Social Media Marketing (SMM), seems to be the newest buzzword for anyone who wants to improve their online presence and increase sales. But is it all that it claims to be?
S.M.M.M. companies are popping up everywhere these days, and they tell anyone who will listen how important social media such as YouTube and Facebook are for your business. But, for small- to medium-sized businesses, can marketing to social media really live up to the hype? Is it worth spending a little bit of money to hire a SMM company? Have they done any research before hiring someone to create their Facebook business page. SMM companies offer free Facebook business pages. They tell their clients they don’t need websites because Facebook is the largest social network and everyone has an account. While it is true that Facebook is the most popular social network, and its members may be potential customers, the real question here is whether they are actually buying. Social media marketing companies will be happy to tout the benefits of social media, such as how many people use Facebook, how many tweets were sent last year, and how many people view YouTube videos. But are you seeing the whole picture? One time, I was sitting next to an SMM “expert” at business seminar. He was talking to anyone who would listen about the incredible benefits of creating a Facebook page for small businesses (with him ofcourse) and selling on Facebook. Intriguing by the advice of the “experts”, I searched him on Facebook and found that he only had 11 friends. Not a good start. Being the research nut I am, I began to investigate SMM for selling. I wanted to find out if it worked and who it worked for. What about the business?
As a web designer, I was often faced with social networking problems. Potential clients would tell me that having a website sounds great, but they also had a Facebook page. They had been told repeatedly by “they” (the always present, yet anonymous “they”), that social networks were the best way to make sales online. However, it soon became clear that these potential clients didn’t really know why they needed them. Small and medium-sized businesses should always choose a high quality website over any social network. It’s easy because social media is Social Media and social networks are Social Networks. They are not business media or business networks (which would be more like LinkedIn). It sounds easy, but statistics prove it. Social media marketing doesn’t tell you that Facebook can be used as a social network, not a search tool. Despite the fact that there are roughly the same number of users on both Google and Facebook, users don’t use Facebook the same way they use search engines like Google (which has about half the search engine market), Yahoo! and Bing to find products or businesses. It is used to stay in touch with their family and friends, or for news and entertainment. According to the IBM Institute for Business Value, 55% of social media users said they don’t engage with brands on social media. Only 23% of those who use social media for business purposes actually interact with brands. The majority of people who use social media, and those who interact with brands purposefully or not (66%) said they need to trust that a company communicates honestly before they will engage.
How can you make social media marketing work for you? Is it worth doing?
First, a well-optimized website will bring you more business than social media. This is especially true if your business is small or medium in size. People are more likely to search for “hairdresser Port Macquarie”, which can be found on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. If you don’t have one you are missing out on all the potential business. Despite all the statistics, I believe it’s still a good idea to use social media for business. But not in the same way as many SMM professionals. It’s not working the way they claim. SMM Companies and Business as a whole saw social networks like Facebook as a new market ripe to be picked. When Facebook users began measuring in millions, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, invested US$500,000 (in June 2004) for 7%. Since then, a few venture capital funds have made investments in Facebook. In October 2007, Microsoft announced that it had bought a 1.6% stake of Facebook for $240million. SMM Companies and Business failed to capitalize on the enormous number of Facebook users since Facebook’s humble beginnings (2012). Numbers do not necessarily equal buyers. Does it make sense for a Social Media Marketing company to promote social networks? Absolutely. It is in the best interest of a Social Network such as Facebook for people to believe companies can sell massedly through advertising and marketing with them. It is. Facebook revealed in 2012 that its profits had increased by 65% to $1Billion over the previous year. Its revenue, which is mainly advertising, has risen almost 90% to $3.71 Billion. So clearly SMM is working for them. But it’s working for you. It is statistically not, but it does not necessarily mean it will never.
Intent is what I think makes social networks different from search engines. Google users are intentionally searching for something. For example, if they search for hairdressers in their area, that’s what they are seeking at the time. Facebook is a social network that allows people to connect with their family and friends. Mark Zuckerberg stated in October 2008 that social networks could not be monetized the same way search engines were. We will find the optimal model in three years. This is not the main focus of our current efforts. Perception is the greatest problem that businesses face when using social media and SMM. According to the IBM Institute for Business Value, there was a “significant gap” between what companies think consumers care about and what they actually want from their interactions with companies through social media. In today’s society, people don’t just hand over their Facebook comments, likes or details to get nothing in return. This is where the value of social media comes in. This is where social media comes in. While the majority of people say they interact with businesses or brands on social media to get discounts, the business and brands themselves believe that the main reason people use social media to connect with them is to learn more about their products. Brands and businesses receiving discounts are only 12th in their list of reasons people interact with them. While most businesses believe that social media will improve advocacy, only 38 percent of consumers agree.
If companies want to get results from social media, they need to come up with more creative ways to interact with it. The IBM study showed that there were many good initiatives that companies had implemented to improve their social media use. Consumers often list getting discounts or coupons and purchasing products and services as their top two activities when they interact with brands or businesses via social media. Cold Stone Creamery, a U.S. ice cream company, offered discounts on its products on their Facebook page. Twelpforce, a program by Best Buys USA, allows employees to respond to customers’ questions via Twitter. Both Cold Stone Creamery & Twelpforce clearly benefit the customer. The great trick to social marketing is to not try to sell or appear like you are selling. Unfortunately, most social media marketing efforts are wrongly focused.
It is difficult to build a buyer-consumer relationship through social media. This is why social media can be a great tool for businesses to increase their Google rankings. Businesses need to realize that it is not enough to just create a Facebook page for your business and hope for the best. SMM takes effort. Potential customers must see value in your social media efforts. Give them something that is worth their time and attention and you might get better results.