social Networks they’re not business media and business networks (that could be more like LinkedIn). I know that sounds simple but it’s true and the statistics back it up.
The fact is that social media marketing marketing fails to inform you that Facebook is a cultural network not a research engine and despite the number of Facebook users and Google users being around the exact same, people don’t use Facebook in the exact same way which they work with a search engine like Google (which has around half the search engine market), Yahoo and Bing to search for business or products. They put it to use 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 marketing users stated that they cannot engage with brands over social media marketing at all and only around 23% actually purposefully use social media marketing to talk with brands. Now out of all the those who do use social media marketing and who do talk with brands whether purposefully or not, most (66%) say they need to feel a company is communicating honestly before they will interact.
So how will you use social media marketing marketing? And is it even worth doing?
Well to start with I’d claim that having a well optimized website remains going to create you much more business that social media marketing typically particularly if you are a small to medium sized local business because far more individuals 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 if 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 believe that it is still advisable for business to utilize social media marketing not in the exact same way that many of SMM professionals are today, Why? Because it’s clearly not employed in the way they claim it does. Basically SMM Companies and Business in general looked over social support systems 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 company (in June 2004) and since them a few 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 until now (2012) both SMM Companies and Business have failed to genuinely capitalise on the huge number of Facebook users online. The simple truth is numbers does not equal buyers. Could it be in a Social Media Marketing company’s best interest to talk social support systems up? Absolutely. Could 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? Needless to say it is. In early 2012, Facebook disclosed that its profits had jumped 65% to $1 billion in the earlier year as its revenue which is mainly from advertising had jumped almost 90% to $3.71 billion so clearly the idea of SMM is exercising for them but it’s exercising for you personally? Well… statistically no, but that does not necessarily show that it never will.
I believe the major difference between social support systems and search engines is intent. People who use Google are deliberately searching for something so should they do a search for hairdressers that’s what they are seeking at that particular time. With something similar to Facebook the principal intent is usually for connecting with friends and family. In October 2008, Mark Zuckerberg himself said “I don’t think social support systems could be monetized in the exact same way that search (Search Engines) did… In four years from we now 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 support systems and SMM is perception. According to the IBM Institute for Business Value study there have been “significant gaps between what businesses think consumers worry about and what consumers say they need from their social media marketing 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 it, and so the old adage “what’s inside it for me personally?” makes play. So the principal reason many people give for reaching brands or business on social media marketing is to receive discounts, the brands and business themselves think the primary reason people talk with them on social media marketing is to understand about new products. For brands and business receiving discounts only ranks 12th on their list of explanations why people talk with them. Most businesses believe social media marketing increase advocacy, but only 38 % of consumers agree.
Companies need to get more innovative ways for connecting with social media marketing if they would like to see some sort of derive 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 media marketing for their advantage, bearing in mind that when asked what they do if they talk with businesses or brands via social media marketing, 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 good program launched by Best Buys in the U.S called Twelpforce where employees can react to customer’s questions via Twitter. With both Cold Stone Creamery and Twelpforce the advantage is obviously in the favour of the potential customer & the fantastic trick to social media marketing marketing is to sell without selling (or looking like your selling) unfortunately most social media marketing marketing is focused the wrong way.
Building a real buyer to consumer relationship via social media marketing is challenging and the absolute most benefit to business’ using social media marketing to improve their websites Google rankings. But business’ need to recognize that you can’t just setup a Facebook business page and a cure for the best. SMM requires effort and potential customers need to see value in what you have to offer via your social media marketing efforts give them something worth their social interaction and time and then you may get better results.