Social media was heralded as the greatest thing to happen to brand marketing since, well, since ever. Consumer-generated advocacy and publicity, direct conversations with customers and advocates, and free advertising through YouTube and other social networking sites were supposed to turn garage-based businesses into mega-conglomerates and save businesses tens of thousands in marketing costs.
Social media has certainly revolutionized the manner in which brands engage their audiences; however, the windfall predicted for businesses has fallen short for most. Viral videos can’t be created on-demand; you can neither predict nor control online brand conversations, and social media marketing is most definitely not free.
Potential and existing customers, as well as influencers and advocates, are certainly more accessible to more businesses but is it easier to reach them? Is it more cost-effective? Does it drive more sales?
Social Media May Not Be Helping Your Business
Has social media helped businesses? This is the conversation that we’ve been having with clients lately. Here’s a glimpse into those conversations.
Has social media improved brand conversations or simply diluted them?
Certainly we have more conversations with more people but is that a sign of success? Are they the right customers? Are they in the buying cycle? Are they the most profitable customers? When I look at my own and my customers’ experiences, I have to conclude that social media has definitely diluted conversations.Remember that we’re speaking about business value here. Our goal in marketing is not just to drive more leads but better, more convertible leads. Social media marketers who push their clients to actively engage customers in all the current and hottest social media networks are doing them a disservice. There is a strong chance that the brand and the conversation are being spread too thinly to be of value.
Is this direct access to customers online more cost effective?
The more social networks a brand is engaged in the larger its social graph becomes; the larger the social graph becomes the less focused the conversation, which then requires more resources to filter and segment business value from noise. There’s an indirect correlation between community building and business success; however, there are too few case studies that directly and accurately move this link from correlation to causation. So what is the investment being gambled? Until social media marketers get over themselves, and businesses start to integrate online conversations – and the tools and people that manage them – into customer life cycle management, the longer we’ll waste budget on social media experimentation.
Has social media engagement improved customer insights?
Social media marketers tout the virtues of crowdsourcing and big data, yet the value in the growing amount of online data is costly and difficult to mine. We may have created a monster that we just can’t control. Due in part to the limitations of big data analysis tools and software, the amount of unrelated consumer-generated data being produced and collected, and the number of sources for which this data is produced and collected from, data science models are unpredictable.Cloud and hardware storage firms continue to warn us that the amount of data being produced around the world is growing at an exponential rate – and that we must race to buy into storage devices and services. We’re spending too much time collecting data and too little time culling that data and its sources. The result? We’re not gaining significant increases in customer insights compared to pre-social media days.
Has social media marketing driven better marketing and business results than traditional marketing?
If we’re being honest, comparing the amount of time and money many businesses spend experimenting on social media with a list of measurable and repeatable bottom-line results, will answer this question. But it requires honesty, not the typical spin that marketers and PR specialists put on the campaign results.
The fact is that while social media has opened up a new world of possibilities, many marketers are still chasing quick-fix, ego-driven campaigns.
Experimentation is to be expected with any new technology or medium in which businesses can engage consumers; however, we’re now at a point where we’ve had enough experimentation for some simple truths to be realized.
- The biggest online community or social graph does not win.
- Social media is not a magic bullet for small or large businesses. It will not guarantee success.
- Social media cannot be run as a standalone initiative. It must be fully integrated into the overall operations of the business and linked to customer lifetime value.
- Engaging “social media influencers” who have tens of thousands of followers does not guarantee long-term business value – or short term sales, for that matter.
- Social media marketing is not free; the opposite is true in fact. The volume of people generating content across an unlimited number of networks through an ever-growing list of devices means that consumer insights and value driven from these channels are faulty, time-consuming, and costly.
Should We Stop Marketing In Social?
The obvious next question is: “Does this mean we should stop investing in social media marketing?” The answer is no.
Social media is not a panacea for marketers seeking to improve their business’s fortunes; however there is value there.
What’s required is an adjustment in how we look at the vastness of social media. Instead of spreading audience and conversations across every new online platform that emerges, consider focusing on just one or two that can be marketed – and managed – well. Instead of relying on third party social networks to host (and own) your brand-consumer conversations, build stronger communities on owned-properties like your corporate blog or dedicated communities like the ones available from TicTalking Communities.
Build, own, and manage conversations with qualified prospects, customers, and advocates that can be more easily analyzed and converted to true business value. It’s not rocket science. In fact, it’s just plain old marketing…you know, the kind we practiced before social media.
Has the value of social media marketing truly been realized by businesses today?
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego