Social Media Marketing is apparently the newest buzz word for anyone 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 are telling anyone that may listen about how incredibly important social media 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 all the hype? Is spending a tiny fortune on hiring a SMM company really 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 creating things like Facebook business pages (which are free) for $600 to $1,000 or even more and telling their clients which they don’t need an internet site because Facebook is the largest social network in the world and everybody has a Facebook account.

Now while it may be true that Facebook is the largest social network in the world and yes, Facebook’s members are potential consumers, the true question is are they actually buying? Social networking marketing companies are all too happy to point out the positives of social media like how many individuals use Facebook or how many tweets were delivered a year ago and how many individuals watch YouTube videos etc. but are you getting the total picture? I once sat alongside a SMM “expert” at a small business seminar who was simply spruiking to anyone who came within earshot about the amazing benefits of 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 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 explore SMM in regard to selling to see if it actually worked, who made it happen benefit and if it did why did Social Media Marketing benefit them? And should business rely so heavily on social networks for sales?

As a web developer I was constantly (and now increasingly) met with several social networking challenges when potential clients would claim that having an internet site 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 just wanted it. For small and medium-sized business I always recommended developing a quality website over any kind of social network, why? Well it’s simple really because social media is Social Media, and social Networks are Social Networks they are not business media and business networks (that would 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 fails to share with you that Facebook is a cultural network not a search engine and despite how many Facebook users and Google users being around exactly the same, people don’t use Facebook in exactly the same way which they use a internet search engine like Google (which has around half the internet search engine market), Yahoo and Bing to find business or products. They put it to use to help keep in touch with family and friends and for news and entertainment. In a current study done by the IBM Institute for Business Value around 55% of 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 talk with brands. Now out of all of the 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 do you use social media marketing? And can it be even worth doing?

Well to begin with I would claim that having a well optimized website is still going to bring you a lot more business that social media typically especially if you certainly are a small to medium-sized local business because far more folks 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 an internet site you’re missing all of the potential business. However despite all the (not so good) statistics I still believe that it is still advisable for business to utilize social media not in exactly the same way that many of SMM professionals are today, Why? Because it’s clearly not employed in how they claim it does. Basically SMM Companies and Business all together looked over social networks like Facebook as a brand 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 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 quantity of Facebook users online. smm providers The truth is numbers doesn’t equal buyers. Could it be in a Social Media Marketing company’s best interest to talk social networks up? Absolutely. Could it be in a Social Network like Facebook’s best interests for folks to trust that companies can sell en masse by advertising and marketing together? Needless to say 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 idea of SMM is exercising for them but it’s exercising for you personally? Well… statistically no, but that will not necessarily mean that it never will.

I believe the major difference between social networks and search engines is intent. Individuals 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 such as Facebook the primary intent is normally for connecting with friends and family. In October 2008, Mark Zuckerberg himself said “I don’t think social networks can be monetized in exactly the same way that search (Search Engines) did… In 36 months from we have now to figure out what the optimum model is. But that’s not our primary focus today” ;.One of many 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 care about and what consumers say they want from their social media 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 it, so the old adage “what’s inside for me personally?” makes play. So the primary reason a lot of 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 talk with them on social media is to learn about new products. For brands and business receiving discounts only ranks 12th on their list of reasoned explanations why people talk with them. Most businesses believe social media increase advocacy, but only 38 % of consumers agree.

Companies need to get more innovative ways for connecting with social media if they want to see some sort of result from it. There were some great initiatives shown in the IBM study of firms that had gotten some sort of a handle on how to use social media with their advantage, keeping in mind that when 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 most truly 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 advantage is actually in the favour of the potential customer & the truly amazing trick to social media marketing is to market without attempting to sell (or looking like your selling) unfortunately most social media marketing is focused the wrong way.

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