Dear Business World: Stop obsessing over Twitter, Facebook, and Blogging. Chances are, it’s not for you and your company loses credibility as you try to keep up with what you don’t understand.
I’m going to tell you what most marketers will NEVER tell you. I do that a lot because I believe in providing the honest truth, with integrity. Here are statements that I hear every single day from clients:
“I need Facebook.”
“I need Twitter.”
“I need a blog.”
You know what I say? No. You. Don’t.
Feel free to create an account to show you’re there but understand that maintaining social media accounts is typically very time consuming and the energy you allocate to those may be better spent elsewhere.
Cheap & Easy
Not only do most companies still not understand what these mean to the expansion of their business, most have no idea how to harness them to increase visibility, branding, leads and sales. So why does this persist? It’s cheap and easy to set up Facebook and Twitter accounts. The thing is, most businesses don’t know what to do with them once they get them started.
High Abandonment Rates
To run a blog, Twitter or Facebook account means you have entered the world of generating new ideas and content creation. That’s right – content creation. After all, nobody cares that you announced on your Twitter account that you now have a Facebook account. Think about that. Who cares? Do YOU care when someone else makes such a banal announcement? Of course not. People want to read fresh, relevant, interesting, educational, and entertaining content. They want to engage by way of videos and podcasts.That’s what the merger of social media and business is all about.
For business uses, social media is a relationship-building process tool, not a one-shot deal. Now paying someone to take care of these for you is going to be costly in most cases and the potential return on investment is going to be difficult to measure. There are high abandonment rates because creating compelling content takes time, effort, skill, and consistency which relatively few people have.
Should You Cancel Your Accounts?
Now get real. How much time do you have? Can you really spare your time? I doubt it. Are you creative enough to generate new ideas and keep up seemingly “forever?” Most importantly, do you have something to say? Really – think about. Do you have something to say that will be of interest to people on a consistent basis. And by “something to say” I don’t mean Tweets like “had lunch, have heartburn, damn McD’s,” because nobody cares. Rather, your readers are more likely to want to read “McD’s has a new website that allows them to do XYZ with clients. Here’s my analysis as to why it will work well for the company.” You could listen in to ongoing conversations but then again, if no one is saying anything about you in the public forum that is the Internet, well, you’re stuck.
Attention Business Owners!
Just because people are telling you that you need to be on Facebook, doesn’t mean anything. Facebook is useful as a social tool because people “play” on it all day and build relationships. Most small businesses don’t have time for that and that’s okay. There are much better ways to generate leads and increase sales for many businesses. Besides, the “worst that can happen” is that you look stupid, with that Tweet you sent out 4 months ago (that no one saw because you have 0 followers) that people see when they click on the link from your website that encourages people to “follow us on Twitter!” with no apparent reward for doing so.
I’m sorry for being somewhat blunt on this topic but enough is enough. Stop listening to people who just want your money (bad marketers) and friends who don’t know anything about your marketing strategy or the number of resources you have to maintain what they are suggesting you do.
Small Business is Small, Not Big, Small
There is no one size fits all to Internet marketing. There are a number of blog posts and articles giving reasons for using Twitter for business. There are books being written on the subject. I have yet to see any compelling evidence whatsoever that says every single business needs to be on Twitter. Does every online business need SEO? Yes. Do they need pay per click (PPC)? Possibly. Do they need an email marketing campaign strategy? Probably. Do they need Twitter? Possibly. A lot has to do with timing. Here’s an example.
My example is based on an existing product and working backwards. It does not represent the way similar products will be sold in the future.
You’ve probably heard of the Slap Chop which is a kitchen device peddled by Vincent (“the Sham Wow” guy). An entertaining infomercial helped sell millions of them. What followed was that a community of product users, Slap Chop lovers, complainers who hated it, lurkers and others engaged in ongoing interactions about the product. This further boosted publicity of the product and likely increased sales. The next stop was to do a pay per click campaign to make sure that the website where the product was available could be easily found. Another idea was to set up a Facebook page where people could “Like” the product, essentially voting in favour of it. As a smart company, they would have checked out message board, blog comments, and other social media platforms to see what people were saying about the product, and engaging consumers about the feedback.
