Yes, my mind is officially boggled. The statistics that continue to to be pumped out by the social media community (or should they be called the social media media?) are increasingly staggering:
And now we get this infographic from Social Jumpstart showing what's happening in 60 SECONDS:
OMG, if you aren't taking advantage of this incredibly massive online activity to promote your business, you must be a complete idiot!
Or maybe not.
As I told a recent audience at The Work Truck Show, this reminds me a of that old joke about the little girl who saw a giant pile of horse manure, jumped in the middle and starting digging. When asked what she was doing, she replied, "There MUST be a pony in here somewhere!"
Look, I understand it's easy to get fascinated by these huge numbers, but this social-media-is-awesome-for-businesses is getting out of hand. Don't fall into the new shiny object vortex without taking a deep breath and analyzing it from a reasonable, intelligent perspective.
So I'm going to take a bit of an Anti-Christ perspective about social media here and share what I think are important points you must consider.
First, recognize that huge numbers don't mean squat.
In fact, for most businesses, huge numbers make it harder for you to find your best prospects. Like the little girl, you've got to spend time digging through it all to uncover the exact right people you want to see.
Most people are online, yes, but not in the way you want.
I asked my Work Truck Show audience how many were using Pinterest. Four enthusiastic people raised their hands and I asked how they were using it. "For cooking ideas!" "I love the design pictures for the home!" I asked if any were using it for business. They all shook their heads no.
Yes, our prospects and customers are using social media, but they often don't identify themselves as our prospects and they don't hang out in groups as our prospects. They participate in tribes of personal interest, not business. Just because your target hangs out on social media doesn't mean they're there to talk with you.
Social media is not a mini-press release mechanism.
Here's an example of the wrong use of Twitter:
If this is how you're using social media, just stop it. Stop it right now before you get hurt.
Most social media "experts" only carry a hammer
And so everything looks like a nail. Ever notice how direct mail specialists think direct marketing is the best tool? That's because that's all they see. And way too many social media "experts" have drunk the koolaid of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. BTW, how many social media "experts" are you aware of who can show proven, measurable, cash-in-the-bank results from their consultations, books, speeches, and webinars?
Most social media "experts" think the media is the beginning
The first question any good strategic, or marketing, or branding consultant should ask is "Who is the target?" Social media "experts" see the media as the first part. The formula goes like this:
Market + Message + Media
1. Who is your target market? Define them as clearly as possible. (BTW, if your answer is "everyone," don't quit your day job.)
2. What message do you want to share with them that will get them to raise their hands and want to talk with you?
3. What media should you use to most effectively communicate with your target market? Your quiver is filled with a myriad of different types of tools. Social media is just one category or group that is in that quiver. Find the best one and use it first.
Market is first. Not media.
Social media, done right, takes a sh–load of time
Don't kid yourself, social media is a HUGE time sucker and most companies don't have the luxury of a full-time social media staffer. If you're in that boat and you want to play in this space, then you must carve out of agiant chunk of time to do it right. You want to play on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn? Figure one-two hours per day MINIMUM. And don't think you can post something and walk away. Social media thrives on current and new information.
BTW, if you happen to be that full-time social media person and you want to keep your job? Figure out a way to prove ROI. If you can't do that, then just assume your job is temporary.
Look, I'm not saying stay away from social media. It's a tool, pure and simple. For some of you it might work today. For most of us, we need to do a better job of figuring it all out before diving in. Just make sure you go through the proper due diligence first. Keep your eyes wide open and don't get caught up in the Shiny Object Syndrome that's struck so many companies these days.
Remember, trade shows work great for a lot of companies, but maybe not for you. The Yellow Pages work great for a lot of companies, but maybe not for you. Even Valpak works great for a lot of companies, but maybe not for you.
Personally, I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make money off social media. I'm an early adopter, because I need to know what works now and what's going to work for my clients. I built up a Twitter "following" of over 10,000. So what? I'm still chasing this social media thing, but I believe most businesses, especially those of you in the B2B world, are a long ways away from figuring it out. And when we do, don't worry, I'll be right on top of it!
If anybody tells you social media is working for them, don't ask to see how many friends, fans, or followers they have. Ask them to show you the money.
Glad to see you back Steve. And I fully agree with your last two sentences. However, keeping our business’ name in front of a potential or past customer is always important. In this internet age, it is ever easier to not shop with a local business. The potential with social media is to keep my business in the public’s mind for the time they need us or our service.
Extremely well put – as usual.
Not sure what magnetically attracts the 2 phrases “social media” and “idiots” but my own take on this is here:
Rock on – and say “Hi” to Kelly.
Your NSA pal,
I like your post. I am not a big fan of social media. I use it for personal use maybe once a week if I have time. I don’t see it as a business tool, unless you are a retailer running an ad in the side bar. Even then I don’t need to find what I’m looking for by using a social media tool.
Our company isn’t using it at all because we don’t see the ROI either and we can’t afford to hire someone to maintain it.
I actually had to use social media last week to resolve a billing issue I had with a dentist. It was impossible to get someone to fix the problem over the phone. I tried for six months. I went on to their facebook and posted something about it and got an immediate response. Problem solved. Then they asked me if I would please delete the post. So I did. I never thought I would have to resort to facebook to help me fix a problem.
To JWolf9541, Thanks for welcoming me back. I didn’t publicize it, but my father passed away last month, so between business travel and that, other things fell through the cracks.
