I was tempted to write the headline, “Is Social Media Dead?” but I’ll avoid sensational hype and stick to real news & commentary. Microsoft’s announced purchase of LinkedIn immediately raised questions about the future of social media. For businesses, it will likely become even more of a pay-to-play medium.
I’d like to advance a discussion about reevaluating our social media marketing strategies to avoid wasting time at the expense of more profitable sales and marketing activities. Social is here to stay but we need to use it better.
Sales is the end game of all business activity. Every CEO cares first about making sales because without customers there is no company. CEOs would do well to reconsider what social media is really doing for them in 2016. Most of us have had enough time and experience, including lots of trial and error, to understand what social media really is and its value to businesses – which will continually ebb and flow. Every platform; Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc. will develop its algorithms to incentivize or push businesses into paid advertising and premium services – more and more as the startup phases have passed.
To them, it’s all about sales too! Social Media companies have the captive eyeballs and ears you need to reach. They’ve invested billions to build these networks and engage the masses. They cannot give businesses free space to promote or there would be no space left for real social interaction, and they’d go out of business. I predict that you can expect to pay more as time goes on if you want your social media content to be seen by enough potential customers to get results.
CEO: “Please go sell something!”
Now let’s talk about results. What are you getting out of your social media efforts now that you’ve been using it for years? Anecdotally, I have clients (both retail) who have made numerous direct sales on Facebook and lured dozens of people into stores for special promotions. I have other clients (B2B) who’ve had some success on LinkedIn and virtually zero results from Facebook even as they strive to follow “best practices.”
Is there any wonder about the difference in experiences between consumer/retail and B2B when it comes to Facebook vs. LinkedIn? Remember that LinkedIn was set up for business networking and Facebook was set up for social networking. There is a profound difference between the two even if they meld sometimes.
If your company sells primarily to other businesses, social media can be a confounding puzzle. The conflicting message is “We know we should be using it effectively but we can’t afford to waste time on marketing activities that fail to produce a profitable return.” Perhaps all we really need to do is prioritize social media properly in the marketing mix.
How do you prioritize social media properly in your marketing mix? This will be different for every business, but generally speaking, if you’re in B2B, you need to leave the office and visit more clients, use the phone instead of direct messages, concentrate on your LinkedIn network, and stick to your core value messages in all media.
One of my clients and I are having a serious conversation about their social media component and we’ve made a few key adjustments, shifting more toward great web content, article publishing and direct marketing.
Lastly, I’ll share the gist of what social media has done for my business practice. Many people have endorsed my firm as having expertise in social media marketing and I’ve been at it since about 2006. Here’s a quick summary for my marketing services business:
Focus on the Big 3
LinkedIn – Very effective for extending my business networking online and worldwide. I’ve gained new business directly from LinkedIn, including clients outside my normal geographic footprint. Forget about your LinkedIn Business Page. Your Personal Profile is where ALL of the valuable action is on LinkedIn. I make LinkedIn my professional online hub after my website.
Facebook – I have a large network of friends, including business associates and all of my business related posts are ignored on my personal page. Interestingly, even my best business content is also ignored on my Facebook Business Page. Not so with my retail clients because their customers are mostly having fun when they shop and we engage them in fun ways. For business service customers, “shopping” is mostly work. People are on Facebook for entertainment, not work.
Twitter – I’ve added value to my brand on Twitter as people see, favorite and retweet my messages. I go to Twitter for ideas and to “listen” for trending topics in my business. People and businesses break news on Twitter. It can be a good resource for sales intelligence. I have successfully contacted prospects and sold to them by paying attention to tweets from both the client and my competition.
Other social networks like Instagram, Pinterest, etc all offer potential sales & marketing opportunities but the big 3 for most businesses remain LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Insofar as these platforms help you start face-to-face conversations with interested prospects, you’re using social media successfully for your business.