Social Media Desire; all that Glitters is not Gold
So you fancy yourself a social creature do you? You get all warm and fuzzy inside when the mindless social media traffic hits your site, thrilled by the thought Digging your way to stardom? Are you unsure if using SMM is for you? Well, lets see if we cant put some reality to the beast that is the world of Social Media Marketing once and for all
however unlikely that may sound.
I recently started an ongoing dialogue with mhomey Jeff (Quip of Search Engine People) as he loves the SMM world and I brush it off with a hearty grunt on most occasions. Our path started in email chit chat and then he posted; 7 Benefits to Engaging in Social Media - which I thought was certainly aimed in my general direction and so I posted about it in my Beer Break a while ago - to which he was nice enough to poke me back at the end of this post; Now, I believe it is worth mentioning that I am a believer in SMM having a place in the iMarketing toolbox, it is the value or weight it should receive in importance that I am not as convinced on as others
thats my basic stance.
So let us try another stab at it because I feel the experience is good for people sitting on both sides of the fence or on top of it. Once more I shall play the devils advocate and spike this creature with my lance until it behaves as it should. Lets get Anti-Social!
I figure the best place to start is at the beginning; what are the benefits of SMM? According to most pundits we have;
Increased Branding a good definition I came across put it as; a traditional advertising method used to elicit a latent response from a target based on cumulative impressions and positive reinforcement. I think that says it well. Branding and brand management are certainly 2 cornerstones of the SMM development.
Anti-Social - the most severe drawback in this area is budgets. It is not going to be every company that has the budget in place to participate in front loaded marketing investments that are sketchy to ascertain ROI from on a good day. I dare say even the larger companies with reasonable branding activities in place could take a second look at it in an economic downturn.
Brand Management while truly a subset of Branding, it deserves its own place as there is much about SMM that is about managing the image once it is created. Monitoring your buzz is as much a part of the game as creating it.
Anti-Social Once again the main considerations here are time and money. Social Media is not a fire and forget it kind of deal. As with any public relations it must be monitored and maintained. Companies with limited budgets may flounder well before ever realizing a return on the investment. Marketing budgets, as with any other, must be spent wisely.
Increased Traffic Certainly a boon and something we all want; traffic. There is every reason to also believe it is reasonably targeted traffic depending on the efficacy of the SMM program. If your campaigns are targeted to a relevant niche, visitors are likely to be targeted.
Anti-social this is the one everybody knows; conversions. Some of the worst bounce rates I have ever seen are from SMM traffic. They are a finicky crowd and you need to have in place strong call to action systems and analytics tracking to really get a feel for monetizing it. In the end though, SMM traffic converts far poorer than many other traffic generation methods. Monitoring, analyzing and maximizing conversion methods, is important with any SMM campaign.
Increased Rankings we can certainly add in the fact that in many cases social media can lead to direct and indirect backlinks, build authority and relevance and ultimately strengthen SEO activities.
Anti-Social many of the links are nofollow these days and I would venture a guess that could increase. Beyond that I always associate a value on links and building your social net takes time once again. How this ultimately factors into an over-all link profile in terms of value remains to be seen in the years ahead. For the moment, SMM can be a minor player in SEO; a flavour additive.
I found it interesting that many of the Blogs I ventured across while researching did not mention actual Sales Leads/Conversions as a driving force behind SMM. Not sure if its a telling fact, but does bolster to concept of it being primarily a brand development and management tool. Lets look at some other important considerations.
Secondary Considerations; now for some other considerations that come into play in various degrees when looking at SMM as a viable investment.
Sales Leads/Conversions as I mentioned above, social media is not the greatest closer in the world and most evidence points to it being far less effective than other mediums such as PPC or SEO. It should still be considered as a secondary factor even beyond SMM aspects in that a Blog can play into CRM (customer relations management) which does increase sales and can lead to improved conversion rates.
More Subscribers/Audience a limited scope application. Not every site in every market can utilize/capitalize on a subscriber base. While it is a playa, it is limited in scope for this rant. It can be argued that every site should have some type of visitor retention in place, creating a system and content is another cost consideration.
Increased Awareness - I am not so sure this really isnt flogging the same horse that we branded already. There is not a discernable difference in branding and awareness for me to be splitting such hairs.
Associated development costs if there is not an in-house person that does well in the social world, then its a further expense. For example there are no writers one needs to get a ghost writer and a buzz monitoring staffer and so forth. Not every company has the tools in place for this. These costs now also come into play. Creating a social profile from scratch is not generally an over-night experience.
Inherent Flaws there is also of course the consideration of how the pandering and gaming of sites comes into play. That is not to say that other forms of internet marketing are immune to such problems, it is simply noteworthy that the social spaces have their own issues. Take a ride with Fanto and read up on the pandering that exists, become a Digg power user among many other examples. Such things can ultimately dilute public interest which is always as risk as with many areas of marketing.
Looking Ahead; A realistic approach
Now that we have that out of the way, let me be frank
(I always wanted a name change). I simply enjoy playing devils advocate and believe SMM is a perfectly viable approach when done correctly. One of the most important parts of doing it right is to get the associated costs and analytics in place to understand what is working and what isnt. Understand the value of each space you are playing within your campaign and weed out the weak ones. While playing in the social spaces may be fun, it needs to be profitable. When it comes time to slice up the marketing budget pie, which slice the SMM campaign gets to chow down on should depend on the viability of SMM in that market. Not because some knee-jerking lap dog is drooling everywhere over the latest and greatest thing in marketing.
What we do know is that it isnt going away. This means one cant use the head in the sand approach with SMM either. Social media and networking sites are going to be part of the landscape moving forward and understanding when and how to dip into the pool is essential. Personally it is quite refreshing to drive targeted traffic to a site outside of the mighty overlords like Robin and his band of merry folk. Much like the world of SEO; concepts of analytics and ROI need to be more commonplace. There arent many people talking about tracking and reporting on SMM campaigns which would probably be a good idea. Assessing a true value for SMM will go along way to making it more accessible to web site owners and marketers alike.
While I have been thinking about this whole thang, I cant help but be reminded of the age old question; which is better, SEO or PPC? We all know who won that one dont we? They both did. There is a place for them to co-exist in the marketing kit bag. For me Social Media Marketing will now also ride along when I look at a business that needs building. And for the moment, it will ride in the back with the rest of them
When I need it I use it, when I dont
Until next we meet
. Stay tuned
Want to do it right? I would recommend reading; Setting Goals and Defining Prospects or the Fundamentals of Social Media Marketing
More Goodies; 10 Reasons to use Social Media - Creating a Cohesive Social Media Strategy - The Social Media Manual - Social Media Marketing is Branding - Google gets Social - Social Media is Not About Traffic - Social Media Failures - When is Social Media Marketing Spam? - Social Networking User Behaviour Study - the Currency of Social Networks -
SEO & Social media; Bringing Qualified Traffic and Social Media Marketing is not SEO
Social Media Spending; Web 2.0 Greater in theory then Budget and Corporate budgets start to flow to Social Media
Specifics; StumbleUpon 50 Top Resources - Reddit By the Numbers - StumbleUpon Traffic Analysis - 50+ Social Networking sites - Top 24 Social media sites that actually send traffic - Facebook pacing Google (Social media data) - By the Numbers; Linked In -