After 15 years in the digital marketing industry I’ve seen many a trend come and go. Social media is not a trend but the hype it’s generated certainly is. Sure, there are some remarkable social media success stories and it’s easy to get excited by these but most of them take place in the mass consumer space. Unfortunately, due to these consumer examples too many business-to-business (B2B) marketers have been swept up in the pursuit of what the latest shiny social media thing is. I’m here to argue that you should never chase shiny since it will always fade. Below are three social media hype-isms (word I just made up) that are fading fast and are myths particularly when it comes to business-to-business organizations:
Myth 1. Social media generates immediate results
You can immediately follow or friend thousands of people through social media, but that doesn’t mean they’re engaged with you. Generating a credible following takes times, a long time. You need to consistently provide content that doesn’t interrupt people but is instead what people are interested in. And even if you produce interesting content the impact of social media is actually quite limited; Facebook recently change it’s newsfeed algorithm in an effort to boost quality/relevance and it’s had very detrimental effects on brand pages – Recent findings by Ignite Social Media claim only about 3% of your fans swill see your posts on Facebook and a post’s half life is only 30 minutes. The view rate of posts are even lower for Twitter. Gone are the days when you could produce good content and get views, you now need to pay-to-play. Since getting organic attention on platforms like Facebook and Twitter is becoming increasingly difficult the new reality is having to pay for advertising and boosted posts and even then social media marketing is a slow drip approach. My advice, If you want instant results (I.e. leads/purchases) for your B2B organization then try email marketing or search engine pay-per-click ads.
Myth 2. Social media is an effective direct sales channel
Generating direct sales is probably the worst thing social media is effective for when it comes to B2B. I’ve belonged to online forums since 2001, had a LinkedIn profile since 2005, started my first blog in 2006, signed up for Twitter and Facebook in early 2007, and experimented with a variety of other platforms. I’ve only ever had one direct request for services and it came through LinkedIn. So, why am I spending so much time on social media? It’s been for building awareness of my personal brand. It helps people get to know me, but then it takes physical contact to get them to like and trust me. Sales only happen once people decide they like and trust me. If you want to measure the ROI of social media you are much better using it for awareness building, customer service, and increasing loyalty amongst existing customers. If direct sales is your goal then go schedule some personal meetings because you’ll go broke relying on social media.
Myth 3. Social media is cheap and easy to implement
The tools are free to set-up but using them effectively takes a lot of time, creativity, and money to promote. If you have limited time and creativity then you’re better off hiring an ad agency to devise a campaign for you. The most important considerations when it comes to social media are the quality of content you create and the conversations/reactions you generate. If you can’t devote resources to these aspects then you’ll get what you’ve paid for – Nothing. If social media marketing is appropriate for your business then you really need a long term strategy and goals associated with. This takes thinking, planning, and execution on a scheduled timeframe. Failing to plan with be a plan to fail. If you go into it without a plan or key performance indicators then your efforts will be half-assed and wasted time. If you can’t properly devote resources to social media then you’re much better off focussing on things that you can.
This article might have come across as anti social media but that’s not my intention. I believe social media can be a very important part of a B2B organizations’s marketing strategy IF it’s the right fit, for an appropriate purpose, and there are proper resources devoted to it. The fact is, social media will not work the same way for everybody and the results you hear broadcast in the media are the equivalent of somebody becoming a celebrity; very few people become celebrities despite how many try. If you’re a B2B organization using social media or wondering if you should, then think carefully about what you want to accomplish and what will work best.