Now, what if the direct TV marketing approach was not used to create awareness of the Slap Chop. I doubt that sales would have been anywhere near the numbers they are. For example, if the company went onto message boards and said “hey everyone, we have this great product that cuts food for only $19.95” it probably wouldn’t have made a dent in the market for this type of item. (Fair enough, that’s not the best way to do it, but I’m trying to make a point). What if they used pay per click? Again, without some sort of backing, sales wouldn’t be as high. In fact, it was the strategy that made the difference.
The Strategy Makes the Difference
The combination of timing, order, appropriateness and magnitude of the use of social media and search marketing tools that helped to propel the product that much further. That’s the point. I believe that social media platforms as tools for marketing are important in an objective measure. That’s undeniable as there is evidence to prove that case. But that is a separate issue from whether or not a company has the means to effectively use social media platforms to their advantage. Sure, larger companies that exist in their ivory towers can easily get in on the game (and even then, too many don’t carry it out in a way that best benefits them) but the majority of businesses are small businesses and their ability to grow their companies is limited to their resources (time, finances, ability, understanding, and so on).
In a perfect world, companies would use social media as much as relevant and possible but we’re not in a perfect world. While hard-core social media marketing companies are trying to protect their interests, they far too often (IMHO) overlook much more important issues, like ugly, difficult to use websites, for example. Just for the record, the same can be said for SEO companies. There is a combination of tactics and approaches that will work to varying degrees for different companies. The most appropriate Internet marketing companies will help their clients figure out the correct constellation of approaches that best suit their specific needs.
What You DO Need
Ask yourself this question: What is my company trying to achieve? That is the single most important question from which to begin your strategy. While social media marketing may not be for you, at the very least you should start listening to what people are saying. That doesn’t mean you need to jump in and shut down the conversation if you hear something you don’t like. In fact, you should probably use that as an opportunity to get involved and join the conversation, share ideas, collaborate, and generate a greater good.
As a business, you need to plan, strategize, and engage your audience within your means. Most marketing companies will not tell you the truth in this direct manner. I don’t run my companies like others. I spent most of my adult life in academia where the goal is to share knowledge and give it away whenever and wherever possible. The exchange of ideas is a key part of social media just as it is in the education world. However, when you add money and marketing to the mix, the process can become more complex, depending on the situation. Companies need to understand what their goals are and then find the tools to achive those goals, not the other way around. Don’t get on Facebook and then struggle to figure out how it’s going to work for you. Decide you want to share ideas in a community and look at Facebook as one platform to do that.
Differentiate the Tools from the Goals
Perhaps this is at the heart of the debate. Social media as a marketing tool is not for everyone. That’s not to say that social media networking is not for everyone. It is. But the tools and extent to which the tools are to be used are not for everyone. I would love for all of my clients to get involved in the online community surrounding their products and services. Social media as a tool is extremely useful and powerful if your goal as a business is to further promote your goods. However, many small businesses barely understand how to use the Internet, much less have time to figure out what a Tweet is.
Who is Your Target Market?
I go on and on about this all the time so forgive me if I sound like a broken record. Blanketing the world with “marketing” via Facebook and Twitter isn’t exactly the new way of thinking about ROI-based online marketing. (Trust me – I’m writing a book on the topic!). You need to reach out to where your target market clients are and go after them there. If you’re going to run a blog, you need to make sure that the people you’re writing it for are going to read it.
There Are Ways to Get a Social Media ROI
What should you do with your account? There are ways to make them look busy if you really want to go that route. I’m not going to list them right now, as coming up with custom business strategies is part of what I get paid to do and it’s not the goal here. In this article, I just want to get the message across so business owners can breathe a sign of relief and focus on running their businesses. Perhaps more in the future. For now, just consider my words of wisdom on the topic and they can help your business not look laughable.