Social Media Marketing appears to be the most recent buzz word for anybody looking to boost their online presence and sales, but is Social Media Marketing (SMM) all it’s cracked as much as be?

S.M.M companies are now actually springing up all around the place nowadays and they’re telling anyone that may listen about how exactly incredibly important social networking like Facebook twitter and YouTube are to your business but, for the common small to mid-sized business, does marketing to social support systems really surpass all of the hype? Is spending a small fortune on hiring a SMM company worthy of 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 such things as Facebook business pages (which are free) for $600 to $1,000 or maybe more and telling their clients that they don’t need a website 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, instagram panel the actual question is are they really buying? Social media marketing marketing companies are all too happy to point out the positives of social networking like how many people use Facebook or exactly how many tweets were sent this past year and how many people watch YouTube videos etc. but have you been getting the total picture? I once sat alongside a SMM “expert” at a company seminar who was spruiking to anybody who came within earshot in regards to the amazing benefits of creating a Facebook business page for small company (with him of course) and selling on Facebook. So, intrigued by these “experts” advice I looked him on Facebook only to find he’d only 11 Facebook friends (not a good start). So being the research nut that I am, I chose to have a good consider SMM regarding selling to see if it actually worked, who made it happen work for and if it did why did Social Media Marketing work for them? And should business rely so heavily on social support systems for sales?

As a web developer I was constantly (and now increasingly) confronted by 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”) 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 just 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 will be similar to LinkedIn). I know that sounds simple but it’s true and the statistics back it up.

Truth be told that social networking marketing fails to inform you that Facebook is a social network not a search engine and despite the number of Facebook users and Google users being around the same, people don’t use Facebook in the same way that they work with a search engine like Google (which has around half the search engine market), Yahoo and Bing to find business or products. They use it to help keep touching family and friends and for news and entertainment. In a recently available study done by the IBM Institute for Business Value around 55% of most social networking users stated that they do not engage with brands over social networking at all and only around 23% actually purposefully use social networking to talk with brands. Now out of all individuals who do use social networking and who do talk with brands whether purposefully or not, the majority (66%) say they have to feel a company is communicating honestly before they will interact.

So how will you use social networking 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 networking generally especially if you certainly are a small to mid-sized local business because far more people are likely to 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 website you’re passing up on all of this potential business. However despite all of the (not so good) statistics I still believe it is still recommended for business to utilize social networking simply not in the same way that a lot of SMM professionals are today, Why? Because it’s clearly not working in the direction they claim it does. Basically SMM Companies and Business all together 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 business (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 until now (2012) both SMM Companies and Business have failed to truly capitalise on the huge quantity of Facebook users online. The stark reality is numbers does not equal buyers. Is it in a Social Media Marketing company’s best interest to talk social support systems up? Absolutely. Is it in a Social Network like Facebook’s best interests for individuals to think 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 last 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 imply 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 when they do a seek out hairdressers that’s what they are searching for at that specific time. With something like Facebook the primary intent is normally for connecting with friends and family. In October 2008, Mark Zuckerberg himself said “I don’t think social support systems may be monetized in the same way that search (Search Engines) did… In three years from we now have to determine what the optimum model is. But that’s not our primary focus today” ;.One of the 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 value and what consumers say they want from their social networking interactions with companies.” For instance 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, therefore the old adage “what’s in it for me personally?” has play. So the primary reason most people give for getting together with brands or business on social networking is for discounts, yet the brands and business themselves think the main reason people talk with them on social networking is to master about new products. For brands and business receiving discounts only ranks 12th on the set of reasons why people talk with them. Most businesses believe social networking increases advocacy, but only 38 % of consumers agree.

Companies need to find more innovative ways for connecting with social networking if they would like to see some kind of result from it. There were the right initiatives shown in the IBM study of companies that had gotten some kind of a handle on how best to use social networking with their advantage, keeping in mind that when asked what they do if they talk with businesses or brands via social networking, consumers list “getting discounts or coupons” and “purchasing products and services” as the very best 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 benefit is obviously in the favour of the potential customer & the great trick to social networking marketing is to market without trying to sell (or looking like your selling) unfortunately most social networking marketing is focused the wrong way.

Building a tangible buyer to consumer relationship via social networking is challenging and probably the most benefit to business’ using social networking to enhance their websites Google rankings. But business’ need to recognize that you can’t just setup a Facebook business page and hope for the best. SMM requires effort and potential customers need to see value in everything you have to offer via your social networking efforts let them have something worth their social interaction and time and then you can find better results.

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