After a decade of building, managing and observing social media marketing for a variety of B2C and B2B clients, I simply do not believe that social media is useful for direct sales. I am sure there are some businesses that might be successful generating direct sales, but in my experience that is not the case in an overwhelming number of cases.
So why do we spend so much time and money on social media? We constantly hear the drumbeat of marketers telling us we have to “engage with customers” and they demand “relationships with our brands” or else. Don’t believe it. For one thing, channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have adopted pay-for-play advertising models. To really get your message seen by customers you have to buy advertising. While the targeting and delivery methods of social media has improved greatly, your social advertising success is still dependent upon your budget, message, offering and other factors. Social advertising will indeed be our subject for a future blog post.
In the meantime, you have to ask yourself, “What is social media good for then?” What value should you expect to gain from it?
Social Media vs Email Marketing
Informal tracking of discovery discussions with new clients at our agency shows that 90% or more ask about social media marketing. It is assumed that their company must use social media, but how and why? In comparison, my guess is less than 30% ask about the virtues of using email marketing. Yes, we all hate spam and unwanted emails but that’s not the kind of email we’re talking about. Today’s email marketing crushes social media as a marketing tool. Emails are periodically delivered to customers, shoppers or interested prospects who have opted in to receive such specials, news and updates about your goods and services. That’s very different than the social sphere where much of your freely posted content is never even seen by the target audience. Remember, today social media marketing requires some of your advertising budget to really be successful. Too many clients overlook email as a marketing, advertising and selling method. It’s the most important app of the past 20 years.
Size Matters in Social
The success of social media marketing is also bound by the size and footprint of your company and your ability to attract a large following. Many clients struggle with a meaningful social audience that will have much impact. Our agency clients are local and regional brands comprised of small to medium businesses so the scope and scale of followers they can potentially influence is limited.
Your type of product or service also affects people’s interest and willingness to follow you on social media. I eat Oreos quite often and I have for years so I might follow Oreos on Facebook, for example, but I only put a new roof on my house every 20 years or so. My level of interest determines whether I will follow a company or not.
Lastly, social media marketing is only as good as the content you put out for the public. That roofer might have a neat video and articles about types of roofing and weather effects, etc., but will I really care when I only buy a roof every two decades? I might follow Oreos on Facebook just because they have an enormous budget to produce fun, slick commercials and I grew up with the brand, so my relationship is much deeper.
4 Positive Outcomes of Using Social Media
After 10 years of working in social media marketing, I view social media as a PR and branding tool that influences consumers for buying from you. It shapes their thinking by informing and entertaining. Here’s what social media is good for:
- Building your Brand – build familiarity and trust by telling stories and educating about your products and services, answer questions, direct shoppers to your website, videos, case studies, press releases where they get more information or even (gasp!) buy something from you.
- Building Community – this is the PR factor that can start discussions and give examples of your company serving the greater good and enhancing the community we share, whether it’s an actual geographic community or a group of people who share a common interest in your industry or a cause.
- Building Trust and Credibility – show your subject matter expertise and prove you know what you’re talking about. They will take you seriously.
- Driving Traffic – not exactly a direct sale but sharing links to new content or landing pages is a great way to prepare them for the eventual sale and push them gently through your sales funnel toward the brink of purchase.
The online relationships you nurture with consumers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and others are often shallow and tenuous but they do allow you to create brand impressions upon those you connect with. Those relationships may not directly lead to a sale but over time they do effect the final buying decision. So keep your social media but also keep your expectations real.
About Mike Hallaron
Principal and account manager, Mike Hallaron provides executive leadership and client services support to the accounts and creative teams. As leader of a small agency since 2003 he is directly involved with client strategy and helps craft many aspects of creative work. With a long sales background that includes financial services, print advertising and telecom, Mike is a member of Second Wind Advertising Agency consultancy, the American Marketing Association, American Advertising Federation and local community organizations.
Hallaron Advertising Agency
Hallaron is a full-service marketing agency based in The Woodlands, Texas. Since 2003 Hallaron has been partnering with both B2B and B2C companies across Texas to develop integrated marketing communications solutions that spark awareness and fuel growth. The agency’s core services include advertising, branding, digital and content marketing.
2202 Timberloch Place, Suite 107, The Woodlands, Texas 77380