Social media is such a hot topic in the marketing world. People are spending several hours per week (or day) updating their profiles, looking for connections, posting, and more in the hopes of building their business.
While proclamations of marketing success due to social media efforts abound, I am skeptical about the merit found in these claims. Yes, I am absolutely positive that there are a lucky few that have landed a great sale based as a result of a post on social media. Nevertheless, the majority of us have not had this type of success.
Working with clients on their marketing plan, I have heard claims of great social networking success. When we drill down into the statistics of what was achieved, however, more often than not, the greatest success from these networking sites lies in the number of connections, friends or followers that have been amassed. Generally speaking, no actual personal contact with these people has been achieved – in fact, most of the people on these lists are completely unknown to the account holder. We are making “friends” with people that we have never met, don’t know, and will, in all likelihood never meet. In some cases, we will never even know their real name!
If one of your marketing goals is to grow your social media fan base, then by all means, count this type of activity as a win. If, however, you are interested in more traditional business growth as defined by increased sales, customer loyalty, an expanded customer base and better branding, then perhaps more effort needs to be put into other marketing outlets. After all, you may have tens of thousands of people following you on Twitter, but if you're not selling to these folks, can you really say that this is a successful marketing tool for you?
Don’t misunderstand, I do believe that social media sites have a definite place within a comprehensive, well-thought out, integrated marketing plan. Active engagement with people and shares of your posts are a great boost to your branding efforts and may even have an effect on your website's SEO. Social media can also be used to drive traffic to other marketing media in your arsenal (e.g. your website, a promotional event, a TV/radio/newspaper advertisement).
If social media is a part of a well-thought out, comprehensive marketing plan and your branding and message are consistent and professional within the parameters of those sites, then you can certainly glean some type of success from them. If, however, you just sit at your computer updating your sites and letting people know of your latest adventures in anticipation of your thousands of connections, friends, and followers doing business with you, then you may be in for a very long wait.