140+: In the Moment


The Top 3 Dirty Little Secrets of Social Media Marketing


Money on social media hype image

You’ve heard it all from passionate presenters and evangelical bloggers…There’s tons of hype about the power of social media.

Let’s get real. Social media  offers a lot of potential for marketing. Companies and nonprofit organizations are experiencing success using social media for marketing, outreach, advocacy and fundraising. Lots of us internet marketers think it’s the best way to engage with and establish relationships with customers and constituents, and perhaps (if we have done a good job) get them to transact with us. BUT…In the heat of the moment when social media passion has taken over, there are (at least) three secrets social media marketing evangelists might fail to mention:

1) Social media marketing is just not right for every business. Face it: If you are marketing niche products or services into a very traditional sector, it just might not make sense.  Using any marketing medium effectively requires putting the message where the target audience is, and where they want to engage with you.

Are farmers really going to make Facebook their first stop for information when they need to buy a tractor? Are they going spend a lot of time engaging in an exchange of ideas information about equipment on social networking sites? (Hold on there, farmers! I know you use social media. Stick with me for a minute!)  I’m just saying social media should not be the primary tool in the marketing mix for some businesses. The fact is, there are better ways to market some products and services. To be effective with any marketing strategy you have to  pick the right mix.   Social media marketing is a powerful tool, but true geeks like me must be strong enough to admit when social doesn’t make sense.

Don’t buy the hype if the person offering the advice  is not thinking specifically about your products or services and your core market.

2) You simply cannot push your message. I know this is not really a secret. Seth Godin, Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki and lots of other smart social media marketers constantly tell us social networking is about all the things we learned in Kindergarten about making friends.  But if you follow social media it seems like a lot of marketers are treating the medium like advertising, alienating their audiences, and making it obvious that their brands are not really customer-centric.

Social networkers expect two-way or many-to-many conversation and real engagement. That means you must share interesting conversation, establish value, and give your audience a chance to chat. You have listen to them and you must respond, just as you might if you were in their living rooms at a party. Because, indeed, this is SOCIAL (as in the companionship of others) media.

Would you invite people to a dinner party and start pitching the minute they arrived? Even if it was a business-related event, you would have to at least engage in a conversation or two. And if you feigned interest, the other guests would consider you a phony. HELLO! Social networking is where your company will be tagged as relevant and interesting or doomed to be like a narcissistic outcast because the content is just pitch after pitch. Boring. Useless. Irrelevant. Crass. Just like a bad party host.

3) Social networking is not easy and immediate. I’m sure you’ve seen the books and blogs that Get more followers imagepromise dramatic and immediate results from social media in just a few minutes per day.  Those plans use technology and tactics that can automatically build an audience, but the technology cannot deliver the right audience or build meaningful relationships with them. Onceyou’ve found your core audience, engagement with those people must authentic– a real person must respond authentically.  It takes a lot of time and patience to build followers, friends, and fans.  It requires authentic interest in your audience and commitment to sharing.

If you do not have at least 10 hours a week (that’s a .25 FTE)  to spend on social media and no money to hire someone, you probably should not plan to use social media as a primary tool in your marketing strategy. You can set up a presence on a social media site with less of time investment, but you can’t expect significant results.  And, even with someone devoted to social media for a quarter of their time, you should expect it to take at least 6 months to build up meaningful results. And, ROI? Bonus Dirty Little Secret: It’s not your mother’s ROI any more! ROI in social media is gauged differently now… But that’s a post for another day. Stay tuned!

So, what? I know it seems like I am a social media Scrooge, but I’m one of the social media-crazy evangelists who sometimes gets so carried away that I forget to offer these important footnotes.  But I do think it is important to know how and when to use the tools that fit the job.  You deserve pragmatic advice.

So, what do you think? Am all wrong? Leave a comment and tell me why!

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2 Responses to 'The Top 3 Dirty Little Secrets of Social Media Marketing'

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  1. Karen Nemeth said,

    I think you are not wrong. I have a lot to learn. I didn’t read anything or know anything when I started. I just asked a few questions and then went with my gut. For all I know, I’m doing it alllllll wrong! But, I have made some great contacts on Twitter, so I’m not complaining. Will be interesting to see what others write.

    • Fran Simon said,

      Karen: You are too humble. You’ve got the Socmed stuff down, and you are a great role model and leader for our field. It’s all just trial and error. It’s thanks to social media that you and I are connected. Thank you, Twitter!


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