The lure of marketing to 500 Million Facebook friends, 190 Million Twitterers, and hundreds of millions of users across other social networks, such as Myspace, Foursquare, Flickr, and any of the 190 social networks listed on Wikipedia has driven firms into developing social media marketing strategies.
But, has the promise of social network marketing strategy been realized?
For a few firms, the answer is yes. For instance, Dell and P&G can point to sales as a direct result of their social media, but for most firms, the answer may be I don’t know. For an increasingly large number of businesses, the answer is a resounding NO, according to a study by Deloitte. The study found that more than 1/3 of corporate social networks had fewer than 100 members, despite a median pricetag of $1 Million per network.
Part of the reason is consumers are leery of engaging with commercial interests in their social networks and some resent the intrusion of businesses into THEIR networks. Possibly related to this, many of the users in the numbers displayed earlier are not active — they don’t tweet or post or otherwise engage in their network. For instance, a study by RJMetrics shows only 17% of Twitterers Tweeted in December, the lowest level in Twitter history. New social networks such as Diaspora and College-Only are entering the already crowded social network landscape in hopes of satisfying disenfranchised users to lure them away from Facebook and Twitter.
So, what accounts for the failure of the social network marketing strategy employed by these firms?
1. Not knowing how to DO social media
Users of social networks don’t know what they’re doing — certainly not all of them, but WAY too many companies using social media DON’T know marketing and they DON’T know consumers. Many of them are spammers who shout at consumers in social networks. Spammers quickly get unfollowed and unfriended, so they have limited success, but there always seem to be 2 new spammers to replace every spammer who is shunned by consumers.
Others are trying to monetize their sites without understanding the tit-for-tat nature of social relationships. You have to GIVE before you get in social networks. Give me a reason to want to engage with you. I have too many demands on my time to let you waste it.
Spammers fail to recognize that you want to attract the RIGHT followers/ friends and they try to get ANYONE to shout their message to. They use robots and other automated systems to attract people and spread automated messages to these people without any consideration of their market or attempt to engage people with their message.
2. Talking and not listening
Social networks are two way conversations. You need to listen to me if you want me to talk with you. And you want me talking to you. Not only will you learn lots of valuable information from me talking to you, but my conversations with you will reach my social network. This spreads your message to my social network and possibly carries your message through a number of social networks — becoming viral.
But look at the average corporate social network. All you see is the corporation talking. Nobody is talking back to them.
3. Maybe your social network marketing strategy isn’t failing
Sometimes there’s nothing WRONG with your social marketing strategy, its your expectations that are wrong. Sometimes (maybe most of the time) you expect too much too fast. Social network marketing strategies take awhile to build visitors/ friends/ followers, especially if you do it organically rather than spamming or using robots to get any warm body without concern for WHO you’re attracting.
Even once you attract visitors/ friends/ followers, it takes time to build credibility with them, to get them to trust you, and get them to engage on your social media. Until you’ve built this relationship with your network, they won’t be willing to buy your product or spread your message to their network. You can easily expect to work for 6 months giving to your network before you might be able to monetize the relationships you’re building on this network.
- You need to craft a marketing strategy that takes into consideration the time and commitment necessary to build relationships on your chosen social networks and avoid the problems identified earlier.
- Realistically assess your strengths and hire or train to fill any gaps in necessary competencies
- Don’t introduce your social network prematurely — it should be professional and have content or a system to create content ready to go so there are not large gaps in updated content. Its OK to add one network at a time, but make sure each one is ready when it goes live.
- Create content and be prepared to add content — whether they are blog posts, videos, or news to ensure continuity and consistency.
- Be flexible. Social networks and technologies are evolving so don’t become a slave to your marketing plan, but constantly scan news on social network marketing strategy to update your strategy. Also, as you see your results, be ready to adjust your marketing strategy.
- Listen — not only on social networks where you have a presence, but anywhere people might be talking about your products and services. You need to do this even if you don’t have your own social networks.
- Track results in terms of both engagement with visitors and ROI for your marketing strategy.
- Enjoy — remember social networks are a way for people to meet, exchange information, and build relationships so have fu with it.