Social Media Marketing, Truth and Lies

Social Media Marketing is apparently the newest buzz word for anybody looking to boost their online presence and sales, but is Social Media Marketing (SMM) all it’s cracked up to be?

S.M.M companies are now actually springing up all over the place these days and they are telling anyone that will listen about how exactly incredibly important social media like Facebook twitter and YouTube are to your organization but, for the typical small to mid-sized business, does marketing to social networks really surpass most of the hype? Is spending a small fortune on hiring a SMM company worthy of it? And has anyone really done their research on 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 maybe more and telling their clients that they do not need a website because Facebook is the largest social network in the world and everybody features 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 real question is are they really buying? Social media marketing companies are too happy to indicate the positives of social media like how many individuals use Facebook or exactly 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 close to a SMM “expert” at a company seminar who had been spruiking to anyone who came within earshot about the amazing great things about 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 had only 11 Facebook friends (not an excellent start). So being the research nut that I’m, I decided to take a good explore SMM in regard to selling to see if it really worked, who did it benefit and when 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) confronted with 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 networks were the action to take, 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 only wanted it. For small and mid-sized business I usually 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 a lot 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 inform you that Facebook is a social network not a search engine and despite how many Facebook users and Google users being around the same, people don’t use Facebook in the same way they work with a internet search engine like Google (which has around half the internet search engine market), Yahoo and Bing to search for business or products. They put it to use to help keep touching family and friends and for news and entertainment. In a recent 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 connect to brands. Now out of all of the individuals who do use social media and who do connect to brands whether purposefully or not, almost all (66%) say they need to feel an organization is communicating honestly before they’ll interact.

So how will you use social media marketing? And could it be even worth doing?

Well to start with I would claim that having a well optimized website is still going to create you far more business that social media typically especially if you really are a small to mid-sized local business because far more people are likely to enter “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 most of the (not so good) statistics I still believe that it is still recommended for business to make use of social media simply not in the same way that a lot of SMM professionals are today, Why? Because it’s clearly not employed in the way they claim it does. smm panel Basically SMM Companies and Business in general viewed 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 company (in June 2004) and since them a few 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 seriously capitalise on the huge amount of Facebook users online. The reality is numbers does not 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 people to trust that companies can sell en masse by advertising and marketing with them? Needless to say it is. In early 2012, Facebook disclosed that its profits had jumped 65% to $1 billion in the previous year as its revenue that will be mainly from advertising had jumped almost 90% to $3.71 billion so clearly the thought of SMM is training for them but it’s training for you? Well… statistically no, but that will not necessarily imply that it never will.

I believe the major difference between social networks and search engines is intent. Individuals who use Google are deliberately searching for something so should they do a look for hairdressers that’s what they are seeking at that particular time. With something such as Facebook the principal intent is normally for connecting with friends and family. In October 2008, Mark Zuckerberg himself said “I don’t think social networks could be monetized in the same way that search (Search Engines) did… In 36 months 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 networks and SMM is perception. Based on the IBM Institute for Business Value study there were “significant gaps between what businesses think consumers value and what consumers say they need from their social media interactions with companies.” For example in the present society people are not just going handy you over there recommendations, Facebook likes, comments or details without getting something back for it, and so the old adage “what’s in it for me personally?” comes into play. So the principal reason many people give for reaching brands or business on social media is to receive discounts, the brands and business themselves think the main reason people connect to them on social media is to master about new products. For brands and business receiving discounts only ranks 12th on the set of reasons why people connect to them. Most businesses believe social media increases advocacy, but only 38 % of consumers agree.

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