I have to admit that until recently I wouldn’t have entertained writing an article titled “Is Social Media a Waste of Time?” The answer is so obviously “no” that it doesn’t even seem like a good rhetorical question, or a good attention-grabbing headline.
But, lately I’ve encountered several smart people who have made disparaging remarks about the value of using social media to grow your business. By “smart” people, I mean respected business people who run profitable businesses.
Now there is obviously more than one way to build a profitable business. But, if you are a B2C business – a business that is servicing people rather than other businesses – you are losing sales if social media is not at least a part of your marketing strategy.
I began to analyze why these smart people would be saying “social media doesn’t work,” when I could come up with a nearly endless list of examples of people building wildly profitable businesses on the heels of social media.
When I looked at the social media presence the naysayers had, and the theory behind their arguments, it came down to three things that either (1) they didn’t understand about the “how to” of social media, or (2) they were doing wrong themselves, which explains why it wasn’t working for them.
1. Be Efficient
To a social media “outsider,” keeping up with all of the networks looks overwhelming. Which is likely what prompted a PR specialist to opine in Forbes that:
There’s only so many hours in the day. You can spend time meeting reporters, crafting your message and getting placements in major media or your local publication, or you can type the keyboard for hundreds of hours hoping someone “Likes” your brilliant post on Facebook or follows your wickedly awesome tweets on Twitter.
He completely misperceives how people use social media, in the PR arena and in any other business. Meeting people, crafting your message, and securing great placements for your content is no more time-consuming on social media than it is in real life.
In fact, you’re doing the same thing online as you are offline here ~ you’re developing relationships. And while the Forbes writer argues for “more face time, and less Facebook,” in reality you will reach a far greater number of qualified prospects in your business if you do the opposite.
Social media done right doesn’t require hundreds of hours of hitting the keyboard in “hopes” that someone notices you. Because those who do it right are efficient in their use of social media. They use tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to automate some of their posting. They use services like ManageFlitter and SocialOomph to weed out the connections that aren’t relevant to their business.
Once you develop a system for efficiently managing your social media networks, you quickly figure out who you can develop beneficial relationships with. And, you don’t have to drive or fly to meet them, so you aren’t restrained to local connections. And, you don’t have to set up a fancy dinner to close the deal, you can do it online or with a phone call.
By efficient use of your social media marketing, you open the door to connecting with a hundred times the number of potential clients than you could if you had to put in face time with each of them. And, converting prospects into clients is faster and easier. Yes, it does take time to develop relationships on social media. But it takes time to develop them in person too.
2. Be Effective
I’ve heard a fair number of people who are building their online business, and aren’t seeing a lot of profit yet, express frustration that social media isn’t making them any money.
This goes back to the fact that social media is about building relationships. And these doubters are not seeing good results because they are not doing effective marketing. Social media is a conversation, and they are absent.
Instead, this bunch is using social media as a commercial. And that won’t work.
It took about 10 seconds in my Twitter stream to find this tweet:
of course a link to a flashy website was attached to the end of the tweet. And when you go to the profile page of such tweeters, you see that they crank out a similar tweet at least once an hour.
This is exactly what people are not looking for on Twitter or any other social media platform.
Another important point of effective marketing is to target your marketing to an audience that is listening. I’ve had people say “well, I sell a nutritional product, so everyone who breathes is my ideal customer.” That’s just not true. It’s not about what you think, it’s about what your audience thinks. In this example, only those who have an interest in nutritional products can qualify as your target audience.
Yes, it takes more than just signing up and posting about your breakfast. Any business strategy does. But, a social media strategy of providing quality information to your targeted audience is an effective (and proven) method of building your business.
3. Be Engaging
There is another group of marketers who have been casually tossing out the advice that “social media doesn’t work” lately. This bunch is highly successful, and likely influences some people to delete their Twitter and Facebook accounts in pursuit of better options.
Unlike those that simply sell, sell, sell, these marketers actually put out some good and useful content. But, that’s all they’re doing ~ broadcasting content. Again, they aren’t engaging in the conversation.
In looking at their social media profiles, I see 200 likes and 35 comments on a Facebook post, yet they fail to respond to even one of the commenters.
Either social media is working for them and they just aren’t tracking it, or it isn’t working because they aren’t making it work for them. If you don’t respond to people who are engaging you through comments, replies, and retweets, they are going to go where the conversation is. They’re going to form relationships with people who are talking back to them. And they’re going to buy from those people.
Bonus Tip – Expectation
If your social media content is efficient, effective and engaging, your business will grow. That’s not opinion, it’s fact. I see it happen every day.
So, if you are one of the doubters, instead of saying “social media is a waste of time,” it’s time to look at your marketing strategy and see where you are getting it wrong.
Another place I see people missing the boat is in their expectation. Generally, social media is not where people are going to buy from you. Your goal on social media is to develop a relationship that makes people want to become a fan of your blog, and sign up for your email list. That is where products and services are sold. And where money is made.
So yes, you can expect that your beautifully crafted tweet will result in a few sales from your already dedicated fans. But what you really want to expect from social media is that it will grow your email list, which you will then use to grow your profits.
I’d love it if you’ll share with me in the comments how social media has helped build your business. I’m always looking for more stories to prove the haters wrong . . .