Social Media Marketing is apparently the latest buzz word for anyone looking to increase their online presence and sales, but is Social Media Marketing (SMM) all it is cracked around be?
S.M.M companies are now springing up all over the place nowadays and they’re telling anyone that’ll listen about how precisely incredibly important social networking like Facebook twitter and YouTube are to your company but, for the typical small to mid-sized business, does marketing to social support systems really meet all 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 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 even more and telling their clients they don’t need a web site because Facebook is the biggest social network on the planet and everybody includes a Facebook account.
Now while it might be true that Facebook is the largest social network on the planet and yes, Facebook’s members are potential consumers, the real question is are they actually buying? Social media marketing companies are too happy to point out the positives of social networking like how many people use Facebook or how many tweets were delivered this past year and how many people watch 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 anybody who came within earshot in regards to the amazing benefits of setting up a Facebook business page for small 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 a good start). So being the research nut that I’m, I decided to take a good consider SMM in regard to selling to see if it actually worked, who did it benefit and if it did why did Social Media Marketing benefit them? And should business rely so heavily on social support systems for sales?
As a net developer I was constantly (and now increasingly) confronted with several social networking challenges when potential clients would claim that having a web site sounds good but they’d a Facebook business page and had been told by various sources (the ever present yet anonymous “they”) that social support systems were the move to make, 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 only wanted it. For small and mid-sized business I always recommended creating a quality website over any type 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 would 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 cultural network not a search engine and despite the amount of Facebook users and Google users being around the same, people don’t use Facebook in the same way they use a se like cheap panel Google (which has around half the se market), Yahoo and Bing to find business or products. They utilize it to keep in touch with family and friends and for news and entertainment. In a recent 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 connect to brands. Now out of all those who do use social networking and who do connect to brands whether purposefully or not, most (66%) say they have to feel an organization is communicating honestly before they will interact.
So how will you use social networking marketing? And is it even worth doing?
Well to begin with I’d claim that having a well optimized website remains going to create you a lot more business that social networking generally particularly if you really are a small to mid-sized local business because far more individuals will type in “hairdresser Port Macquarie” into a search engine like Google, Yahoo and Bing than they ever will on any Social Media Site and if you don’t have a web site you’re missing all of that potential business. However despite all the (not so good) statistics I still believe that it is still a good idea for business to make use of social networking not in the 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 as a whole looked at social support systems like Facebook as a new 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 several 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 simple truth is numbers doesn’t equal buyers. Can it be in a Social Media Marketing company’s best interest to talk social support systems up? Absolutely. Can it be in a Social Network like Facebook’s best interests for individuals to believe that companies can sell en masse by advertising and marketing using them? Of course it is. In early 2012, Facebook disclosed that its profits had jumped 65% to $1 billion in the earlier year as its revenue which will be mainly from advertising had jumped almost 90% to $3.71 billion so clearly the thought of SMM is exercising for them but it is exercising for you? Well… statistically no, but that will not necessarily show that it never will.
I think the major difference between social support systems and search engines is intent. People who use Google are deliberately searching for something so if they do a seek out hairdressers that’s what they are looking for at that specific time. With something such as 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 same way that search (Search Engines) did… In 36 months from we have now to determine what the optimum model is. But that’s not our primary focus today” ;.Among the biggest problems business face with social support systems 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 need from their social networking interactions with companies.” As an example in today’s society people are not just going handy 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 personally?” comes into play. So the principal reason a lot of people give for reaching brands or business on social networking is to get discounts, the brands and business themselves think the primary reason people connect to them on social networking is to master about new products. For brands and business receiving discounts only ranks 12th on the set of reasoned explanations why people connect to them. Most businesses believe social networking increase advocacy, but only 38 % of consumers agree.
Companies need to find more innovative ways for connecting with social networking if they wish to see some type of be a consequence of it. There have been some great initiatives shown in the IBM study of firms that had gotten some type of a handle on how to use social networking to their advantage, remember that after asked what they do when they connect to businesses or brands via social networking, consumers list “getting discounts or coupons” and “purchasing products and services” as the most truly effective 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 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 actually in the favour of the potential customer & the fantastic 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.