The Social Media Marketing Myth
A large part of the appeal of the social media "explosion" was that it was supposed to be a faster, cheaper and easier form of marketing than traditional marketing. Another was that anyone could do it. All you had to do was put out a few tweets or set up a Facebook page and then the money would come rolling in, just the same as if you'd paid thousands for an ad on television.
This Social Media myth in turn led to a general belief that marketing budgets could be greatly reduced (or even non-existent), whilst still maintaining or even improving results. And so thousands of businesses set up Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and began blogging furiously. It seemed like it was working, for a while.
Then businesses began to do the math and realized something wasn't adding up. They found that:
- it wasn't costing less for large companies to market through social media.
- it’s not always faster or easier to market via social media.
- Social Media marketing usually depended on having additional resources as well, such as a blog, (... and then hiring someone to manage and maintain it all).
All these things usually ended up costing additional time, money and resources, (not to mention the additional headache that often goes with managing such things). Whilst there are a few who have had exceptional results from social media marketing with little effort or outlay, these have tended to be the exception rather than the rule. Anyone can set up a website or Facebook page, but the holy grail of cheap, easy and effective marketing to global audiences isn’t quite stacking up to the promises of the social marketing myth.
According to a new report into Social Media Marketing, here’s why...
The whitepaper report "Managing Friends and Manipulating People: The Outsourcing of Social Media" from Kelly Services has found that:
1./ The transience of (Social Media) audiences is increasing. "Yes, Facebook and Twitter have huge member bases, but yesterday’s Myspace is tomorrow’s Pinterest and it’s hard to keep a finger on the social media pulse 24x7 across multiple markets".
2./ The sites that do social media well are learning to charge for their offerings, so they’re not always free.
With regards to point number two, I personally suspect that their success with social media is due to the fact that because they charge for their "offerings", rather than say a free informational blog, they had the resources required to hire expert online marketing companies to design and manage their social media marketing for them, and to do it well. A small blog or a new one-person start-up simply doesn't have the funds to compete against this, and also usually doesn't have the skills (or the time to learn) to do it well enough.
The internet is slowly becoming a lot like the old, traditional media - where only the slick performers with huge marketing budgets are being heard above all the noise. Unless small businesses and blogs can afford to outsource their social media marketing, or learn to do it themselves - and do it very well - they face being left out in the cold.
The shame of all of this is that many great blogs and business will eventually fold, not because they weren't great enough, or inspiring, useful, or gave great service etc - but simply because they weren't great enough at social media marketing and didn't have massive amounts of money to blow on expensive (outsourced, expert) social media marketing campaigns. Some will say it's because they didn't charge for their information and so it's their own fault - but take a look at many of the big blogs such as Gawker and many others, all of which allow you to read their content for free (and some of them are not even that good anymore.....) - but they will continue to survive and thrive because they can sell advertising at hugely inflated prices compared to anything an average blog could ever hope for. And maybe they CAN do this simply because they were here first, long ago, when the internet was still new, and so they became a part of the internet landscape and were established long before it got crowded. Perhaps if they started out today it might be a different matter.
Other highlights gleaned from the Kelly Services report are:
- "Social media is not the quick-fix solution it first looked like"
- "The proliferation of social platforms is making for a more complex marketing space. It’s clear that many organisations are finding it challenging to keep ahead of the game in so many different environments."
- "Outsourcing at least part of a social media presence is already mainstream, but there are inherent risks in taking this route".
- One of the main issues is that these ‘new’ online channels cannot be engaged with singularly. They form a fabric of communication that doesn’t hang together unless they’re working in concert".
- "In corporate usage, Twitter has evolved to be largely promoting links to other content, which itself needs to be developed and housed elsewhere. Likewise, a Facebook page on its own doesn’t always create a compelling reason to start and continue a conversation. Social media, thanks to this interwoven nature, can be deceptively resource-intensive".
- "Just ‘posting’ in social media circles isn’t enough. Just having a profile isn’t enough. You need a strategy to connect with people and draw them into your network. You need to offer something they can’t get elsewhere. And in an increasingly crowded and static-filled space, the way your connections filter through messages is a relentless and savage process".
- "Outsourcing and social media are, in one sense, the same thing. In fact, social media doesn’t exist without outsourcing. It’s the entire connected population communicating on your behalf. ....."
How To Succeed in Social Media Marketing!
According to the Kelly Services report, the solution is to get your customers or readers to do the work for you:
Rather than focusing on doing more yourself, the true power of this medium from both a marketing and customer engagement point-of-view is in getting your customers to do the work for you. No one can post and comment more about your product or service than they can. Encouraging them to do so, and harnessing the power of your entire customer base is paramount to surviving in this new landscape - and this is what companies need to spend more time thinking about and working on.
So there you have it - the real secret to social media success is not working harder or longer, but getting your audience to do the marketing for you!.
Oh, and feel free to share, re-tweet or "like" this article! 😉
You can download the full whitepaper report "Managing Friends & Manipulating People" from Kelly Services here: http://www.smartmanager.com.au/res/content/au/smartmanager/en/docs/kelly-outsourcing-social-media.pdf
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Karen is the co-founder of Business-In-Site.com and is an expert on WordPress with over8+ years experience building WordPress websites for clients. She has written hundreds of articles and is the lead writer and editor for Business-In-site.