Is Social Media Marketing a Waste of Time?

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I don’t know why everyone keeps complaining about being broke- all you have to do is get involved in social media marketing. Cameron Hughes explains how to make piles of money as a social media consultant in this brilliant and inspiring “TED” talk.

Unfortunately, many businesses just haven’t seen the light when it comes to social media. In fact, some businesses and websites are moving away from certain social media platforms altogether. For example, Jeff Gibbard explained why Social Media Today decided to stop wasting time on Facebook. Then there was the rather well-publicized example of GM pulling their advertising dollars from Facebook in 2012.

It’s little wonder that companies are pulling away from social media considering that it’s not the easiest thing to make a profit there. In fact, back in 2012, an IBM study noted that social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube contributed almost zilch (OK, it was actually 0.34%) to Black Friday sales. Twitter accounted for 0% of Black Friday sales revenue.

What’s the problem?

For businesses or bloggers trying to do social media marketing via Facebook, the difficulty lies in the fact that Facebook Page updates reach only a small percentage of their intended audience. Increasing reach requires obtaining either lots of Likes and Shares on the part of the audience members or purchasing promoted posts.

Naturally, most Facebook Page owners balk at paying money to promote to an audience that they helped build in the first place. However, in defense of Facebook and other platforms, no one said that marketing was free. In fact, it could be argued that the whole problem started when every small business and its brother jumped on the social media bandwagon because it was the “hip” thing to do, or because social media was erroneously believed to equal free marketing/advertising.

Drives to get 1 million Likes or 10,000 tweets work well…and then fizzle as businesses or bloggers wonder what to do with all these new followers. Ironically, unfollows often occur when the same entities now post or tweet a promotion to their “fans”. Meanwhile, those followers that stay do little to boost product sales or business revenues. So, what’s the point of it all?

A goal without a plan is just a “Like”

Before you start asking everyone to Like you for a free Squishee(tm) or post more cute photos of your cat, ask yourself, what goals are you trying to achieve with social media marketing? There can be quite a number of goals, including the following:

  • Brand awareness
  • Website traffic
  • Product sales
  • Customer information
  • Upsells/cross-sells
  • Product reviews/testimonials
  • Customer engagement
  • Influencers

Let’s say you pick two or three of the above goals, which is really the most that you can hope to accomplish in a single campaign. Will driving Likes/Shares/retweets/comments accomplish your goals? If yes, that’s great! But if not, then you need to step back and look at how exactly you’ll accomplish what you wish to see, as well as how you’ll measure your progress.

Harvest while you can

As wonderful as social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are, they do not belong to you. In fact, you are actually a digital sharecropper. And just like any sharecropper, your fortunes are intimately tied to the whims of your landlord. Should your landlord choose to close the social media platform tomorrow, the online audience you worked so hard to build is gone.

This is why, given every opportunity, you need to “harvest” your audience members by finding out their contact information and other particulars and getting them onto your own platform (i.e., your website). Typically, this goal is accomplished through email subscription signups or opt-in forms. Once you have such information at hand, you can move towards fulfilling your other goals like increasing sales or obtaining customer testimonials.

Get everyone involved

Social media can be a big driver of conversions if used correctly as a kind of portal to your more permanent fixtures, including your sales pages and website. For example, if people are complaining about the never-ending cold weather on Twitter, you might create a special code or coupon that enables them to purchase hot cocoa at 20% off on your website.

There’s also no reason why your subscribers can’t be part of the sales conversation or even help decide the outcome of your campaigns. For example, having your customers provide feedback on something you’re working on, such as your website update or a new affiliate product, makes them feel more involved (and invested) with you. Such engaged consumers are more likely to travel to your website and convert.

Leverage your efforts

You can multiply your social media efforts at increasing brand awareness and/or customer engagement by tapping top influencers who already know and understand your products or brand. In most cases, these influencers will consist of top commentors or other bloggers that have large followings. Influencers can also consist of those individuals who are able to build up excitement around the product or promotion.

Twitter parties, Facebook giveaways, Pinterest postathons, etc. all exist to raise awareness and even create a little hype around a particular product. Use these tools judiciously to get customers to go back to your website and complete some action there- or better yet, sign up for your newsletter.

Social media…a waste of time?

With social media, it’s not so much how much work you put into it but rather, how much forethought. If you have no set goals in mind and no idea of how to measure your efforts, yeah, you won’t see much result from all your Likes or tweets or Pins.

But if you set out with the intention of driving more traffic to your website or growing your email list by some percentage, then social media can help you accomplish that. Like any other marketing tool, social media just needs to be used properly to achieve your intended results.

Now go and Like this post. Or Google Plus it. Or tweet it.

One Comment

  1. I don’t think that social media marketing is waste of time because nowadays it is very important for directing more people towards a website which will also improve the ranking. All the business (including well established brands and small business concerns) are using social media channels for getting connected with big community of people. I am also posting contents on social media which is directing more people towards my website. However, it sounds good to read your analysis about social media marketing for today’s world.

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