Why Spend Money on Social Media? Yes Really.

January 18, 2013

Social_Media_Image_purchased

Over the last few days I’ve been interrogating the rationale behind social media. I’ve been suffering from an existential angst that all this social media stuff is at best a kind of ‘branding wallpaper’ and at worst a big waste of company profits. OK, maybe this is an oversimplification, but bear with me while we consider it further.

These thoughts have arisen from a number of conversations with people I respect in various marketing-related areas.

First, in conversation with a published leader in creative thinking and ex Creative Director of several major ad agencies, the prospect arose that “Social Media might just be a big South Sea bubble.” I assume that my co-debater’s rationale relates to the overwhelming hype surrounding social media and the proliferation of platforms, some of which have questionable influence. The same person also cited Apple’s strategy in not engaging in social media – no Facebook, no Twitter, just strong brand building using other channels.

Second, reading an article about new Facebook measurements which set more store by local popularity. The tenet of the article based on the work of a company called Social Bakers was one of “look at who’s now up the list and who has gone down” as if it was some sort of beauty contest.

Third, working with a client whose family business has been running since 1947, who expressed the wish not to be a ‘busy fool’ – he wasn’t specifically referring to social media but the way that various forms of promotion can involve expense, effort and, in the end, er, perhaps not the anticipated profits.

So why spend money on social media? Here are just a few answers to consider:

1. There isn’t another way  to reach your customers and other interested parties such as the press and investors with such reach and immediacy.

2. If you are not controlling the conversation about your brand, someone else will – and it might not be favourable.

3. Social media enables you to engage in a conversation with the market, to learn more about customers’ views of your products and services and to ensure that the market views your company as open and approachable.

That said, social media can act as an enormous money pit and it is important to consider the objectives behind every channel and campaign. As with any off-line marketing, think about audience carefully – as each channel has a different profile – then allocated resources accordingly. Ensure that communications within the channels you choose are fitting in terms of style and tone. Measure all activity using both online tools and offline tools such as client surveys and even just talking to customers to understand where they go for information.

Many of my clients are businesses who make money by selling to other businesses. For these companies, social media is equally important but the channels may vary. Facebook is relevant for some B2B businesses and LinkedIn and Twitter are probably relevant for all.

On reflection, social media should be an important element of a company’s marketing strategy but I’m glad that I considered the question This is because it is easy to become over-influenced by the social media industry. The social media industry is like any other business. It’s there to do a job but it’s also there to make money. Make sure that social media activity is strategic, regular in order to be effective, engaged and well managed. Above all, focus on measurement and the bottom line.

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What to do with Facebook?

September 17, 2010

Facebook - Will Businesses Engage?

OK, I’m a seasoned disbeliever in Facebook as a business-to-buiness marketing tool. Or am I? The last few weeks have made me reconsider how Facebook could work for companies, and, most importantly, whether it can – in any way – contribute to the bottom line.

I’ve been conducting a straw poll amongst clients. The opinions I have received have been interesting, and quite mixed.  “It’s completely unprofessional!”, “It could work as a way of connecting us to clients” (this from a media business), “What’s Facebook?”. OK, that last comment was a joke, but it’s not a joke that some clients still are not even Facebook users themselves.

The opinions and arguments expressed in this article are not meant for major consumer brands. For such businesses, Facebook is a major channel to connect with existing brand advocates and potential converts. In B2C marketing, treat your Facebook followers well and you’ll grow sales and understand far more about what makes them tick. In fact, there are now whole companies making a living from supporting brands’ reputations across social media networks.

Yet what if you’re selling aircraft parts to Boeing? Baking ingredients to Associated British Foods?  My current view is that Facebook may not be suitable, and may even be viewed as unprofessional. Editing services to film production companies? Maybe. Facilities houses around London are starting to use Facebook in this very personal business-to-business environment.

All of this raises some interesting issues surrounding privacy. How to separate our business and personal lives? How much do you want to reveal to business associates about your personal life? I was interested recently to see that someone I know, an accomplished author, now has two Facebook pages – one for her writing and one for her friends. Can we all bear to do this? What are the pros and cons? Does Facebook mean anything if we have two personas, or is this simply a better reflection of our real world selves? The person in a suit who goes to the office and the person in jeans who is digging up the garden? For now I’m keeping to one identity – but the Facebook gate remains closed.