Two years later, where are we with social media?
It seems like just yesterday everyone, including us, was scrambling to figure out how to put this thing called social media to work. Traditional media was dead. Twitter and Facebook were the new keys to hawking our wares to the unsuspecting masses who had been huddled into groups, primed and ready to respond in droves to self-serving posts designed to get them to buy something. This was free media. And it couldn’t miss. Except it did. Two years later, TV is still the undisputed king of reaching practically every audience. And while the Web has become an integral and ever-growing vehicle for communicating and doing business, social media has had almost no impact on a company’s ability to reach business goals.
Correction, according to a recent Gallup poll, the use of social media to increase sales has had no demonstrable affect on sales. So what gives? Does this mean social has failed? No, far from it. What has failed is the attempt of us marketers to hijack social’s sole purpose, which is to create engagement, by trying to convert it to a sales tool.
In Gallup’s poll,17,000 social media users identified why conventional wisdom about how social media can build your business are myths—and how businesses can use social media effectively to achieve their real goals.
One key myth, according to Gallup, is that social media drives customer loyalty and acquisition. In reality, the real benefits from social media come not from when you post your own headlines on social media, but when people in your network re-share your content to their networks. In other words, personal recommendations are far more valuable than anything we can post about ourselves. So rather than tracking the number of followers or fans, we should be tracking mentions and re-tweets and the number of times information about us is being shared.
The bottom line: Social, when used the right way for the right purpose is an important part of the branding mix. The right (and only) purpose of Social is to create engagement. In order to create engagement, we first have to engage with a steady stream of good, appropriate content and timely interaction with our networks whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Think of social’s role in the marketing program much in the same way as we think of PR. While marketing is always concerned with impacting the bottom line, PR is always concerned with creating the best environment possible in which to do business. In other words, PR gives us the chance to do business, while marketing is about taking advantage. Likewise, social media is about cultivating relationships and building trust, which, if you think about it, can only lead to improved sales performance over time.