I’m not crazy about Social Media
Once each year I sponsor a Roundtable focusing on social media. You know, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, or whatever one of these has become the latest thing when you read this.
This is consistently my best attended of the monthly events. Normally I have 50% higher attendance that month than any other month. It is clear that everyone feels there is some magic formula for attracting attention, and by extension, attracting business through these platforms.
I’m glad for the extra attendees, but I’m not so sure about the effectiveness of the medium. You may ask why I promote a special event about a topic I don’t feel strongly about. It’s because I know that every business owner needs to look for ways to make his or her business stand out. So these objections form a sort of outline of the problems you need to be aware of while you analyze your use of social media.
Here are my three reasons for not liking social media:
First reason is that they are always changing. True, Facebook continues to dominate. But others have come and gone. Currently there is a lot of commentary about President Trump’s use of Twitter (If you are reading this before Jan 20, 2017, I know it is President-elect Trump). Yet many items I see about social media use suggest that Twitter’s reach is declining. Maybe Trump’s use of it will reverse that trend. Maybe not.
The point is that the advantage of any social media platform is limited to its reach. Like any mass media, the more people who can view your ad the better. So we get a lot of discussion about SEO and clicks and so forth. But you don’t normally see anything about conversion.
You may feel good about being tops on Google Search lists without paying for it. You might gloat about the number of likes your Facebook business page has. And many people make it a point to mention their following on LinkedIn. All this is OK, but how does it reflect in sales?
Many businesses do quite well selling this way. I venture to say most do not. Like all mass advertising, you have to determine which venue provides you with the most sales. That decision must be made by testing and checking sales versus exposure. What is the return on every advertising dollar?
As your business (hypothetically) decides on the best one or two methods of getting the word out online, you feel pretty good about the value you are getting.
But, then you see a post about SnapChat, or some other medium that has not been invented yet. Immediately you have to wonder if you could do better with the new thing. So you start testing and checking again. It is a constant battle.
And this leads to the second point: this constant fiddling with the internet provides a satisfying sense of busyness possibly without real productivity. All of us succumb to the temptation of feeling good about being busy. And all of us recognize that often busy is all that we are.
We find ourselves trapped into constant posting and revamping, and checking analytics, and revamping again. We need to have a measure of the value we get from the simple expenditure of time to accomplish a successful social media presence. Most entrepreneurs do not value their own time, especially as they start up. This is probably good, otherwise start ups would not happen. But when pricing your goods and services how often do you as a business owner include the cost of your own time in the calculation?
Similarly, when you calculate the cost of the social media use, don’t forget to include your time in that, too. You may have the greatest Facebook business page, but if you spend too much time maintaining it, when do you have time to do the work you are seeking customers for?
And this brings up the third thing. The social media giants own their pages, you don’t. That means every time they change their formats, or terms of service, or even who they will let into the fold you have to dance to their tune.
This seems to happen a lot with Facebook. I hear the howls of protest from those I communicate with about marketing online. I know it happens elsewhere.
So even if you do create the perfect business page, the folks at Facebook (or Google, or whoever) can render it useless in an instant. Sure, they may give you warning–usually 30 days–but you need time to find out what they want and how to comply with their new expectations.
What do I do about it? I work to drive everything to my website. So no matter what any of the various platforms do, as long as they let me link to my own website I am OK. I concentrate on making my website exactly what I want. I can always post quick reminders that point to my website. As a result, I don’t have to prettify two or three social media sites, I just keep up with my own site.
Now, having dissed (is that still a word?) social media while everyone else considers it the last word in marketing, I need to say something positive. Let’s follow the same pattern and let me identify three things I like about social media.
First, it is instantaneous. My direct mail efforts always take time to bear fruit. Time to prepare the material, time to produce the material and time to distribute the material. Same is true of other physical outreach.
If I need to sell something right away, either because there is some deadline or because I need the money, I can put out an email with a tweet and a Facebook post, in less than an hour. And each of those has a link to my website landing page where more details are given and sales can be made. I always make sure I can sell from my site, even if I have the capabilities to sell on one of the media sites, Pinterest or Facebook for example.
Although I have not done it myself, I hear reports of people who have brought in sums in the six-figures during a weekend. It takes the weeks and months of plodding along with various posts and events to build an audience that is receptive to that kind of flash sale, and so the foundation must be laid. But the final sale event can be done quickly.
Second, it is easily modified. If I do a print or mail advert and put in the wrong date or time or price, it is extremely difficult to get it corrected in a way that is effective. You can instantaneously change anything in a social media outreach, and can even use the very media where the mistake was made to increase sales by focusing on the mistake and using it as a way to drive more sales.
Third, social media is cheap. The ability to narrow the demographic to just those people you want to have see your material makes the cost per sale very low.
I’m not talking about the regular social media blasts you do to keep your name and product or service top of mind. These should be the cheapest of all. But you should pay for ads that focus on something special–an event, a sale, escaping a deadline.
I am no giant at marketing, but I recognize there is a place for these platforms. Depending on your business maybe a larger or smaller place. Just take what I say here as a cautionary tale that there is no magic in marketing or its sister, advertising.
Please comment on your experience with social media, good and bad. It is one of the hottest topics for small businesses with small marketing budgets, and I’m sure you are the owner of just such a business.
Please join me for the Third Annual Social Media Workshop. You can Click Here for details and reservations.