Does social media really work?
As a public relations professional and social media PR producer/manager, I get asked that question all the time, especially as companies big and small and individuals from all sorts of industries and professions jump aboard the social media bandwagon. (It’s as though someone’s built the better mousetrap . . . and everyone wants in).
Of course social media “works,” but what that means varies by business and by individual. It really comes down to the results you desire and your audience. Just because you think social media is a great idea, doesn’t mean they do.
Can social media raise awareness of your company or personal brand?
As a long-term strategy, that’s a big “yes” on both accounts. Of course, you have to work at it, you have to generate quality content, and you have to be vigilant. But the ease with which you can push out posts and blogs and tweets makes social media a natural for creating “buzz” about you and your products or services and for keeping the volume cranked up to a healthy “11.” Plus, it doesn’t cost much to get your feet wet (though I will argue that you get what you pay for: getting your feet wet is quite a stretch from realizing social media’s maximum benefit for your business).
Having said all that, you might feel tempted to toss all of your eggs into the social media basket. Not so fast . . . hear me out.
Despite all that’s been said about it, Social media is not the cure for your every marketing ill. It’s important. It’s powerful. It’s far-reaching. But, really, social media is just another “channel”—a very robust, new, and exciting channel, mind you—through which you can reach out to customers and prospects with relative ease.
Remember when cable TV exploded in the 1980s and 1990s, adding a whole universe of additional niche markets to mine? We didn’t simply drop our traditional TV, print, or radio marketing back then did we? No. At the time, cable TV simply represented another tool in our marketing tool box, one we needed to work with, learn, and “try out” to see how we could use it most effectively. Such is the case nowadays with social media.
For some, social media might comprise the bulk of their marketing efforts; for others, it may be nothing more than an afterthought, a “nice-to-have” but not a necessity. As a business owner or a business professional looking to increase your brand awareness, you need to consider whether social media can produce the kind of return on investment necessary to justify the amount of attention and resources you give it—just as you would with any other marketing tool. How you deploy social media boils down to your target audience, your product or service, and what you determine is the most effective way to reach out and engage your customers and prospects.
- As an individual, how much time can you dedicate to creating and pushing out the content needed to position you or your company as a thought leader?
- If you don’t have the time, do you have the resources to hire someone else to execute a social media strategy for you?
- Once engaged in social media, how can you turn social media traffic into real sales? Getting fans or having someone tag you in a photo is one thing—it means you’ve been noticed—but how can you translate that into new business?
- What ways can you convert social media traffic into sales traffic . . . or at least bona fide leads?
If these considerations seem vaguely familiar, it’s because they also can be applied to traditional media. Running an ad? What’s your call to call-to-action? Staging an event, what kind of time and resources can you dedicate to it?
You see, social media is really an additional way for prospects to engage in a dialogue with you. Ultimately, you still need to convert them into customers.
For sure, social media needs to be part of the 21st century marketing mix, right alongside the tried and true plus other new media that might be coming down the pike (whatever that might be!). But relying on social media to be your sole means for connecting with your target audience, at the exclusion or the downplaying of everything else, is risky business. Although, yes, it can work for some. As I look back over the last few years (especially!), social media PR has worked for me quite well, but then again—I’ve paired social media alongside email marketing and old fashioned networking (channels).
I’ve seen many companies and individuals go “all-in” with social media, only to find that it’s not the end all/be all they thought it was—at least not in the short-term. Social media is a great way to increase your visibility over time through consistent blogging and frequent updates on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites—but getting customers and prospects to buy something from you still takes good old fashion legwork, quality leads, and the ability to deliver on your brand promise . . . and there’s no substitute for that.