A couple of weeks ago, I was having coffee with a friend who quietly confided that her company didn’t have any social media presence to speak of.
She seemed to be so genuinely troubled, fidgety, and quite clearly embarrassed; it almost felt like she was confessing some big, horrible secret to me.
She’s not alone, either. I’ve actually had several recent conversations with people across a number of industries who have sheepishly told me that they don’t have a Twitter account or haven’t logged into Facebook in months.
This is the current thinking that the popularity of social media has given birth to: if you don’t have a social media presence, you’re basically hamstringing your own company.
Companies believe there’s big money to be made on social media so they pour large amounts of cash into their own social media marketing campaigns. It’s the spend big to earn big mentality. It isn’t necessarily wrong, but there’s a lot more nuance to think about before you whip your wallet out.
Now, social media has its place, but in reality it’s far from being the silver bullet that a lot of people want you to believe. Just consider this: Fastcompany recently published this list of “secret” formulas on how much content you should be sharing on social media before it becomes sickening self-promotion.
The fact that the list contains seven different formulas from seven different social media gurus says a lot about the industry.
Yes, billions of people all over the world use social media everyday. Marketers would love to believe that it’s so they can keep up and interact with their favorite brands, but the truth isn’t quite so rose-tinted.
A recent report from Gallup shows that just 5% of social media users say that social media marketing has a “great deal” of influence on their purchasing decisions. In contrast, 62% say it has no influence at all. The research found that more traditional influences — friends, in-store displays, television commercials, and even magazines — still have a larger effect on consumers’ buying habits.
Pouring some money into social media marketing is all well and good, but you need to be realistic about it. Just like any kind of marketing, it’s all about targeting. The most important thing is to know your customers. If a big chunk of them don’t fit the social media demographic, then you should probably hold off on diverting most of your marketing budget into making your Facebook page look perfect.
Not instant, but it still helps
It’s not all gloom and doom, though. The social media space is still one of the biggest marketing opportunities even for small and medium businesses. It just isn’t the instant solution that some self-professed gurus claim it is
You likely won’t become the next big viral hit overnight (or ever), but you can still use it as part of your marketing campaigns by setting achievable and measurable goals.
These can come in the form of shares, likes, comments, and page views. Say you have a Twitter page with 10 followers. You might want to set a target of 50 new followers by the end of a three-month period. Adjust your goals as necessary, whether you do reach them or not.
Once you have a good number of followers (Stevenson Advertising suggests waiting until you have at least a follower base of 100), focus on hitting similarly realistic social engagement goals — replies, shares, and the like.
Social selling and the social media hump
Another thing to consider is that despite the low entry bar for social media, you should always try to make your content as effective as possible. This is where social selling — building a strong personal brand by engaging directly with and providing quality content to potential customers on social media — comes into play.
A quick caveat before we proceed: just like social media marketing, social selling isn’t a surefire way to land you a big client or increase your userbase. It is, however, an effective approach to identifying and knowing the wants and needs of your target demographic.
If you graph it, social media effectiveness is an upwards curve; you get the biggest returns with a few simple actions for a while but after that, diminishing returns kick in. More returns take more and more work.
This “hump” in the social media effectiveness curve can be tackled as simply as this:
Step 1: Produce relevant, valuable content with tangible, real information instead of empty rhetoric. It has to pass the “Would I get excited about reading this?” test. This is a simple test where you put on your customer empathy hat and ask yourself — if you were your target market, would you bookmark this post to read later? Be honest with yourself here!
Step 2: Turn your shares into impulse buys. Make sharing your content so easy that it is like an impulse buy for your reader. Your web developer can set this up in less than 30 minutes.
Step 3: It take five minutes to review a social media profile of a contact before a meeting. If anything, this is a “small talk” insurance policy against awkward pauses in conversation. If you notice that every other post in your potential client’s Facebook page is about how much he loves basketball, then you already have a conversation starter. Listening to your target audience on social media also allows you to make a better engagement strategy for that big meeting you have coming up. This can easily and quickly be done through WORK[etc]’s social CRM features by simply matching a contact’s social media profiles using only their email address.
Step 3.5: All you need to do for this step is to get your staff to share your content right away. This single action can have a snowball effect and kickstart rolling shares — once one of your employees share your content, their friends and followers may share the link as well. Most businesses have employees or contractors — just five minutes of their time spent sharing your content will give you back ten times the return.