Social media marketing. Those are three buzz words that seem irresistible to businesses small and large. the promise the Internet’s social networks have introduced lures business owners in at a quickening rate, especially after success stories from large corporate entities like Dell have emerged in the past year. But are these success stories too good to be true?
An article from Businessweek warns about the hype of social media marketing snake oil, alerting businesses to the dangers of self-proclaimed experts that may not be able to deliver what they advertise. It’s an interesting effect, seeing as these social media marketing experts are able to build enough hype around their brand to land the gigs that initiate their demise.
Given our current economic strife, the Internet has provided what appears to be a safe haven for those looking to be their own bosses. Corporate America’s job market is relatively unstable and that fosters a great deal of doubt for those seeking employment. The other half of this equation is the fact that our current economic strife has also encouraged marketers to seek out less expensive ways in which to push their message across to a large number of people. Alas, social media marketing.
Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are growing in popularity, and are beginning to be accepted by their users as platforms through which they can interact with friends and businesses alike. In some ways this joint approval of social networking validates the networks themselves. The question is, do these social networks meet marketing expectations?
It’s a difficult thing to put into numbers, and at this point there is more promise in the potential of social media marketing than in the statistical results themselves. The corporate success stories we hear about most frequently have also spent a great amount of money on their social media marketing campaigns, which also contributes to the false hope other businesses give into when bringing on a self-proclaimed marketing expert. As with anything, each business needs to evaluate their needs and bring in the person that best fits their needs.
Businessweek goes on to address four of the major pitfalls a business can fall into when considering a social media marketing expert, noting the buzz words and jargon they may use in order to gain your business. The transparency effect for businesses to better interact with their consumers tops the list, though Businessweek notes that such transparency isn’t always a good thing when it comes to a business’ strategy.
The ability to listen in on customers’ conversations through public forum exchanges is another buzz phrase, with Businessweek warning that bringing on staff to manage these conversations can be pricy with little immediate return. The freemium model may be one tactic that has gained traction in recent years, but Businessweek notes the possible loss of revenue. Closing out the list is the encouragement for employees to embrace social networking, which Businessweek says could backfire when those employees begin wasting hours of their work day playing around on Facebook.
I’m not here to dispute the points Businessweek has brought up, but I would like to extend some personal thoughts and experiences based on the four pitfalls mentioned in the Businessweek article. Social media marketing has yet to be proven as a fully viable option for businesses or the self-sustained entrepreneur. Both aspects of this social media marketing equation have invested their time and money in its potential, as the ability to witness a return on such investments are beginning to show promise.
Instilling a corporate culture towards embracing social media can also become a healthy aspect of a company’s social media strategy. There’s little point in worrying about an employee releasing trade secrets on the web, as this could happen with or without the presence of social networks. Finding a way to leverage those employees to improve branding relationships across the social web can benefit businesses towards their online marketing goals. Best Buy has done a good job with this in the way it’s using Twitter to provide a direct channel between advice-seeking customers and Best Buy employees.
Instead of shying away from social media, companies should just find a good way in which to integrate it into their existing corporate culture. Companies should invest as they see fit, based on the current returns and the knowledge that they are investing in social media’s potential as well.