I always seem to have to defend my opinion of Social Media, because people think I don’t think it works for marketing. That’s because, withstanding some exceptions, social media isn’t very good for marketing. It’s great for public relations and customer service, but for marketing… it just isn’t there yet.
Think about the people who go on Facebook. They go there to talk to friends or view videos or just to generally screw around. They did not show up with the intent of buying something from anyone. People who go on search engines, however, are looking for something very specific – and if what they’re looking for are concert tickets or printer ink cartridges, then you can be pretty sure they’re people looking to buy something.
So while social media does represent a massive audience, it doesn’t necessarily represent a mass of consumers – not right at that moment, anyway.
That’s where the PR angle comes in. If you create a Facebook Page or a Twitter account for your company, you can gather a fair number of people who are interested either in you or what you sell. They may be people you can get to buy something later, but right now they’re just declairing their fandom. You can also use it to speak out on negative press about you or your industry, or call out some news story that’s relevant to what you do.
But it’s important to remember none of this will sell for you, though – not directly, anyway. Getting a single conversion out of 1000 visits to your site can be pretty good for social media – depending on what it is you want them to do when they get to your site. If you’re just getting form sign ups, that can be pretty easy – and hopefully, the people filling it out are actually serious potential customers. But if you’re Twittering about your Six Sigma training, and hoping to get someone who reads it to click on over and purchase a $40,000 class for their employees… While I have no research to back it up, I don’t think you’ll get that to happen even if a girl jumps out of the computer screen onto that hiring manager’s lap.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking social media marketing is free, either – the site’s are free, the profiles are free, but the time invested in it can get expensive. In order to really use it so that other Twits or Facebook residents or whomever know you’re serious about it, requires a bare minimum of 15 minutes per day per profile. If you neglect it, your users will forget about you, or decide you’re just trying to spam them. (Gaining back that trust will take even more work then you had to do before you started.)
So social media marketing will require you to dedicate yourself to it, each day, provide value to your fans and followers so they stay wtih you, and not expect a direct return on your efforts. If you run some kind of special coupon code that you only use on Twitter, great – but that’s really just tracking. Social media didn’t get you the sale, the coupon did. (Though Twitter is a great place for coupon codes!) Also early adopters like Zappos and Dell do well with this, but that train left about a year and a half ago – now every company is on Twitter or Facebook it seems, and we the users of both aren’t as impressed by this as we used to be.
My point is this: Be realistic when you decide you’re going to go on social media to promote your brand and business. Don’t do it because it’s neat and all the kids are doing it. Do it because you know it will help people remember you when the do use a search engine to find what you sell. Use it because that one angry guy your customer service department couldn’t defuse also has 30,000 followers and when he bashes you it means something.
But don’t bet your farm on your profiles!