Social Media Marketing: A Necessity or a Necessary Evil?
To use social media marketing (SMM) or not, that is the question. But what is the answer? This is a hot topic these days. There is definitely validity to all the arguments for and against using social media marketing. Some arguments against SMM are:
• Social media doesn't sell
• Social media is all hype
• The ROI on social media marketing can take months
• ROI is impossible to determine
• Social media doesn't generate profit
• No one is searching for a product or service on social sites like Facebook
• It is very difficult to monetize social media
• Social media marketing can be unpredictable
• SMM takes up too much time
• It is too easy to become addicted and wastes time
• Much of the information is duplicated
• Most social media marketing does not lead directly to sales
Some pro-social media points are:
• Social media isn't supposed to sell, it is supposed to influence
• SMM increases your brand and product visibility
• Social media marketing increases website traffic
• Social media is about conversations, not conversions
• Social media marketing is about marketing - not selling
• Social media is a relationship building function, not a PPC program.
• Social media monitoring can enable companies to identify potential crisis situations and respond appropriately
• Social networking is both free and entertaining
• Social media marketing is cost-effective
• Social marketing compliments other marketing efforts
• SMM gets the message out faster to a huge audience
The answer lies in ones' understanding of what social media marketing actually is. "Social" means a "friendly gathering," "media" means "a form of communication," and "marketing" means "an aggregate of functions involved in moving goods from producer to consumer."
As a phrase and in context, social media marketing can be explained as an online gathering (or platform) for communications that are part of a process designed to move goods from producer to consumer. The problem some people have with social media marketing is in their understanding of what it is supposed to do. Would you hire a plumber to paint your house? I doubt it. But you might ask your plumber to recommend a good painter, especially if the plumber has a good reputation and you trust his or her opinion. This is an example of offline social networking.
Anyone who expects to engage in social media marketing and see an immediate, direct impact on their bottom line sales will be in for a disappointment. A tweet will not make your phone ring, make a customer walk through your door, or fill out an order form on your website (of course, there are those lucky ones who might have this happen, but it is not the norm). If someone becomes a fan of your business fan page on Facebook today, it doesn't mean they are going to buy your product or service tomorrow. Having a website doesn't mean people will automatically visit it.
The key is in the understanding and analysis of your specific needs, your available resources, and your overall marketing strategy. There is no doubt that social media marketing has merit. This is one situation where it would benefit a business owner to engage in some aspect of social media marketing because "everyone else is." If your competitor is maintaining an online presence and you are not, you lose. However, how much merit and how much time you are willing and able to commit depends entirely on what works best for each business owner.
It is important to manage your understanding and expectations of social media marketing. Determine what your available resources are, which marketing methods are currently working and which aren't (this includes traditional offline marketing), investigate where your competitors are hanging out online and join them, and develop an overall marketing strategy that integrates the most effective initiatives for your particular niche and situation. People have a tendency to lean towards all or nothing. In the case of social media marketing, it is most definitely advantageous to find that middle ground.