social media marketingWe ran across this blog article recently from Jay Ehret. Intelligently, Jay questions whether social media marketing should be implemented across the board for businesses.

Here is a special quote that we pulled from his article: “The cheerleading comes from those who make their money selling social media advice. I’m not saying they’re wrong, I’m just saying they don’t really have the data to back up their stuff. I’m just saying they can’t be the authority you use to decide. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use social media marketing. It can be effective. Just not for everyone and not all the time.

So true! Let’s work together to figure out what inbound marketing initiatives will work for you and where your smart dollars should be spent.

Below is the complete article. See Jay’s blog for more comments and conversation.

What you should understand before you commit to a social media marketing program.

Social media evangelists have been selling the idea that social media marketing is the must-do marketing strategy. But is social media marketing better, or more effective, than other forms of marketing, including traditional media? The answer is: I don’t know, and I think that neither does anyone else. Because there’s no widely, authoritative available data to prove it. Social media marketing’s popularity is built on opinion, hype, and anecdotal evidence that it’s better, but there’s no real proof.

My Aha! moment came this past weekend while I was in Mari Smith’s “Facebook & Twitter Success” session at the BlogWorld and New Media Expo. Mari Smith, has been called the Pied Piper of Facebook, and I’ve learn a lot about Facebook from her blog, Why Facebook?. During the Q & A portion of Mari’s session, I asked her, (paraphrasing) “is there evidence that Facebook and social media marketing is more effective than traditional media?” After a minute or so of rambling, she stopped, then told me to talk to her about it later. She didn’t answer my question, and it occurred to me that she couldn’t answer my question, because she didn’t really know.

(Note: I reached out to Mari via a Twitter direct message and asked to meet with her to discuss the topic and she has not yet responded)

Where’s The Research?

I’ve been searching for verifiable data that social media marketing is better than other forms of marketing, but as of yet, have found no numbers to support the hype of social media marketing. There are numbers on social media usage, but no numbers on effectiveness. Yes, a lot of people are using social media, as many as 95 million Americans and 300 million people worldwide are on Facebook, but does that make it a viable marketing channel? After all, 284 million Americans watch television.

(Note: I called Forrester Research this morning and asked for some data. They said they will send me some information in 24-36 hours.)
(10/20 update: Forrester has responded with no specific data and informed me that I must be a paying customer before they can provide me with any information.)

Here’s the data that’s available, and what you usually see quoted in support of social media marketing:

  • Members
  • Followers
  • Views
  • Hits

There are also case studies and success stories of incredible success. But these examples are anecdotal evidence and not proof that social media is the most effective way to market your business. Case studies can be cited for the effectiveness of traditional media too. In fact, case studies can be found to support any claim. Where are the metrics to prove the overall effectiveness of social media marketing vs. other forms of marketing? Without that data, all the social media hype is just that: hype.

The Relationships Argument

As I shared these thoughts with other marketers on the final night of BlogWorld, they pushed back: “But social media allows you to have relationships with customers and potential customers.” That’s true. So what about the relationships? Does that justify starting a social media marketing program? No it doesn’t.

Customers don’t need to have a relationship with every business at which they will some day spend money. People just don’t have time, nor the desire, to have a relationship with every business where they may someday purchase something. Do I really need to have a relationship with my plumber, my dry cleaner, my grocery store, my realtor (who I use once every seven years), or every restaurant I frequent?

Is Social Media Really Free?

Then there’s the issue of cost. Traditional media marketing costs money, and sometimes a lot of it. Social media marketing is alluring, and perceived to be better, because it’s free. Well, social media is free like a puppy is free.

The biggest decision about social media marketing is time, not dollar cost. What every small business owner needs to evaluate is, will the time you invest in social media be worth the return you can get from a social media program? I’m talking about ROI, in this case return on time invested. Social media evangelists are notorious for saying that you cannot measure the ROI of social media programs, often using arguments like “What’s the ROI of your logo?”

But you better think about ROI, because social media takes a lot of time, five to ten hours per week, and sometimes more. Time is your most valuable resource. How much is ten hours of your time worth? You can buy a billboard advertisement and it can work for you for 30 days without you having to do a thing with it. Cost vs. time investments need to be weighed.

Should You Do Social Media Marketing?

You may get the impression that I don’t think you should do social media marketing. But I’m not a social media marketing detractor. In fact, I’m a full participant. I have this blog, a Facebook Page, a Twitter account, a podcast, and a YouTube Channel. It’s just that there is this hype, this belief, that everyone should be doing social media marketing. It’s a belief that flows from an unfounded assumption that social media marketing is better than other forms of marketing. We just don’t know if that’s true.

The cheerleading comes from those who make their money selling social media advice. I’m not saying they’re wrong, I’m just saying they don’t really have the data to back up their stuff. I’m just saying they can’t be the authority you use to decide. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use social media marketing. It can be effective. Just not for everyone and not all the time.

You have to decide on an individual basis. Is social media marketing right for you and what should you do if it is? Do you have the time to devote to a marketing tactic that really has not been yet been proven to be more effective that other forms of marketing?

photo credit: dirjournal.com

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