Social Media is Only Part of the Online Marketing Mix

social media is one of many online marketing tools

The most amazing story in social media and social business may be, that social is only a small part of the bigger online marketing picture. Alone, social media doesn’t sell one soda. It might “influence” you into picking Pepsi over Coke, but alone a Facebook LIKE is just a thumbs up. And if that LIKE was part of a promotional campaign, it might not even be a real thumbs up.

I write about social more than any of the other parts of e-commerce. But it’s not because I think social is THE WAY, the panacea. I write extensively about social media, because it’s where the new stuff is happening.

For the most part we’ve got online ads, email marketing, PPC, SEO, and PR down cold. The traditions that have driven success in those channels are still bearing fruit. Social, on the other hand is new, unexplored, rapidly changing, and fun. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in social media. BUT… When hired by a client to work on their online marketing, I focus more attention on the other fundamentals.

“Social Business” is a new buzzword that’s being bandied about as if it’s something new. Let’s look at the fundamentals.

Without an e-commerce play, social media and most other online marketing are about brand building. It’s a fine goal, but for small and medium businesses they don’t have time to “build their brand” they need to build their revenue. And online or offline, the only way to do that is INCREASE SALES or DECREASE EXPENSES. There are some significant ways that social can decrease support expenses, but let’s focus on the core of the matter: SALES.

Social can drive some demand in the form of traffic to your website (hopefully web store) but it’s up to your other systems to catch that traffic and turn it into sales.

And social is wonderful for tying together all these various online marketing tools like PR, Advertising, SEO, PPC. A unified campaign will have elements of social media that cross all of these tools and with the right mix, amplify the effectiveness of each part of your marketing mix. But social doesn’t do it’s work alone.

The GORILLA in the room that we are not talking about is Facebook. 800 billion users. A shiny new IPO.

One thing is certain, at the moment Facebook owns the social media landscape. And it probably should be part of your marketing mix, simply because so many of your customers are already there. It is important to show up on Facebook. And if your customers want to reach you on Facebook, it’s imperative that you are listening and responding. (Horrible stat: 80% of all Facebook questions to businesses go unanswered. Have  you ever had that happen to you.)

But the other side of Facebook’s presence is the LACK OF TANGIBLE SALES that come from Facebook advertising. I’m sure there are case studies, and everyone pops up when a post like this appears, to say, “My Facebook campaigns have kicked ass.” But the sad fact is, click through rates on typical Facebook ads run in the low hundredths of a percent. (That looks like this 0.02%) And of that atrocious rate another infinitesimal number go on to buy something on your site. An example from a past client looked like this: Views: 1,500,000; Clicks: 15,000 (0.01%); Engagement with sales form from landing page: 750 (5%); Actual transactions: 2.

Now there were some significant problems with the landing page, that I did not have control over. We did eventually influence the design and development team into making some structural changes to the page and the contact form requirements. We were able to double the engagement number to 10%. But the actual sales remained flat no matter how many page views we drove to this client’s offering.

Here are my major observations about this:

  1. We WERE able to use social to drive some LIKES and SHARES of positive comments and sentiment about this company.
  2. Facebook Advertising is NOT SOCIAL, it’s Advertising. And advertising on Facebook sucks.
  3. In the end the CEO and the CFO did not care about sentiment or LIKES, they wanted SALES.

Social media can and does help businesses do more business. But social is part of the mix of tools, and does not stand alone as the favored tool. Done right, social media can be an accelerant to every other type of marketing you do. But the sales has to happen through some other mechanism.

Now we are hearing a new buzz around “social business.” Here’s what are they are saying.

  1. Every business must be social (Why wouldn’t you want to show up at the conversation, especially when it’s about your business?)
  2. Social can drive sentiment and influence future buyers. (We listen to what our friends tell us, and we often act on those recommendations.)
  3. Businesses can learn a lot by listening and responding to their customers online. (A good online customer service system can have a social element that makes it even better.)
  4. Social media influence can be measured, analyzed, and reported. (From our findings we can improve the social component of our offerings.)

What they are not saying, but I believe to be true.

  1. Sales are king in online marketing.
  2. Social can contribute to the sales process, but it is not THE PROCESS, nor THE GOLDEN TOOL.
  3. You have to get the fundamentals of PPC, SEO, email marketing, and PR down before adding social to the mix
  4. If your site’s sales system is poor, you will just have a higher number of failures.
  5. Educated landing page design and a streamlined purchase paths might can increase the effectiveness of your sales process more than social.

As part of your MIX social is important, and the ever changing landscape makes for exciting opportunities. But don’t miss the fundamentals.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

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