You’re Looking at Social Media Marketing Wrong — 5 Examples

It's time to fundamentally change how you think about social media marketing.

We’re more than a few years into what was affectionately known as Web 2.0, and nothing seems to have changed. The “potential” of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is still lauded by wide-eyed marketers (and agencies, of course), and exposure appears to be the paramount objective. ROI is still considered difficult to gauge … but we all know we’re driving benefits from social media marketing (so quantification doesn’t matter).

Frankly, this is all nuts. Truly, totally insane.

Misperception and misapplication abounds in the social media marketing world. The easy road continues to be chosen over the productive one. And social is nowhere near dominating marketing budgets.

What went wrong? Where’s our awesome new future?

It’s waiting for us … don’t sweat it. What social media marketing needs is something platforms can’t deliver: behavior change. Marketers are making mistakes that need to be fixed. Let’s take a look at five big ones:

1. Facebook as mass media: how many users is Facebook up to, now? 700 million? 800 million? Closing in on a billion? It’s irrelevant. Facebook is a large collection of tiny, often locked communities. If you set up a Facebook page for your brand, you still need to invest in on- and off-platform marketing to get people there. It takes PR, advertising and so on to grow your Facebook community, which speaks to the weakness of Facebook relative to other marketing approaches.

2. Exposure: don’t waste your time counting retweets, shares and recommends. They are worthless unless they create a buying opportunity. If you have a blog post that got a lot of action on Twitter and Facebook, take a look at (a) how much traffic you got to the post and (b) where it came from. You’ll be surprised.

3. House lists: I’ve heard for a long time that a collection of Facebook fans is more valuable than a house list. Yet, I still get (and send) a lot of email. Email works, and it drives big results. So does paid advertising. I have yet to hear about social overpowering either of these alternatives – or even driving material gains relative to the company as a whole.

And, why do so many companies use social media contests to collect contact information if the “like” is more valuable? That says it all.

4. Free: social media marketing isn’t free. In fact, it’s expensive. Add up all your resource time, to start, as well as design and development costs. Then, measure it against revenue or leads generated through social media. The math is ugly.

5. All about brand: brand strength that doesn’t lead to sales is really just an illusion. If you can’t get people to pay, then your brand is worthless. Period. Brand has often been a cop out for social media marketers, and this has to change. We need to start showing serious financial results.

Don’t’ get me wrong: I believe in social media marketing. It just has to be executed differently. It requires an investment, and like any investment, the results need to be measured. In some cases, attitudes need to change. Buyers are becoming more sophisticated, which means it’s time for social media marketing behavior to advance.

Quite honestly, we need to hold social media to the same standards as other forms of marketing.

[Photo by m.gifford via Flickr]