Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Beware Social Media Marketing Myths

May 26, 2009: summarized from BusinessWeek -- We've been misled as to the benefits of social networking sites. Many of us are finding that these tools do not live up to the hype, especially for small business. Once we start digging deeper, we're finding a lot of challenges. Are you thinking of using Facebook, Twitter, or the like in your business? Before you go any further, consider the following myths:

1. Social media sites are free.
Using social media sites isn't as easy or cheap as many people think. Sure, most let you set up an account for free. And you can integrate other services, such as your blog or Google's YouTube videos, at no charge. But there's a significant cost: your time. Because there's nothing worse than a site that's not current. And to keep it current, someone's going to need to spend time. This includes responding to visitors' questions, posting brilliant thoughts, adding graphics, and monitoring activity-basically trying to generate buzz.

2. Social media sites are a great place to find new customers.
In fact, the major sites aren't necessarily the best places for a business owner. Some of the most avid users of Facebook and MySpace are pimply adolescents and goth teenagers. Sure, there's a growing number of fortysomethings-but many are merely nostalgic to check out boyfriends and girlfriends from youth to see how fat and bald they've become; whatever they're doing on Facebook, it's typically not engaging with a small business brand. Twitter has millions of users, but apparently only four of them actually understand what it does and spend much time updating their tweets. Are these the people who will buy the plastic polymer gaskets your company manufacturers? I don't think so.

3. You need to be on all the big sites.
Besides spending a lot of time and effort, business owners I know who have succeeded with social networking sites generally focus on just a few of them. Although he dabbles in MySpace and Twitter, Gaffigan's main vehicle is Facebook. Some companies prefer to build a business community on LinkedIn. I know a few nerdy guys who live on a couple of technology community sites and generate leads from them by consistently responding to questions and helping other users. Just because the media says it's cool to tweet doesn't mean it has anything to do with your business. If you're going to to frequent social community sites, don't spread yourself too thin. Most of the guys I know who use these things successfully pick their weapon and give it their all.

4. Social networking sites are for marketing.
Baloney. I've learned from other smart business owners that social communities are not for marketing. They're for service. I recently spoke to FreshBooks CEO Mike McDerment, who views these places as ways to get closer to his customers and respond to their needs. "Wherever they are, that's where I'll go," he told me. By providing quick and helpful customer service through these sites, he believes he will foster loyalty and satisfaction, resulting in more sales. In his own way, Gaffigan does the same. Makes sense. So whenever someone tells you that you should explore social networking "marketing," you should run in the other direction. It's the service, stupid.

5. Social networking is the future.
Really? Some of these cool and trendy sites aren't going to be so cool and trendy in the near future. The percentage of Twitter users in a given month who return the following month has languished below 30% for most of the past year, according to Nielsen Wire. And MySpace recently suffered a decline in monthly visitor traffic. Remember GeoCities? Yahoo! is shutting it down. A lot of business owners aren't thrilled about committing time and resources to a vanishing trend. Maybe social networking is a permanent phenomenon. That doesn't mean its main players today will be the main players tomorrow.

So should a business owner use social media sites for business? Maybe. Then again, maybe other customer service approaches make more sense. Remember newsletters, phone calls and support, seminars, partnering, and the like? Just because the media have determined that social networking is "in" doesn't mean your customers are there. Hot Pockets may taste good now, but they're not going to do much good for you in the long run.

Read more at: http://tinyurl.com/pkz5yv

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