If it’s big, it ought to be important. If it’s so important, then it ought to fetch us something for our money and/or efforts. Or so the general thought goes.
For social media, however, size has nothing to do with what you’ll get from it. Just like you get answers from people depending on the way you ask questions, social media does and does not achieve certain kind of results. It’s not really about the medium then; it’s more about what you expect from it and what you pour into it
Here are 4 specific kinds of results that social media isn’t meant to get for you:
$X Spent on Advertising = $Y in Total Sales
Social media is designed to be more like a huge, passive party – a humongous congregation of humanity on another medium almost as if it’s an alternative to living on our own planet. Ideas can spread and thoughts can resonate. You (along with millions of others) can share content, support causes, keep in touch with others, connect with many more, and advocate everyone’s little version of the truth (or lies).
Social media is all that and much more. Yet, it’s not like traditional media in the revenue sense. It just won’t fetch you sales in spades. It won’t make your cash register wail like a siren. It might never get you a single “buy” transaction, ever.
You just have to go the proverbial Edison way and fail 10,000 times before you hit on what works for you. Take a shot at social media in whichever way that you deem appropriate: do it yourself, recruit in-house social media experts, outsource it, or bring in highly skilled social media consultants.
Social media wasn’t formed to be a marketplace; it was built to connect people, with all their needs, wants, information requirements, craving for support, and hungry demand for social proof. Revenue is something you attempt to dig out from the midst of all these. So don’t go betting on it.
You can’t buy love. We knew it long before but social media just blew that concept into a massive size and then forced us to pin that into our heads. Thousands of businesses to date love taking the “buy likes and followers” approach by hiring “specialists” who claim to be able to bring in 3,000 likes in 30 days or 20,000 followers in 3 months.
Think about this for a second: if your business deals with great products and services and if you stand behind your offering while contributing value to your customers, why would you ever need the all-too-tempting “buy 1000 likes” to work social media into your marketing strategy?
If you are good, the world will know. People will take notice. They will spread the word for you. Your brand will go viral if you give people enough reason.
Buying your way in is way too easy. Even if you did achieve to herald masses of people to like your Facebook Fan page and to follow you across your social media channels, do you really think they’d pay attention to your incessant interruptive marketing? You did buy your way in but how long does it take for them to chuck you out with an “Unlike” or “Unfollow?”
If the number of fans and followers were the measure of success, 80% of all social media accounts would have no use whatsoever. You’d be surprised at what some really small businesses with a tiny string of likes and followers have managed to do.
Orchestrating the PR Circus
It takes only one visit to Quora or a discussion-heavy LinkedIn group to make you realize that Internet users have worked to build passionate communities around products, services, ideas, brands, and tools.
If you read popular online publications such as Read Write Web, Mashable, Inc., or Fast Company, you know that if there’s a mention of a business, a web-based tool, a piece of code, a mobile app, or a service, that website gets server-killing traffic within the hour. The basic reason for this is that these sites have gained the trust of millions and a collective agreement from the community of being a reliable source of industry information.
Type in a query of your choice in Quora and see users pitching in their “opinion” on what these popular tools are. Project collaboration tools such as Basecamp have upstaged mighty and established programs such as Microsoft Project. Large online retailers and established bloggers rely on provider reviews from WhoIsHostingThis? before they choose a web host. Savvy travelers make it a point to check out Oyster Fakeouts before they book a hotel, and Oyster now has as much pull as TripAdvisor or any travel publication.
What’s the difference between an orchestrated PR effort and a natural mention on any of the websites alluded to earlier?
Press releases and paying publications (including blogs) is the traditional form of spreading the word. It still works, but it’s easy for readers to see through. How much value would you place on a blog posts that starts with “Sponsored Post?”
Natural mentions on popular publications, forums, communities, review sites, and Q & A sites are a whole new level of PR altogether. For once, there’s a real sense of “newsworthy” in the press!
Social media won’t budge to your PR bullying—it has the potential to bring media companies to their knees!
Swiping Your Card and Cashing In
Finally, social media is the exact opposite of traditional marketing channels when it comes to timeframes. Place an advertisement on your local paper today and you might just get some calls. Run a prolonged mass media campaign across print and television and you’ll get noticed. Lump together an offer that expires in a week and you’ll get a few visits to your store.
Social media is the last place you should be if you want anything “instant.” That’s not to say social media is a sloth bear. Nothing matches the viral blowout of a social share, but this “spread” is organic—no one individual, company or campaign controls it. No amount of money can buy that kind of influence.
If you are intent on social media, nurture it like a child. Do what you have to and do it for a long time. Social media begins to work for you when you’ve worked long enough and consistently enough.
If you’re looking for a shortcut, look somewhere else.
Rohan works at E2M Solutions, India’s fastest growing online marketing agency, where he puts together digital master plans for premium brands. He also helps create remarkable user experiences at OnlyDesign.org for startups. Hit him up on Twitter for a chat.