Social Media – the newest industry buzz word.  Just like with the dot com era and the SEO buzz word, the newest greatest buzz word in marketing is social media.  Everyone needs to be on “social media”, but what the heck does that mean?  Social media was started to connect people to people but it has emerged as a marketing channel that connects business to their customers.   Social media, when done right, can make a huge difference in a businesses brand and sales strategy.  If you use the medium as intended to engage with other people, you can really have an impact of being able to connect with your customer and create a loyal fan and paying customer.

Here are some misconceptions in my mind about how people approach “social” media:

  1. If I just load my page with content, then people will like it and will buy my products.  No. That is not the point of social media.  Social Media is not a reliable sales channel and people will not flock to your page unless you have something to say.  Social media is supposed to be social, hence, the term. Automated posts that just dump information or links, IMHO (in my humble opinion) doesn’t drive engagement.   BUT if that content DOES provide valuable information to your followers, information that is relevant to your business and that makes you an authority, then that helps drive engagement. But you still have to talk to them!  I follow different pages or people for different reasons and I often share their content!    But if all you put out is canned content or just promote a product, you are not engaging people.   Have something interesting to say. Facebook agrees, it has changed yet another algorithm and if all you do on your personal account is promote a business they will contact you to stop and if all you do on your business page is promote they will start to rank you lower in the news feed.
  2. Looking for immediate results.  This is a problem. Social Media can be a slow burn.  Social media is like going to a party with a bunch of people.  You don’t walk in and stand their with a sign and expect everyone in the party to come up and buy your stuff without knowing anything about you…well in social media, welcome to the party – NOW MINGLE!  You have to talk to people.  Learn what they like, what they are interested in, what their needs are…then you start to talk about you….YOU HAVE A CONVERSATION.. and that is how social media works.
  3. I just need more likes, fans, followers.  So what are you going to do with them?   You can create a facebook ad campaign and buy likes essentially – but whoopdeedo if they don’t pay attention to what you are saying. It is like buying an ad in a magazine that doesn’t serve your market.  Why would you do that?
  4. Content doesn’t matter.  Oh but it does!  I follow Justin Bieber (don’t judge) because he is controversial and has 60+ million followers and twitter is his main form of communication.  If you look at one of his tweets from the infamous #whiteandgold or #blueandblack dress question, he has 120,000 favorites….out of 60,000,000 fans, that is his engagement rate….those people who are engaged in what he is posting….those are the people that he speaks to and support him – quite a difference from his followers huh?  Funny thing is content does matter.  I have posted regular text posts on my facebook page with literally no engagement…no one cared (#tears) but then I have posted a picture or a link to an article and suddenly my engagement rate went through the rough and I engaged tons more people than I had following my page ( #woohoo)   Content is king these days!
  5. I am going to use social media as a sales channel.  No you are not. People may buy here and there off social media, but it isn’t the norm.   YES…some companies make sales because of Facebook, but mostly because they have built a following there.    Social Media is a marketing channel that provides information and engages people and can be used to create raving fans.  You have to remember the companies that have been successful on social media  have created a place for their fans to congregate and talk directly to the company and get immediate feed back.

Thus, social media is designed to be social. It takes time and effort to build followers and the right campaigns for your followers.  For early adopters, that is what it was all about.  It became popular through the companies that got it right, by talking to their customers, posting relevant content and making them a part of the company. There was no advertising, tracking, etc., so they had to communicate with these folks. Now people seem to think they can short cut that process and you really can’t.  If you want to take the time to be social with your customers, then social media WILL work for you, but you can’t just line up a months worth of posts that are not relevant to your company or even current events and sit back and wait for it rain money, customers or engagement.

Oreo - social media

Here is a fun success story!  Oreo’s and the super bowl – During the SuperBowl last year, Oreo had 15 – yes 15 people on social media accounts watching and tweeting throughout the game ready to respond to whatever happened during the game they also had artists, copywriters, and a strategist on site at the ready…..and then an oddball thing happened……the lights went out in the stadium and BAM they were on it.  Here is what they did:

They responded and reacted at a moments notice and engaged people on social media and made a huge impression. Within minutes they had 15,000 Retweets and 20,000 likes on Facebook and knocked it out of the park!  It got the attention of the news and people world wide. It was brilliant….it worked….they engaged their audience and made a funny!

That is why social media is successful for some and not others; social media is in fact supposed to be social.  It should invoke some kind of response, funny, thought provoking, challenging or ironic. If it gets Retweeted and shared, liked or Favorited – then you got to someone.  Then you engaged them.  That is the trick. You can automate, but make it interesting, make it so that people will think it is cool.  Make it yourself and if someone comments, then respond.  Be available, be involved.

You have to remember ALL of these social media sites were designed to connect people.  Period. The advertising came later.  Facebook was originally for college students and you had to have a .edu email to just sign on.  I got my account the month after they opened it up.  I have seen more changes to Facebook in the past 8 years than I can recall.  Instagram was started as a community for photographers.  Period.  I was there before it was sold to Facebook.  Heck I still have a MySpace account I never deactivated.  How companies are successful is when they use the medium to engage the people there in the manner in which they joined.

Remember also it is a medium that should be part of a total media mix, not a central focus.   You can promote your business on Facebook, twitter, etc but each one has a different audience and each one needs to be addressed differently.  Can you build a successful  sales channel through social media, YES, but you have to engage your prospects, vet them, drill down to who they are, what they want, how you can fix it for them….that is how social media works.  Check out this article from Forbes.