Social Media Marketing seems to be the latest buzz word proper looking to increase their online presence and sales, but is Social Media Marketing (SMM) all it is cracked as much as be?

S.M.M companies are now actually springing up all around the place these days and they’re telling anyone that will listen about how precisely incredibly important social media marketing like Facebook twitter and YouTube are to your organization but, for the common small to medium-sized business, does marketing to social networks really live up to most of the hype? Is spending a tiny fortune on hiring a SMM company really worth it? And has anyone really done their research on this before they hired someone to create there Facebook business page? Some SMM companies are establishing things like Facebook business pages (which are free) for $600 to $1,000 or maybe more and telling their clients they don’t need a website because Facebook is the largest social network on earth and everybody includes a Facebook account.

Now while it could be true that Facebook is the biggest social network on earth and yes, Facebook’s members are potential consumers, the true question is are they actually buying? Social media marketing marketing companies are too happy to cheap smm panel point out the positives of social media marketing like how lots of people use Facebook or exactly how many tweets were delivered a year ago and how lots of people watch YouTube videos etc. but have you been getting the entire picture? I once sat alongside a SMM “expert” at a company seminar who had been spruiking to anybody who came within earshot in regards to the amazing benefits of establishing a Facebook business page for small company (with him of course) and selling on Facebook. So, intrigued by these “experts” advice I looked him through to Facebook only to get he’d only 11 Facebook friends (not an excellent start). So being the investigation nut that I am, I chose to have a good explore SMM in regards to selling to see if it really worked, who did it benefit and when it did why did Social Media Marketing benefit them? And should business rely so heavily on social networks for sales?

As a web developer I was constantly (and now increasingly) met with several social networking challenges when potential clients would claim that having a website sounds good but they’d a Facebook business page and had been told by various sources (the ever present yet anonymous “they”) that social networks were the move to make, but after discussing their needs it became quite clear that those potential clients didn’t actually know why they needed social networks or SMM to generate online sales, They just wanted it. For small and medium-sized business I always recommended creating a quality website over any type of social network, why? Well it’s simple really because social media marketing is Social Media, and social Networks are Social Networks they’re not business media and business networks (that could be more like LinkedIn). I realize that sounds simple but it’s true and the statistics back it up.

Truth be told that social media marketing marketing fails to tell you that Facebook is a cultural network not a research engine and despite the amount of Facebook users and Google users being around the exact same, people don’t use Facebook in the exact same way they use a se like Google (which has around half the se market), Yahoo and Bing to find business or products. They use it to keep in touch with family and friends and for news and entertainment. In a recent study done by the IBM Institute for Business Value around 55% of most social media marketing users stated that they cannot engage with brands over social media marketing at all and only around 23% actually purposefully use social media marketing to interact with brands. Now out of all people who do use social media marketing and who do interact with brands whether purposefully or not, almost all (66%) say they should feel an organization is communicating honestly before they will interact.

So how do you use social media marketing marketing? And is it even worth doing?

Well to begin with I’d claim that having a well optimized website is still going to bring you a lot more business that social media marketing generally particularly if you are a small to medium-sized local business because far more individuals are likely to enter “hairdresser Port Macquarie” into a research engine like Google, Yahoo and Bing than they ever will on any Social Media Site and in the event that you don’t have a website you’re missing out on all of the potential business. However despite most of the (not so good) statistics I still believe that it is still advisable for business to use social media marketing just not in the exact same way that a lot of SMM professionals are today, Why? Because it’s clearly not working in how they claim it does. Basically SMM Companies and Business in general viewed social networks like Facebook as a new market ripe for the picking and when Facebook started getting users measured by the millions PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel invested US$500,000 for 7% of the organization (in June 2004) and since them a couple of venture capital firms have made investments into Facebook and in October 2007, Microsoft announced so it had purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million. However since Facebook’s humble beginnings until now (2012) both SMM Companies and Business have failed to truly capitalise on the huge quantity of Facebook users online. The truth is numbers does not equal buyers. Could it be in a Social Media Marketing company’s best interest to talk social networks up? Absolutely. Could it be in a Social Network like Facebook’s best interests for individuals to think that companies can sell en masse by advertising and marketing together? Needless to say it is. In early 2012, Facebook disclosed that its profits had jumped 65% to $1 billion in the last year as its revenue which will be mainly from advertising had jumped almost 90% to $3.71 billion so clearly the thought of SMM is exercising for them but it is exercising for you personally? Well… statistically no, but that does not necessarily signify it never will.

I believe the major difference between social networks and search engines is intent. Individuals who use Google are deliberately searching for something so if they do a seek out hairdressers that’s what they are seeking at that particular time. With something such as Facebook the primary intent is generally for connecting with friends and family. In October 2008, Mark Zuckerberg himself said “I don’t think social networks could be monetized in the exact same way that search (Search Engines) did… In three years from we now have to find out what the optimum model is. But that’s not our primary focus today” ;.One of the biggest problems business face with social networks and SMM is perception. Based on the IBM Institute for Business Value study there have been “significant gaps between what businesses think consumers care about and what consumers say they need from their social media marketing interactions with companies.” For example in today’s society people are not just going handy you over there recommendations, Facebook likes, comments or details without getting something back for it, so the old adage “what’s in it for me personally?” comes into play. So the primary reason a lot of people give for reaching brands or business on social media marketing is to receive discounts, yet the brands and business themselves think the main reason people interact with them on social media marketing is to master about new products. For brands and business receiving discounts only ranks 12th on the list of reasoned explanations why people interact with them. Most businesses believe social media marketing increase advocacy, but only 38 % of consumers agree.

Companies need to get more innovative ways for connecting with social media marketing if they would like to see some kind of result from it. There were the right initiatives shown in the IBM study of companies that had gotten some kind of a handle on how best to use social media marketing to their advantage, remember that whenever asked what they do once they interact with businesses or brands via social media marketing, consumers list “getting discounts or coupons” and “purchasing products and services” as the top two activities, respectively a U.S ice cream company called Cold Stone Creamery offered discounts on the products on the Facebook page. Alternatively there is a good program launched by Best Buys in the U.S called Twelpforce where employees can react to customer’s questions via Twitter. With both Cold Stone Creamery and Twelpforce the benefit is actually in the favour of the potential customer & the truly amazing trick to social media marketing marketing is to offer without selling (or looking like your selling) unfortunately most social media marketing marketing is focused the wrong way.

Building a concrete buyer to consumer relationship via social media marketing is difficult and the absolute most benefit to business’ using social media marketing to enhance their websites Google rankings. But business’ need to realize that you can’t just setup a Facebook business page and a cure for the best. SMM requires effort and potential customers need to see value in that which you have to offer via your social media marketing efforts provide them with something worth their social interaction and time and then you can find better results.