This blog was originally published on Friendemic.com.
Social media began as a fun, free novelty for consumers. When businesses were finally welcomed to the various platforms (and that process is still ongoing), many of them brought that same consumer mindset to their social media marketing efforts, and it has significantly hindered their effectiveness. Social media has changed (Facebook and Twitter are now even large publicly-traded companies), and marketers can’t think of social media in the same ways they used to. I hate to be a downer, but good social media marketing is not just a fun diversion, nor is it going to be free and easy.
Here are a few ‘strategies’ that we see businesses trying on social media, and why they just don’t work:
- Ignoring social media completely. You can’t choose not to be on social media. Whether you have your own social pages or not, customers are talking about you and leaving reviews. If you want to know what they are saying, and guide the conversation, you need to be on social media. You can choose not to be on the radio or TV, or choose not to buy AdWords, but you can’t choose not to be on social media. You ignore it at your own risk.
- Broadcasting. A close twin to ignoring social media completely is treating social media like a broadcast medium. Lots of businesses blast out posts on their social channels, but ask for no engagement, and ignore the little bits of engagement that come. If a customer walked into your business, asked for you the manager, and then proceeded to tell you a compliment or a complaint, would you turn your back and ignore the person? If you were at a party and heard two people talking about your business, would you plug your ears and walk away?
- Over-automating. In an attempt to save money, many businesses automate a lot of their social processes. The frequent result is the ‘broadcast strategy’ above; a software tool (or low-budget vendor) simply posts generic content to your social pages and walks away. It shouldn’t have to be said, but social media is supposed to be social. When was the last time you had a really interesting conversation with a machine? Most of the benefits come after a post from the consumer engagement it should generate. At Friendemic, we like to say that our job starts when we post on our clients’ pages. Over-automating can also come with big risks (anyone remember these?).
- Under-investing. Yes, social media is free to consumers. It’s not for businesses. If you want to see good results, it will cost you money or time and likely both. Would you spend $300/month on a Google Adwords campaign and expect to see amazing results? Or $300/month on a radio spot? I don’t hear business owners tell me that their 17-year-old nephew runs their media buys, or that their receptionist manages their website in her free time with no oversight. Social media is a real marketing channel with real power. Treat it as such, or if you choose not to, at least don’t blame the channel when it doesn’t work out for you.
- Pushing sales constantly. Social media should feel like a BBQ, not a sales booth. Before posting content, simply ask yourself if you think your audience genuinely will want to see the content. If the answer is no, don’t post that content frequently. Occasionally, yes. But would you read a magazine if ninety percent of it were ads? Or watch a 60 minute TV show with 55 minutes of commercials?
- Hoping to get lucky. Nobody buys a billboard on a deserted road planning on an oil boomtown growing up next to it overnight. Yet lots of businesses get on social media and expect their content to go wildly viral, like the tiny handful of social success stories they heard of or saw themselves. Especially as a small or medium business, let me just say it: you’re more likely to win the lottery than go viral. Even if it does go viral, the long-term benefits are debatable. Social media marketing can generate strong ROI (we often see 5-15x for our clients), but like most things in life, it is incremental and you will reap what you sow.
- Treating all networks the same. Pinterest is not Facebook. Twitter is not Instagram. The demographic base of these platforms is different, and there are nuances to what consumers expect to see on each network. The most egregious sin in this poor strategy is to push content made for one network to another in exactly the same form (most commonly seen in pushing content from Facebook to Twitter). Often this is again a result of over-automating. I see Facebook-pushed content on my Twitter feed frequently, and I don’t think I have ever once clicked on the Facebook link. In my public speaking engagements, I often ask audiences if they ever click on those links, and I routinely hear the same answer. Generally, all you achieve by wholesale pushing Facebook content to Twitter is to alienate your existing Twitter followers… if you have any.
- Talking to an empty room. A big temptation when doing social media marketing is to jump to creating and posting content. But you wouldn't buy advertising space on websites that get no traffic. Businesses need to balance their efforts between content creation and audience-building. If you are new to social media, spend more resources first to build your audience (perhaps with less-frequent posting), and then gradually shift to other efforts as you have a larger audience.