I ran across a very interesting post on LinkedIn this past weekend entitled “Social Media for Business is CRAP“. At the time of this writing, there are 1,256 comments, so clearly this post struck a nerve. Here’s the original post, plus a few excerpts of the comments below representing several points of view…
What do you think? Is Social Media for Business Really Crap?
Original post: Social Media for Business is CRAP!
OK, I finally said it publicly, Social Media for business is Crap!
Maybe because my feeling for the hyped-up benefits of social media was recently confirmed by a top millionaire online guru. If you follow the most successful gurus his name is always at the top of the list. As a matter of fact, he was the first online entrepreneur to make a MILLION $ in a day. That said, recently he published a PDF where he said “I think social media Su-ks”. When I read that I felt a sigh of relief, “maybe I am not off the tracks after all”. You see when you don’t “follow the pack” you tend to sometimes feel like you are going down the wrong path or at least missing an opportunity.
Now, I must admit I use all the major social media outlets including Twitter, Facebook, Squidoo, etc, etc. However, not for direct marketing. And, even though I publish new product releases on Twitter, analytics tells me no convertible traffic comes from that source or Facebook. My primary use of social sites is for building backlinks, but that is for SEO purposes. And, of course the added exposure. i.e. “branding” doesn’t hurt.
However, I never felt like any of the exposure or traffic was ever really serious “convertible traffic”. In other words social media is used for entertainment and communication, ahh, socializing. “Socializing” people are not in the “consumer mode” when they are cruising the social sites. They are looking for friends, maybe a date, etc. Proof of this observation is that these social sites still cannot monetize themselves via paid advertising to nearly the level of search engines like Google or Yahoo. Why? Because you really cannot target potential consumers when they are out at their “buying behavior mode”, i.e. when they are specifically looking to buy a product or service. To try and pull social surfers out of the “social mode” and into a “buying mode” requires many steps before a behavioral shift is realized.
Sure, you can start a dialogue and maybe down the road they will recall your business, but the effort to generate business is much more ROI effective using PPC or SEO. The one bright spot for social media as a business tool may be list building, but my own results have been mixed (via measuring quality of opt ins).
And yes, I have read the eMarketer predictions that social ad spend will increase by about 400% by 2013. But, these same groups are also publishing reports like today’s “Does Social Media Work for Small Biz?” where 88% of all small business owners say social media is not helpful to their business. Proof that most of us are not yet seeing the tangible benefits, i..e., sales, leads, etc, from our social media profiles. Personally I am not even seeing much return on creating and maintaining groups within the social media outlets. And, one of the most raved about tools within social media is creating specialized groups.
So, at the moment using social sites for business generation, in my opinion is still highly overrated. As an owner of several e-commerce business I don’t see myself investing advertising dollars in social media any time soon. And, even though there are those that will disagree, I don’t think many of them can show you their own e-commerce business that has experienced any serious ROI using social media. If anyone can show me any REAL results otherwise, please I am all ears. But please Hold the HYPE.
Selected response excerpts:
I think your post is a bit strong (and a bit fun!), but I get a bit frustrated as well. What I find most objectionable:
1. Very few Social Network people actually know much about social networks
2. Even less know anything outside of social networks.
Which, I guess means that a lot of social media people don’t seem to know much at all!
However, I don’t think that it’s wise to write social media off just because barriers to entry are low and therefore it attracts a lot of low grade people. There are also some very smart people active with social networking.
Moreover, it’s important to remember that much of the “New Economy” hype was actually true despite the incompetence of some of the people hyping it.
I think social media has a long way to go before it can provide any real value in the business to consumer realm. Where I find the most value in participating in social networks is staying connected with other business professionals and generating a relationship where referrals and quality leads can be passed.
I agree with you Kevin, but to say that Social Media sucks for business is a typical marketing slogan that is not 100% true. I have by being active in my blog, Linkedin and yes even Facebook gained a lot of business. Its an excellent tool to spread comunication messages. Ok, it will never be a conversion generating tool such as SEM but why say that it sucks for business? Kevin, thanks for your article. In general I liked it and you have got good points in what you are saying. If you have your way to Barcelona you are all welcome to visit us!!!
Great points from everyone! Social media was never designed to sell, it IS a social atmosphere. That being said, many of us are influenced to make buying and even major purchase decisions based off conversations we have with our friends and sphere of influence.
Social media is still in its infancy stage, and both ‘experts’ and businesses alike are trying to grasp consumers understanding. It will be interesting to watch things unfold the next few years here.
Does social media sell? Again, not really, but it influences. Do you want your competition influencing your prospects? Probably not, so you need to have representation in these social arenas.
One of my biggest ‘conversions’ from social media is speaking engagements – I get at least one new one quarterly. When I speak, I sell something, so there can be dollars equated back.
In addition, prospects will do business with people they ‘like’ if all product / service factors are equal. Why not connect with them socially so you have the ‘x’ factor?
You’re dead on right. I’ve felt that same thing. Social media is, as you said, for being social. People are NOT in a buying mode. But it’s not to scrap. It certainly does build relationships and your brand, but as you said, don’t expect to make a living off 2.0 It may change, but best now to work more profitable avenues.
Social media will definitely help your company increase your brand and product visibility thus increase traffic to your website and then create awareness that your company exists. It is an advertising medium that is free to everyone so what’s the hold back of using it? All of us are trying to sell something to someone but we’re not selling the same thing, right? So that’s why networking will always play a critical role in everyday business. Someone would need white and then I would need blue, you know what I mean.
I have never seen so many intelligent people miss the point. Social Media is not for selling your product. It is not a sales tool per say, it is a means of communication about who you are, what your company respresents and how you can be of service or help. If you approach social media with the idea that you are going to make yourself available to help other people, then you will reap the benifits it has to offer. Comcast comes to mind. They have a Twitter account that was started to give people a place to ask questions about their cable problems. and has turned into one of the most active sites for Comcast to the point where they have a starff of people monitoring the site to answere questjions for their customers. What a way to get your brand, your name and your company noticed by millions of people. Social Media is a matter of attitude. Lookat it as how can I help and you will see a benefit.
Alot of people are skeptical about social media, and many people are hesitant to get involved because of the uncertainly on ROI….but as Rick mentioned, social media is in its infancy and has yet to reveal its full potential in e-biz. There are many examples of successful social media campaigns, especially those translating into increased sales and unbranded awareness.
For example, “Share Your Oops”.ca was a user-generated site created by Palladin for women to share their risky sexual behaviours that could get them pregnant by accident. Palladin was advertising for their product Plan B, otherwise known as the “morning after pill”.
In simply 6 months, there were over 7 thousand user-generated posts, increased sales by 19%, increased unbranded awareness by 59%, and 28% of the visitors of “share your oops.ca” also clicked to visit the product page.
It comes to show that social media DOES work, at least for companies that have clear guidelines on how to approach the social media realm. With that said, it must be emphasized that setting up social media for business is not always an easy thing to do. There are many factors relating to content control and maintenance that need to be addressed.
To me, social media is just like any other marketing tactic. Some succeed, others fail. It only depends whether or not companies are willing to take the risk.
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