Social Media Marketing, Truth and Lies

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Social Media Marketing is apparently the newest buzz word for everyone 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 springing up all over the place these days and they’re telling anyone that may listen about how exactly incredibly important social media like Facebook twitter and YouTube are to your business but, for the typical small to mid-sized business, does marketing to social support systems really live up to all the hype? Is spending a small fortune on hiring a SMM company really worth it? And has anyone really done their research on this before they hired someone to create there Facebook business page? Some SMM companies are establishing such things as Facebook business pages (which are free) for $600 to $1,000 or even more and telling their clients that they don’t really need a web site because Facebook is the greatest social network on the planet and everybody includes a Facebook account. Now while it might be true that Facebook is the largest social network on the planet and yes, Facebook’s members are potential consumers, the actual question is are they really buying? Social networking marketing companies are too happy to indicate the positives of social media like how many people use Facebook or exactly how many tweets were sent out this past year and how many people watch YouTube videos etc. but are you currently getting the entire picture? I once sat close to a SMM “expert” at a small business seminar who had been spruiking to anyone who came within earshot about the amazing advantages of establishing a Facebook business page for business (with him of course) and selling on Facebook. So, intrigued by these “experts” advice I looked him on Facebook only to locate he’d only 11 Facebook friends (not a good start). So being the research nut that I am, I made a decision to take a good consider SMM regarding selling to see if it actually worked, who achieved it benefit and if it did why did Social Media Marketing benefit them? And should business rely so heavily on social support systems for sales?

As a website developer I was constantly (and now increasingly) confronted by several social networking challenges when potential clients would say that having a web site sounds good but they had a Facebook business page and have been told by various sources (the ever present yet anonymous “they”) that social support systems were the thing to do, but after discussing their needs it became quite clear that those potential clients didn’t actually know why they needed social support systems or SMM to generate online sales, They only wanted it. For small and mid-sized business I recommended developing a quality website over almost any social network, why? Well it’s simple really because social media is Social Media, and social Networks are Social Networks they’re not business media and business networks (that could be more like LinkedIn). I realize that sounds simple but it’s true and the statistics back it up. smm panel The truth is that social media marketing fails to tell you that Facebook is a cultural network not a research engine and despite the amount of Facebook users and Google users being around the same, people don’t use Facebook in the same way they use a se like Google (which has around half the se market), Yahoo and Bing to search for business or products. They use it to help keep touching family and friends or for news and entertainment. In a current study done by the IBM Institute for Business Value around 55% of most 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 communicate with brands. Now out of all the individuals who do use social media and who do communicate with brands whether purposefully or not, almost all (66%) say they have to feel an organization is communicating honestly before they will interact.

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

Well to begin with I’d say that having a well optimized website remains going to bring you much more business that social media typically especially if you are a small to mid-sized local business because far more individuals are likely to key in “hairdresser Port Macquarie” into a research engine like Google, Yahoo and Bing than they ever will on any Social Media Site and if there isn’t a web site you’re passing up on all of that potential business. However despite all the (not so good) statistics I still believe that it is still advisable for business to use social media simply not in the same way that a lot of SMM professionals are today, Why? Because it’s clearly not in the way they claim it does. Basically SMM Companies and Business in general viewed social support systems like Facebook as a fresh 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 several 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 truly capitalise on the huge number of Facebook users online. The reality is numbers does not equal buyers. Can it be in a Social Media Marketing company’s best interest to talk social support systems up? Absolutely. Can it be in a Social Network like Facebook’s best interests for people to believe that companies can sell en masse by advertising and marketing together? Obviously it is. In early 2012, Facebook disclosed that its profits had jumped 65% to $1 billion in the last year as its revenue which will be mainly from advertising had jumped almost 90% to $3.71 billion so clearly the idea of SMM is training for them but it’s training for you? Well… statistically no, but that will not necessarily mean that it never will.

I believe the major difference between social support systems and search engines is intent. Individuals who use Google are deliberately looking for something so when they do a search for hairdressers that’s what they are seeking at that one time. With something similar to Facebook the primary intent is usually to get in touch with friends and family. In October 2008, Mark Zuckerberg himself said “I don’t think social support systems may be monetized in the same way that search (Search Engines) did… In four years from now we have to figure out what the optimum model is. But that is not our primary focus today “.One of the biggest problems business face with social support systems and SMM is perception. Based on the IBM Institute for Business Value study there were “significant gaps between what businesses think consumers worry about and what consumers say they want from their social media interactions with companies.” Like in the present society people aren’t just going handy you over there recommendations, Facebook likes, comments or details without getting something back because of it, so the old adage “what’s inside it for me?” has play. So the primary reason many people give for getting together with brands or business on social media is for discounts, the brands and business themselves think the key reason people communicate with them on social media is to understand about new products. For brands and business receiving discounts only ranks 12th on their set of reasoned explanations why people communicate with them. Most businesses believe social media increase advocacy, but only 38 % of consumers agree.

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