Social Media Does Not Connect Your Company to Your Audience
What do you do for social media marketing? It might be something like this – create post with a couple of variations to test engagement, analyze data of past post to determine best posting times for this type of content, make sure you have one image, one hashtag, and one @ if applicable. Then think deeply about the meta description for Facebook and a short added message to the post to add personality. Hit publish when you are ready, count the likes, retweets, hearts, thumbs up, and comments. Make sure you thank everyone for retweeting.
Then check your sales and website metrics to see if there was an increase in revenue and visits.
Something like that, right?
Word of Mouth Advertising
The best form of advertising always has been and will always be word of mouth. People are always going to trust their friends or colleagues over whatever clever billboard or compelling advertisement they see – always. People trust those whom they have connected with.
Social media was supposed to be a way for people to connect from all over the world over the Internet. Through them, we can keep in touch with those we care about and we can share however much or little we want to. Retweeting and sharing posts has become the modern day equivalent of word of mouth except it isn’t as good. Things can get shared quickly and without thought, and the context of what is being shared is often missed. But these pieces of information have the potential to reach hundreds, thousands – even millions – of people because people are fuel for social media.
Like an empty bar on a Friday night, no one wants to go into a social network if they do not have users. The idea was always to connect with your friends and family but if they aren’t on the social network, what incentive do you have to join? Platforms need people to join and use them and they do this by lowering any obstacles that might get in the way. All you need is an email address (and now a phone number for some of them) and you can join for free. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Nothing comes without a cost. Running these services became expensive but they had to keep it free or their users would leave so they opened their platforms up to advertising. And then they turned to marketers. Now we have hundreds of scrappy agencies that promise likes and tweets and shares and hearts and what ever have you. What was supposed to be a digital version of sharing information and connecting with people became the biggest platforms to sell your products.
Then people thought it would be a great idea to create profiles for brands as if they were real people. But the public didn’t buy it and they never will. They know that brand accounts are managed by “social media managers” and that their messages are just advertising. Perhaps once in awhile, a company will tweet out a joke or somehow not embarrass itself with a meme.
The company page will get some likes, some shares, but the overall effect on their bottom line and marketing ROI probably won’t budge. But that is also if their analytics are correct, which sounds silly but turns out they sometimes aren’t.
Are the Numbers Fake?
When Facebook, for example, reveals that their analytics have been wrong, it should give us marketers a pause. After all, Facebook has vested interest to keep us advertising on their platform because it is their main source of revenue. I don’t think miscalculations are intentional, but it does look bad and makes me feel a little uneasy. Additionally, skeptics has provided thoughtful evidence that social media marketing is not the miracle maker it is made out to be. We will always be sold that things such as Facebook video is the next step in online marketing. I don’t think so. On top of that, we have fake interactions, hackers, and “buyable” followers that all inflate the numbers and make these platforms seem better than they probably are. It is no surprise then that such low numbers count as social media marketing wins for corporations and if so, maybe the time and money is better spent elsewhere.
Yet, marketing on social media still is popular even though people relate to brands as brands but not as people. There is nothing that can be done about that. However, social media is still useful for companies and marketers but we just need to rethink its importance and be critical of how we use it.
There are plenty of success stories of entrepreneurs that have been able to harness the power of social media marketing. I am sure you can think of a few. One thing I have noticed is that the successes are almost always advertising themselves as the brand, not a company. A comment or retweet by Neil Patel is worth more than one by his company’s account because it is more personal. We know that company accounts are at least semi-automated and the stereotype is that there is some low-paid intern on the other end, sometimes with disastrous results.
Cultivating a persona (whether it is actually you or an online-facing character) can have huge success on social media but the magic rarely extends to brands. For them, social media should be a tool for public relations and customer service ahead of marketing. It is a good platform to get a sense of brand awareness and identity and to respond to people who have questions or complaints.
If even giant corporations can’t get detailed analytics to work for them in their marketing, maybe smaller agencies like us need to re-evaluate the effectiveness of what we are doing. We also need to realize that SMART goals and KPIs should never be based around likes and retweets. We are likely marketing to an army of bots anyway at best and at worst we are using metrics that most likely have no correlation at all to our ROI or bottom line.
To use social media effectively, we need to be skeptical of its value. Be mindful of the investment you make in these platforms and don’t be afraid to break best practices if they don’t seem to work. The real value is reaching out and changing people’s lives with your business, not boosting a post for the bots and thanking people for re-tweeting you on their bathroom breaks.