Social Media Marketing: Is it all hype?

On a daily basis, I receive promotional emails from people and companies who tout social media as a low cost, high impact channel for marketing products and services. There are so many people hyping the use of social tools these days that it can be tough to decide which way to turn. Mind you, I’m one of those people who believe that social media has a place in the sales and marketing process. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have written a book about it. But here’s the problem…too much of the hype focuses on the technology platform itself. What many people fail to understand is that social media is a “channel” and simply another vehicle for promoting your message much like using email, your website, or the phone.

In a recent newsletter from C.J. Hayden, she mentioned a study that had been conducted by Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. The study focused on small business and evaluated overall performance against business objectives. In the areas of customer engagement and brand awareness, the news was good. Customers are connecting with companies through LinkedIn or Facebook fan pages, but the percentage of sales leads generated was lower than many business owners expected – 42% from Facebook, 36% from LinkedIn, and 16% from Twitter. While C.J. suggests that small business owners have been misled about the value of social media to drive sales activities, I don’t necessarily agree. I think the results have a lot to do with these 5 things:

  1. People believe what they want to believe. Let’s face it, far too many people are looking for the quick fix. They blindly believe that throwing up a Facebook fan page, or acquiring 20,000 Twitter followers will garner them instant sales success. In fact, I was surprised that the study revealed that of the small businesses using social media to market their wares, 82% of them are on Facebook. That might be just fine if that’s where your prospect happens to spend a lot of time, but it’s not great news if your ideal buyer happens to do business over on LinkedIn.
  2. Lack of planning. Yup, there it is. The P word. I get it. Planning takes careful thought and a lot of time. I fall victim to poor planning myself even though I know better. Frankly, that’s why I haven’t blogged in the last two weeks, because I’ve been thinking about my own social media activities and pondering the changes that I feel I need to make. But, here’s the deal. If you haven’t clearly defined why and how you will use social media to achieve your goals, is that the technologies fault or yours? That’s a trick question by the way.
  3. You get what you pay for. Let’s be honest here. Do you really think that attending a few free and cheap webinars is all you need to do in order to create a successful social sales campaign for your business? If you do, then refer back to point #1. Remember why these freebies are being offered up in the first place. The idea is to give you some useful information – though many fail to deliver anything useful at all – in the hopes that you’ll buy whatever else it is that they are selling. There is nothing wrong with using webinars for marketing purposes, but as a participant it is important that you are realistic about how far the information they provide can take you.
  4. Spotty participation. The social world is all about engagement, participation and community. It is not a static world. That was web 1.0 when websites were mostly fancy online brochures. These days, if you want to capture people’s attention, you need to be visible. Often. Hubspot advocates that we all learn to become “inbound marketers”. The idea is that you produce and share great content that resonates with your audience, and hopefully, compels them to take some sort of action. If you rarely participate, or if your version of participation is showing up occasionally to hawk your next workshop, I can pretty much guarantee that you will not build up any sustainable sales traction.
  5. Ineffective use of the technology. If you hope to have a prayer of being successful with your social marketing activities, you need to learn how to use the tools effectively. That’s code for “pay for some training”. As an example, the majority of people that I encounter have no idea how to use LinkedIn’s saved search capability to create targeted lead generation lists. Or, they have no clue about the power of using the Company feature for their pre-sales planning and research; much less have a company page established themselves. Yes, you can establish a company page in addition to your individual professional profile. If you don’t know how to use the technology, how in the world do you think you can create positive ROI for your business? The answer is easy. You can’t.

If you sell services then your top focus needs to be on direct contact and follow-up, as well as networking (offline and on). Social media provides a channel for both. Still, there is no magic bullet, no quick fix solution that costs you nothing, yet yields huge sales. As C.J. put it, “You still have to invest time and money to identify likely prospects, follow up with them to deepen relationships, and have sales conversations that expose you to rejection.” Enough said.

p.s. If you would like more clients now, I can help. But I’ll warn you, the investment isn’t cheap, and you’ll have to do the work necessary to achieve the results. If you are business owner or sales professional ready to invest in your social sales success, let’s talk!

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