Social Media Marketing is apparently the latest buzz word for anyone looking to increase their online presence and sales, but is Social Media Marketing (SMM) all it is cracked up to be?

S.M.M companies are now springing up all around the place today and they are telling anyone that will listen about how precisely incredibly important social media marketing like Facebook twitter and YouTube are to your company but, for the typical small to medium sized business, does marketing to social support systems really surpass all of the hype? Is spending a tiny fortune on hiring a SMM company well worth it? And has anyone really done their research on this before they hired someone to set up there Facebook business page? Some SMM companies are establishing things such as Facebook business pages (which are free) for $600 to $1,000 or even more and telling their clients that they don’t need an internet site because Facebook is the largest social network on earth and everybody features a Facebook account.

Now while it might be true that Facebook is the biggest social network on earth and yes, Facebook’s members are potential consumers, the actual question is are they really buying? Social media marketing companies are all too happy to point out the positives of social media marketing like how many people use Facebook or how many tweets were sent this past year and how many people watch YouTube videos etc. but have you been getting the total picture? I once sat next to a SMM “expert” at a company seminar who was simply spruiking to anyone who came within earshot concerning the amazing advantages of establishing a Facebook business page for business (with him of course) and selling on Facebook. So, intrigued by the aforementioned “experts” advice I looked him on Facebook only to find he’d only 11 Facebook friends (not an excellent start). So being the study nut that I’m, I made a decision to take a good look into SMM regarding selling to see if it actually worked, who did it work for and when it did why did Social Media Marketing work for them? And should business rely so heavily on social support systems for sales?

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

The truth is that social media marketing marketing fails to tell you that Facebook is a cultural network not a research engine and despite how many Facebook users and Google users being around exactly the same, people don’t use Facebook in exactly the same way that they use a internet search engine like Google (which has around half the internet search engine market), Yahoo and Bing to search for business or products. They use it to help keep touching family and friends or for news and entertainment. In a recent study done by the IBM Institute for Business Value around 55% of 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 communicate with brands. Now out of all of the individuals who do use social media marketing and who do communicate with brands whether purposefully or not, most (66%) say they should feel an organization is communicating honestly before they will interact.

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

Well first of all I would claim that having a well optimized website is still going to bring you much more business that social media marketing typically particularly if you are a small to medium sized local business because smm reseller panel far more folks are likely to key in “hairdresser Port Macquarie” into a research engine like Google, Yahoo and Bing than they ever will on any Social Media Site and if you don’t have an internet site you’re missing all of that potential business. However despite all of the (not so good) statistics I still believe that it is still a good idea for business to use social media marketing simply not in exactly the same way that a lot of SMM professionals are today, Why? Because it’s clearly not in how they claim it does. Basically SMM Companies and Business in general looked over social support systems like Facebook as a fresh 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 business (in June 2004) and since them several venture capital firms have made investments into Facebook and in October 2007, Microsoft announced that 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 reality is numbers doesn’t equal buyers. Can it be in a Social Media Marketing company’s best interest to talk social support systems up? Absolutely. Can it be in a Social Network like Facebook’s best interests for folks to believe that companies can sell en masse by advertising and marketing together? Of course it is. In early 2012, Facebook disclosed that its profits had jumped 65% to $1 billion in the previous year as its revenue which can be mainly from advertising had jumped almost 90% to $3.71 billion so clearly the idea of SMM is training for them but it is training for you personally? Well… statistically no, but that doesn’t necessarily show that it never will.

I think the major difference between social support systems and search engines is intent. People who use Google are deliberately searching for something so when they do a look for hairdressers that’s what they are looking for at that particular time. With something such as Facebook the principal intent is generally to connect with friends and family. In October 2008, Mark Zuckerberg himself said “I don’t think social support systems could be monetized in exactly the same way that search (Search Engines) did… In 36 months from we now have to determine what the optimum model is. But that is not our primary focus today” ;.Among the biggest problems business face with social support systems and SMM is perception. Based on the IBM Institute for Business Value study there have been “significant gaps between what businesses think consumers worry about and what consumers say they desire from their social media marketing interactions with companies.” For instance in today’s society people are not just going to hand you over there recommendations, Facebook likes, comments or details without getting something back because of it, therefore the old adage “what’s inside for me?” makes play. So the principal reason a lot of people give for getting together with brands or business on social media marketing is for discounts, the brands and business themselves think the primary reason people communicate with them on social media marketing is to learn about new products. For brands and business receiving discounts only ranks 12th on the listing of reasoned explanations why people communicate with them. Most businesses believe social media marketing increases advocacy, but only 38 % of consumers agree.

Companies need to find more innovative ways to connect with social media marketing if they would like to see some kind of derive from it. There have been some good initiatives shown in the IBM study of firms that had gotten some kind of a handle on how to use social media marketing for their advantage, remember that when asked what they do if they communicate with businesses or brands via social media marketing, consumers list “getting discounts or coupons” and “purchasing products and services” as the utmost effective 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 superb 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 advantage is actually in the favour of the potential customer & the fantastic trick to social media marketing marketing is to sell without attempting to sell (or looking like your selling) unfortunately most social media marketing marketing is focused the incorrect way.