The time has come to address the 800 lb. gorilla in the Internet marketing room…
Almost every “online marketing” firm is pushing it these days…
“Hey, we’re gonna build you an awesome Facebook page that gets you lots of Likes…and also build up your Twitter account with lots of followers…and then build up your LinkedIn profile…and don’t forget about Google+…and, oh, we can’t leave out Pinterest…”
(It makes my head spin so I can’t imagine what it must do to the business owners who don’t do online marketing for a living!)
Problem is, there’s almost never any talk about how doing these things will actually lead to more business or otherwise justify a business’ jump into social media.
An Increasingly Common Conversion
Just the other day I was talking with a business owner and about 20 minutes in he asks me “What about Facebook?”
“What about it?” I asked.
He replies, “Well, you haven’t mentioned it yet. And all the other Internet marketing firms I’ve talked to are telling me I have to build up my Facebook page.”
To which I said…
“No you don’t. It may make sense to build up a Facebook page down the road…more as a way to communicate with your existing customers than anything else.
But based on our conversation you need to generate more sales right now.
So why spend time trying to get people to Like you on Facebook, hoping they’ll become a client at some point in the future, instead of focusing on strategies that target people who are actively looking for your service TODAY?!
You have to remember that people aren’t on Facebook to make decisions, people are on Facebook to avoid making decisions. (Note: credit goes to Perry Marshall for that gem!)
I’m not saying that, with the right strategy in place, you can’t get some business from Facebook. What I am saying is there’s a ton of stuff you haven’t done yet that’s much more likely to put cash in the coffers sooner rather than later.
And since you don’t have unlimited time or budget doesn’t it make sense to focus on that stuff first instead of building a pretty Facebook page, trying to get a lot of Likes and then sitting around with your “fans” singing Kumbaya hoping the money will start pouring in?”
At first I was afraid I’d gone a bit too far. But, as it turns out, my fears were unfounded because when the business owner replied I could hear the relief in his voice…
“I’m so glad to hear you say that. It makes sense. Quite frankly, I’m 58 years old and have no interest in getting on Facebook unless there’s a good reason to. I just thought I had to do it because that’s what everyone’s been pushing.”
Who Really Profits From Social Media
Here’s the thing…most of what’s being pitched about social media is garbage. It’s more about lining the pockets of the companies selling social media packages than the companies they’re working for.
A lot of business owners wind up getting sucked into the world of social media because they’re told by some “expert” that they have to, not because it’s the right decision for their business.
Listen, most businesses are in the business of solving problems. And people aren’t on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to solve their problems, they’re there to avoid their problems.
That’s a huge challenge anyone trying to sell directly on social media has to overcome. (And very few have actually overcome it.)
The companies that are having some success driving sales on social media are selling fun and entertainment or are speaking to people’s passions (ie. things which are more in line with the mindset of people on social media sites).
So if you’re a B2C business like a restaurant (and where would food trucks be without Twitter?!), you sell ring tones, or are promoting a special, fun event, then social media may be a good place to be.
But if you’re a DUI attorney, no legitimate prospects are gonna Like your Facebook page! 😉
In all seriousness, for most B2B companies, FB isn’t the place to spend your marketing time, money and effort. For B2B, if you’re going to jump into the realm of social media, you’re better off networking on LinkedIn.
The Hidden Cost of Social Media
A lot of people gravitate to social media because it’s “free”.
And, true, you can set up a FB page, Twitter account, LinkedIn account, etc. without spending a dime.
But if social media is going to be a big part of your marketing plans, you have to be prepared to put in a lot time to do it right by regularly…
- Posting compelling content
- Engaging in meaningful conversations with prospects and customers
- And basically just all-around demonstrating your value and authority as an expert
And that stuff’s hard to outsource.
You know your business and customers better than anyone.
How’s a green account executive at an agency who’s 18 months out of college going to be able to truly and authentically represent your company on social media?
At the very least, you’ll have to provide them with the content to post on your behalf. But if you have to spoon feed that info to them anyway, does it really save that much time over just doing it yourself?!
Your time is valuable and it must be factored it into the true costs of running a social media campaign. (Here’s some help to figure out what your time is actually worth.)
It’s Not All Bad
I tend to get worked up over social media because I see so many business owners being pushed into it for all the wrong reasons!
But just to prove I’m not a total Social Media Scrooge, I’d like to point out that there are some things social media is good for.
“He who knows his customers best, wins.”
And I mean truly know your customers best…
- What makes them tick
- What are the deep emotional benefits they’re looking for when buying your product or service
- What keeps them up at night
- Who their enemies are
- What / who they love
You can interview or survey clients to get this information. But by listening to what they’re saying on social media, you can often gain even greater insights into what’s going on in the minds of your prospects and customers.
Twitter searches, Facebook groups, and Amazon reviews are all great places to eavesdrop and/or engage with prospects to gain vital insights into what itches they’re looking to scratch.
2. Search Engine Optimization
The search engines, in an effort to create more relevant search results, have been busily making big changes to their ranking algorithms.
The biggest change is that “social signals” are now a growing part of the SEO mix. Your site’s ranking is being influenced more and more by the number of Facebook Likes, Tweets, +1s, etc. that your site and content get.
You can still get good results from SEO while ignoring social media, but I’m not sure how much longer that’ll be the case.
3. Building a List
It’s very hard to make direct sales on social media sites. But social media can be an excellent place to build a list of prospects. The trick is, however, to sell to them you have to get them off of social media.
Get them on your email list. Get them to your website. Engage them in the “real world” either on the phone or in person.
That’s where sales happen!
Because once you knock people out of the “avoiding solving problems/making decisions” mode they’re in on social media, they’re more likely to be receptive to your marketing messages.
4. PR/Customer Service
Social media is a great publishing platform to get news, articles, and other information about your business pushed out onto the web.
It’s also a great way to reach out, engage, and keep in touch with existing customers.
Keep them informed of interesting developments at your company. Monitor social media for mentions of your company and respond appropriately when people talk about you.
Does Your Business Have to Be on Social Media?
Listen, I’m not saying that social media is a complete waste of time and you’ll never get any business from it.
I have seen a few examples of companies in very specific niches doing quite well selling directly on social media.
But they’re the exceptions rather than the rule.
I’ve yet to come across a proven, repeatable system or strategy that most businesses can use to consistently make money through social media.
So the truth is this…
Your business does not have to be on social media to be successful!
No matter what anyone else tells you it’s very possible to grow your business without ever being active on a single social media site.
So the next time someone tells you that your business has to be on social media, think long and hard about who stands to make more money by you being there…you or them.
Think I’m being too critical about social media here? Please weigh in with your thoughts about social media in the comment section below.