Social Media Marketing: Is it really worth the effort? – An argument for and against using Social Media for your business.
News Flash: Social Media is huge. Today, Facebook has over 300 million subscribers and Twitter is the new Associated Press. In the world of digital marketing, social media marketing (SMM) is the subject de jour and the interest seems to be doubling on a daily basis. Last week a google search on “The benefits of social marketing” returned 124 million results, today, that number is 181 million – a growth of over 8 million pages per day.
There is no question that there is significant hype surrounding this subject and how it can be leveraged in the world of business. With that said, there are also some convincing arguments why social marketing may not be such a great marketing tool for your business.
Here is a list of 4 reasons for and against you and your company adding social media marketing into the mix. Read, consider & decide.
Reasons For Social Media: –
1. It’s free! – Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks require no funding. In contrast, almost all other forms of advertising and marketing efforts require some kind of fee.
2. Simple & convenient to set-up and maintain – Regardless of your level of web-savvyness, social networks make it very quick and simple to set-up, customize, manage & maintain your profile. This profile lists crucial information about your business. Providing you have access to a computer, you can be a part of social media.
3. Buzz! – Unlike outbound marketing efforts such as traditional advertising, social networks not only allow customers to provide feedback to organizations, they actively encourage it. Interaction, engagement and sharing are all parts of social media, which if utilized in the correct way can lead to viral exposure, trust, customer loyalty, free market research and brand growth.
4. Volume – As mentioned at the top of this article, Facebook has over 300 million active users globally and still growing face. Other Social networks can also boast extreme levels of popularity, with Twitter unique user levels growing by over 700% in 2008. Only Myspace is showing any signs of a decline in numbers.
Reasons Against Social Media: –
1. Infancy of medium – Social media is still very much the baby of marketing platforms. Despite the theories and the buzz, where are the actual case studies? Most of us have heard recently that Dell Computers have generated $3 million of revenue through twitter. That’s great, but there don’t seem to be too many others. Some big brands such as Adidas, Starbucks, Pringles and Coca-cola are often sited as shining examples of the use of social media, but really, how many pairs of sneakers have Adidas actually shifted as of a result of having a popular fan page on Facebook? How many bums are Twitter really putting on Jet Blue’s seats? How many additional cans of soda are flying off the shelf because Coke has 3.5 million Facebook fans?
Another worrying statistic for social media marketers is a recent report from Consumer information company, Knowledge Networks, saying that while 83% of the Internet population (ages 13 – 54) participates in some way with “social media”, less than 5% turn to social sites for advice pertaining to a purchase decision.
By no means am I suggesting that social media cannot have a positive impact on your business, there is just very little proof that it does.
2. Blog’s don’t write themselves – Social Media Marketing requires resources. Resources that many smaller companies simply do not have. It takes time and time is money. Like SEO, there is no media cost attached to SMM which makes the prospect very appealing, but frequently creating content for your blog, maintaining your Facebook fan page or group, sending out tweets, participating in discussions on LinkedIn and recording videos for You Tube all very labor intensive activities.
3. Social networks hate spam – Social media is a place where brands have conversations. It’s a place where a company can build trust and relationships with existing and potential customers. The problem is that as networks become increasingly popular, spammers and commercially aggressive marketers are becoming rife and unavoidable. The big problem with this is that unless Facebook, Twitter and other popular networks address the issue, users will leave just as soon as they arrived. The other problem is that those that just see social networks as a free advertising platform are tarnishing the reputation of others that are genuinely adding value and engaging with customers.
4. Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword – In late 2004, blogger Jeff Jarvis purchased a new laptop from Dell Computers. After a series of very negative experiences with Dell’s customer service department, Jarvis decided to publish his complaints on the infamous blog, “Dell Hell”. Jarvis’ posts soon caught the attention of others who also began to add their own negative experiences with Dell’s customer service. Before long “Dell Hell” caught the attention of the mainstream media. As a result of the bad press and Dell Inc.’s failure to respond on the issue, the computer giant’s sales and stellar reputation started to freefall.
The point is this; Buzz is not always positive and unless you continuously monitor response and engage in damage limitation, before you know it you can be face-to-face with a monster that will be hard to beat!
To conclude, social media is a great tool for businesses to market themselves, but only if done right. Before you go down the social road, it’s crucial to figure out a coherent strategy and stick to it. It’s important to consider exactly who you’re looking to target, how you’re going to target them, what you’re hoping to achieve and how you will measure success. If you don’t do this, marketing through social networks will become an overwhelming and impossible task where you will fail to make a significant footprint or provide a valuable offering to potential customers. It’s true, Social Media Marketing is extremely labor intensive, and therefore you need to consider what resources you have available and how much time you can give to your social efforts without adversely effecting productivity. You may also have to consider if this marketing effort is best kept in-house or outsource to an agency with some expertise in this field.
It’s true that there are very few examples of how social media has positively impacted the bottom-line of businesses, however, I am convinced that given a little time, these case studies will begin to emerge.
The final point to take away is that social network is not meant to compensate for a poor product or an inept customer service. If there is an issue with your product or service, be careful because social media will slap you right in the face.
By keeping focus on your objectives and considering the points laid out in this article, it’s not only possible to survive in social media marketing, it’s likely that you will thrive.