When social media first burst onto the scene, marketers immediately saw the potential of its huge reach and began to salivate at the new opportunities for driving traffic to their websites. Unfortunately, most of these marketers had learned their trade in search advertising, where the focus was on reaching out to customers who might be receptive to their message, attracting them to the target site, and tracking what worked and what didn’t when it came to making sales.
This approach quickly led to disappointment, when the hoped for boost in sales stubbornly failed to materialize. “Social media marketing doesn’t work!” was the cry heard far and wide, and for many marketers, the story ended there.
However, slowly and quietly, increasing numbers of website owners are starting to see huge value in their social marketing efforts after changing their approach, and the gloom of those early years is being dispelled. If your social marketing strategy was drawn up some time ago and is still disappointing when it comes to results, it’s probably time for an overhaul.
How Social Differs from Search
It is now recognized that social media is a different beast entirely from search. When people search for a product or service on Google, they are very much in a ‘buying’ frame of mind, and so a well targeted advertisement can expect to convert well to a sale.
Browsers’ mindsets are completely different when they’re using social media. They want to be entertained, diverted, and intrigued – not sold to – and savvy marketers recognize and capitalize on this. Looking at social in terms of sales is not even half the picture, it’s more about building up reputation, visibility, and a brand identity, with the expectation that this will lead to future business rather than an immediate (and therefore trackable) transaction.
The New (Old) Approach to Social Marketing
In many ways, social media marketing represents a return to the old days of banner advertising: the aim is to spread the word and reach as many eyeballs as possible. Conversions are of secondary importance (although still very much worth keeping an eye on). Thus, social media campaigns need to catch the attention, and ideally present something compelling enough that a consumer wants to spread the word to their circle, which they can easily do with a single click. The aim is to reach as many potential customers as possible with a largely non-commercial message, draw them into your sphere of influence, and only then begin gently to use more traditional, direct marketing techniques.
In the short term, the success of social marketing shouldn’t be measured by the bottom line, but by the number of followers you’ve built up on Twitter, the number of ‘likes’ you receive on Facebook, and the number of shares your only-subtly-commercial blog posts result in. Once these metrics have been increased to a certain level, then clever, people-focused marketing techniques can be applied to achieve the final desired result of increased sales.
Social media success requires an entirely different way of looking at marketing than older forms of online activity, but if you’re not shaping your strategy to embrace this new paradigm then you’re probably leaving plenty of business on the table for your more agile competitors to scoop up.