Using social media to keep your auto dealership in front of people? How are you doing that? And how did you do that before social media?
I agree with your perceptions. I have been studying social media to be used in the context of litigation preparation. Some of the disclosures people make are troubling and some are worthy of using on cross-examination. I counsel people to monitor their presence online and to check the online presence of their clients.
Amen! I haven’t quite figured it out for B:B like our company. I do have a YouTube page where I put videos we have done at tradeshows of new product introductions and that works well. Still have a learning curve there too. I can see the use for B:C but we are still working at getting them to raise their hand so we each know the other exists. For a small company it is overwhelming and because of the time involved, we haven’t jumped in wholeheartedly yet. Thanks for your comments; always food for thought.
Great post. Our company has not jumped into the social medai craze yet. I am concerned about the amount of time reqired to monitor and maintain a socail presence. I just read a survey done by Gardner Publications regarding media usage. It is a little biased because they do print and not social, but their findings show that in the manufacturing sector, print is at the top of the list. Social media is at the bottom of the rating in every catagory. We are planning on slowly trying it out to see how it goes, but I’m skeptical about using social medai in the manufacturing sector. Most shop owners are more concerned about keeping their doors open that they are in social media.
If you are using social media and you don’t have strategy in place, you are wasting your time. There should be some specific social media goals directed to a target audience. Charlene Li explains how to do this quite well in her book on social media called Groundswell. I highly recommend this book if you are struggling with your social media plan.
Steve – loved your article. I’ve been given the daunting task of running social media for a non-profit and I truly struggle with marketing/sales side of it. I look at social media as more of a way to interact with those who believe in our mission. Continuing the research and trying to keep up with the ever changing landscape. Thanks Again.
This is great stuff Steve, and that’s coming from a social media fan. I agree with you on all points. It seems as though many of us are feeling the pressure to engage in social out of fear that we’ll be way behind in the future. However, I know people who no longer have a personal email address because all interaction is done on Facebook. So I wonder if communicating via social will someday be the primary method of electronic communication. Regardless of the new shiny object, the Message will always be the constant in what we should be focusing on. The channel that carries these messages will never stop being the variable. Trying to keep up is futile.
Sorry for your loss Steve. Keep up the great work!
I enjoyed the post! I definitely agree more than I disagree… but as you pointed out more than once – it is a tool. My theory is to avoid the “fads” and wait to get involved with what is “proven.” Facebook has proven to me that it is here to stay for awhile (I can’t say the same for pintrest and many others and see no point in jumping on the band-wagon… yet). As you mentioned in a recent post about Hotels, there are some customer “expectations” – and for us, Facebook is definitely and expectation of our customer. I was skeptical at first, but we are seeing our true fans that love our company and love our products referring us (via their own posts) to their facebook friends. I know you believe strongly in referrals… so this should make you proud!
We don’t make a lot of money from our Social Media, but it is great to see new business come from it, stay top-of-mind, and even learn more about our customers from the interactions.
I agree. I’ve “spent” a lot of money trying to market on line. (I hired some very enthusiastic, expert online marketers.) The bottom line was a lot of money spent on squeeze pages, web sites, etc. with almost nil return. My best return comes from direct mail.
PS Too bad you won’t be at the superconference.
Great Blog! On a personal level, I’m an early adopter of social media. I even used to use MySpace (what’s that?).
Even so, I’m hesitant to suggest a social media program to any of my clients until it has more proven business value.
Another aspect that is worth mentioning is the amounts of social mediums popping up. Like you mentioned, Pinterest is the latest “gotta be there” social medium that everyone is raving about. But, when it comes down to it, there are only so many hours in the day. Even with all this new technology, people are still people, and still only able to dedicate themselves to a couple information sources on a regular basis.
I liken a lot of these social mediums to the dotcom crash of 10+ years ago. There were a ton of new websites out there – all of which were “going to make a ton of money.” The problem is the business was all speculative. There were more and more websites popping up – none of them making money – and eventually the bubble burst.
I see the same thing happening with social media. There are more and more options popping up – each with a “gotta be there” mantra from experts. Eventually this bubble is going to burst, and that’s when it’s going to be clear which mediums are worth pursuing.
Brilliant Steve….I could have written this myself….PS I have posted a link to your website on my Facebook page.
Agreed. Agreed. Agreed. Social media can be great. (I’ll tweet this article and probably post it on my facebook), but it’s not the end all and be all of Internet Marketing for most businesses. Good stuff. Thanks for putting the social media frenzy into perspective. BTW, you’ll probably like this Twitter infographic: https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/270050_188778551184151_172087382853268_501495_7825861_n.jpg
So…am i supposed to retweet this or not?
Thank you for this insightful review–this should help us all get back on track.
Very funny! I was waiting to see if anybody made a joke about that. Did you also happen to catch my own little joke in my post?
Finally!! I was almost afraid to admit it myself, even though I use social media. It is a tool, not the Holy Grail. You are spot on in everything you said. The truth has set us free.
Social media is not a time suck if you manage it properly. As for the “show me the money” statement, you should be using analytics to gather measurable data. Too many companies just dump content on social media sites and expect it to work magic. You need to know your audience for the different sites, interact with them, and post accordingly. At my company I am in charge of producing online content. I set down weeks/months in advance with our managers and plan out a timeline for topics that match our products, create the content, and then monitor the response. This then serves as a template for future content.