Why You Have Social Media All Wrong

[excerpt from my upcoming Ebook: The Truth About Digital Marketing (a working title)]

Just about everyone I’ve ever talked to about digital A&M always throws in the importance of social media. Business owners, industry professionals, and laypersons seem to believe that social media is the solution to all of their digital marketing needs. I kindly submit; everything you know about social media is wrong. Before you click away…consider the notion that social media is not an all-encompassing concept, rather it is a multi-tiered channel of communication.

Additionally, social media is not a high producing digital channel. It does not produce a significant supply of website traffic nor does it produce high conversion rates. I have been in digital marketing and advertising for over a decade now…and was working in the industry when social started to rear its head in 2006-2007. The reality is, social media, as a general channel, converts well below 1% while other channels like paid, direct, referral, and email are much higher [Average between these channels is around 2.5%]. Moreover, social signals and their importance/impact on your SEO and website are very nominal. And play little role in your overall success if a ‘share’ action isn’t taken.

With some of these number in mind, it is paramount to your business goals to take a deep breath and let us all put social media in the right place. Communication, branding, listening posts, marketing, and publication. Most certainly NOT conversion and a primary traffic source.

I break down the concept of social media into five primary segments. Social media communication. Social media listening. Social media A&M. Branding and brand reputation. And social media publication.  Each portion should be treated as a collective and individually. In doing so, less work will lead to better experiences for both your business, social communities, and would-be visitors.

Social media communication is simply that. How you communicate with your audience on the various platforms. The individuals who have opted to join your group, cause, or business want to hear from you. They want to engage with your brand. They are not on social media to buy anything or to be sold your newest trinket. They want insights, information, and unique content that they cannot get anywhere else. Provide these things to your audience and you will gain more authority within your group and have a much better opportunity to spread your message far and wide. Continue to be self-promotional and you will eventually find your hard earned audience turning their collective backs. In short; unique, high-quality, relevant content will help you engage and communicate.

Social media listening give you, the brand/company, the opportunity to listen to your audience. Much of business and corporate communication is one way. We are speaking and messaging our clients and customers but we are not actively listening to their ideas, thoughts, complaints, and compliments. Therefore, active listening and contemplative responding is key to a successful social media endeavor.

 Social media A&M is the active practice of advertising and marketing within various social platforms. Yes, it is paid inclusion. Yes, it can be very intrusive. And yes, 4 out of every Facebook ads are ignored. And yes, MySpace went out of fashion due to too many ads and poor content. Marketing and advertising on these platforms are best for brand awareness but not so much for conversions. The good news is they are very cost effective for a CPV [cost per visitor] standpoint.

Branding and brand management is critical in the age of big data and in light of public demand for corporate transparency. Leverage social media networks to take over your brand name and mitigate future negative comments, features, and commentary. Without question there is a social component here and one you and your company should not ignore.

Social media publication is one of the most important aspects of all social media efforts. What you publish and what social media outlets you publish on matter. If your business target is B2B your best publication option is on your site [of course] and on LinkedIn. If your target is B2C in nature, Facebook may be your best shot. Of course, mixing it up and sending out high quality content is the name of the SEO game more than the nature of social media. However, the two work hand in hand depending on how good the content is. Truly unique and excellent articles can have a very far reaching impact [consider ‘going viral’] and can produce excellent website referral traffic.

I encourage you, dear reader, to reconsider how you are approaching social media. It is a challenging endeavor and careful consideration should be given to how much time, effort, money, and ideation is need prior to diving in. More importantly, understanding the different areas of social media can help you make smarter decisions and work more efficiently. At the end of it all, digital marketing and social media is not about working harder…but smarter.

Social Media is not what you think: Digital reality check

Social Media – A digital reality check 

I’ve been involved in online and Internet marketing for over a decade. I’ve executed paid search campaigns that have delivered 6 to 1 for every dollar spent…and 25 to 1 for every dollar spent. I’ve seen first had the impact of search engine optimization and the positive impact it can have on a website. This isn’t about me or what I’ve done for clients…not at all. This about giving social media a new name. Giving social media it’s due justice. The justice it deserves is a slow and painful death. I say draw and quarter the concept while we still can. Why would I say that? It is a little medieval is it not?

Social media is about communication. It is about listening. It is about providing something to your audience without the expectation of getting a sale in return. Social media is not about ‘media’ but about how we are interacting with one another online via new platforms. There is nothing new today that wasn’t in the Internet either in 2007 or 2005. It’s just become bigger.

Social media is thrown around and gets way more coverage than it deserves. Based on a recent article[s] from Search Engine Watch, social is a poor traffic driver at best and based on the traffic it does provide, it has very poor conversion rates. Typically, I’ve seen clients with conversion rates well below 1% and have never seen conversion rates above 1%. Optify has B2B conversion rates slightly higher at 1.22%. But this is still pretty low and what is the ROI for the effort? Internet visitors use the various search engines to find what they are looking for.

They use social media sites to [wait for it]…be social. They are not going to these locations to buy or be sold anything. Communication and being social is the primary goal and primary use for social outlets. That is not a complicated notion to understand. As such, using a direct marketing approach is not going to work with these outlets. Social media is nothing more than a way to communicate online. Social media is all about transparency  communication  community development, and sharing with others without the expectation you will get anything back. Is that so wrong? Not at all.

However, all of the major media outlets would have you believe that social is the silver bullet to attracting new clients and customer. The data does not support this theory. In fact, the data is showing that for small business owners, social media can be a colossal waste of resources. If there is no solid return on investment…why invest in social media? You shouldn’t.

Does this mean that you should avoid social media all together? No. It means you should use it the right way. Search engines are now looking at social media factors. Use your social media profiles to do the following:

  1. Protect your brand. If you don’t take control of your social profile your competitors may do it for you. Take over your profiles but do so if the locations house your target audience. 
  2. Use social media to provide useful information and content for your visitors, followers, and fans. Not to push your products and services.
  3. As share is worth more than a like. Thus – it is good form and practice to create shareable content.
  4. Be found on social networks. With Facebook’s Graph Search and more content being indexed by the search engines, it is best to be on Facebook, Twitter, and other online locations…if only to be found and have a link.
  5. Use social media as a communication tool and a listening platform. You may be able to learn a great deal from your clients and customers if you listen. Speaking delivers much less information than listening.

I encourage you to do the research on your own. Advertising budgets that are spent on social media is a mistake. Advertising budgets that create whole teams for the sole purpose of reaching out via Facebook and Twitter are NOT delivering a return based on the effort. BJ Mendelson has written the definitive book on the subject: Social Media Is Bullshit. It is worth the read and truly worth the time.

Don’t buy into to the hype and wonder where your advertising dollars went. You are much better off using pay per click advertising, display, or re-targeting. Save your energy, resources, and efforts for the real battles. Social media is really social communication…nothing more…nothing less.