Social Media, over the past few years with all its services and platforms, has changed the way we behave and relate to each other on the Internet in ways unheard of before. Millions and millions of people are now using social media to talk, share, communicate and collaborate. People share content out via social networks for friends, families and also for their businesses. Social Media is used for educating, entertainment and building community online.
We have discovered through working with our clients that while Social Media works well for reaching out and building community it is not as well suited for selling and marketing by itself. Social media despite all the experts on the Web is not enough on its own to warrant the time and money that is being spent engaged in marketing campaigns on it in its present form.
The fundamental reason for this that in their rush to get away from old school means of doing business the enthusiasm for the idea that technology will solve all our problems one day is that the baby has been thrown out with the bath water. Marketing ideas that have been successful for many, many years have been rejected wholesale for the sake of the shiny and the new.
Presently we find that there are three main concerns that our clients come to us with:
- Time: Social media marketing strategies take time. Content needs to be created. From updating Twitter to creating a one minute YouTube video effort and thought is required. Also, it is not a one off deal. Updating needs to be constant, regular and reasonably frequent just to stay on people’s radar. In practice the very least amount of time a small business should spend maintaining its online presence is about an hour. We regard this as the minimum amount of time required to maintain a viable online presence. However, an hour a day spent managing Social Media is a huge chunk of time for a small business.
Social Media channels can be very noisy places. It is a challenge to maintain a presence there and another challenge to distinguish that presence and make it more noticeable. On top of that all the noise that is coming at you as a business has to be handled and responded to when appropriate in a timely manner. There is a need and an urgency to show that you are dynamic and alive within the community.
- Fear: Despite their being hundreds of millions of people on Facebook and tens of millions of people on Twitter there is still a great deal of reticence with small businesses to invest in an online marketing programme. They see the money involved and the work required but it is hard for them to see how social media can bring more people into your shop or sell more of their stock online. They cannot see the immediate return on investment for their efforts. There is also a learning curve for many small businesses have to take into account to acquire the skills to manage these new technologies and this is something else, while not difficult, still takes time.
- Implementation: As already suggested, Social Media is not a passive tool and requires constant engagement. By itself it is a commitment hungry machine demanding of one’s constant presence and there is little evidence that Social Media tools are enough by themselves to determine the success of a genuine marketing strategy. However there is a great deal to be learned from so-called old school conventional approaches.
While viral videos grab a great deal of attention mechanisms still need to be in place to convert eyeballs into actual sales. Just doing something cool and amusing is not enough. There is, however, a great deal of value that can be obtained from an integrated marketing approach. Combining tried and trusted old school techniques with the possibilities for experimenting with new ideas made possible by the internet.
Despite what many social media experts claim, for a small business to keep their online web presence social media requires interactivity. You don’t just switch it on it on and leave it to its own devices. You need to engage, update and enter into debate with others leaving comments and also be aware of new content that’s constantly arriving to find out what’s relevant to your business.
There are plenty of examples of successful online presence management but despite all the metrics available to us it is still hard to correlate activity with results. The famous expression accredited to David Ogilvy, “I know half my advertising doesn’t work; I just don’t know which half?” coined more than half a century ago still applies to the modern internet.
For social media to work it needs an ideal marketing mix of the traditional with the new. Despite social media tools being free there is a high energy and commitment cost. But being flexible in the choice of one’s marketing tools and getting mix right is how marketing campaigns in the Social Media environment can increase the potential for success for any kind of campaign.