So you fancy yourself a social creature do you? You get all warm and fuzzy inside when the mindless social media traffic hits your site, thrilled by the thought Digging your way to stardom? Are you unsure if using SMM is for you? Well, let’s see if we can’t put some reality to the beast that is the world of Social Media Marketing once and for all… however unlikely that may sound.
I recently started an ongoing dialogue with m’homey Jeff (Quip of Search Engine People) as he loves the SMM world and I brush it off with a hearty grunt on most occasions. Our path started in email chit chat and then he posted; 7 Benefits to Engaging in Social Media - which I thought was certainly aimed in my general direction and so I posted about it in my Beer Break a while ago - to which he was nice enough to poke me back at the end of this post; Now, I believe it is worth mentioning that I am a believer in SMM having a place in the iMarketing toolbox, it is the value or weight it should receive in importance that I am not as convinced on as others… that’s my basic stance.
So let us try another stab at it because I feel the experience is good for people sitting on both sides of the fence or on top of it. Once more I shall play the devils advocate and spike this creature with my lance until it behaves as it should. Let’s get Anti-Social!
I figure the best place to start is at the beginning; what are the benefits of SMM? According to most pundits we have;
Increased Branding – a good definition I came across put it as; ‘a traditional advertising method used to elicit a latent response from a target based on cumulative impressions and positive reinforcement’. I think that says it well. Branding and brand management are certainly 2 cornerstones of the SMM development.
Anti-Social - the most severe drawback in this area is budgets. It is not going to be every company that has the budget in place to participate in front loaded marketing investments that are sketchy to ascertain ROI from on a good day. I dare say even the larger companies with reasonable branding activities in place could take a second look at it in an economic downturn.
Brand Management – while truly a subset of Branding, it deserves it’s own place as there is much about SMM that is about managing the image once it is created. Monitoring your ‘buzz’ is as much a part of the game as creating it.
Anti-Social – Once again the main considerations here are time and money. Social Media is not a ‘fire and forget it’ kind of deal. As with any public relations it must be monitored and maintained. Companies with limited budgets may flounder well before ever realizing a return on the investment. Marketing budgets, as with any other, must be spent wisely.
Increased Traffic – Certainly a boon and something we all want; traffic. There is every reason to also believe it is reasonably targeted traffic depending on the efficacy of the SMM program. If your campaigns are targeted to a relevant niche, visitors are likely to be targeted.
Anti-social – this is the one everybody knows; conversions. Some of the worst bounce rates I have ever seen are from SMM traffic. They are a finicky crowd and you need to have in place strong ‘call to action’ systems and analytics tracking to really get a feel for monetizing it. In the end though, SMM traffic converts far poorer than many other traffic generation methods. Monitoring, analyzing and maximizing conversion methods, is important with any SMM campaign.
Increased Rankings – we can certainly add in the fact that in many cases social media can lead to direct and indirect backlinks, build authority and relevance and ultimately strengthen SEO activities.
Anti-Social – many of the links are ‘nofollow’ these days and I would venture a guess that could increase. Beyond that I always associate a value on links and building your social net takes time once again. How this ultimately factors into an over-all link profile in terms of value remains to be seen in the years ahead. For the moment, SMM can be a minor player in SEO; a flavour additive.
I found it interesting that many of the Blogs I ventured across while researching did not mention actual Sales Leads/Conversions as a driving force behind SMM. Not sure if it’s a telling fact, but does bolster to concept of it being primarily a brand development and management tool. Let’s look at some other important considerations.
Secondary Considerations; now for some other considerations that come into play in various degrees when looking at SMM as a viable investment.
Sales Leads/Conversions – as I mentioned above, social media is not the greatest closer in the world and most evidence points to it being far less effective than other mediums such as PPC or SEO. It should still be considered as a secondary factor even beyond SMM aspects in that a Blog can play into CRM (customer relations management) which does increase sales and can lead to improved conversion rates.
More Subscribers/Audience – a limited scope application. Not every site in every market can utilize/capitalize on a subscriber base. While it is a ‘playa’, it is limited in scope for this rant. It can be argued that every site should have some type of visitor retention in place, creating a system and content is another cost consideration.
Increased Awareness - I am not so sure this really isn’t flogging the same horse that we ‘branded’ already. There is not a discernable difference in ‘branding’ and ‘awareness’ for me to be splitting such hairs.
Associated development costs – if there is not an in-house person that does well in the ‘social’ world, then it’s a further expense. For example there are no writers one needs to get a ghost writer and a ‘buzz’ monitoring staffer and so forth. Not every company has the tools in place for this. These costs now also come into play. Creating a social profile from scratch is not generally an over-night experience.
Inherent Flaws – there is also of course the consideration of how the pandering and gaming of sites comes into play. That is not to say that other forms of internet marketing are immune to such problems, it is simply noteworthy that the social spaces have their own ‘issues’. Take a ride with Fanto and read up on the pandering that exists, become a Digg power user among many other examples. Such things can ultimately dilute public interest which is always as risk as with many areas of marketing.