Social Media Marketing Isn’t All About the Conversation Or Relationships

If you’ve been exploring or reading about social media marketing for long, you’ve surely read and heard that SMM is “about the conversation” or “about relationships” and for these reasons, it is fundamentally different than traditional marketing.

Yes, SMM is fundamentally different. But I’m here to tell you, it’s not all about the conversation.

Maybe it was at the beginning, Love Tester when Facebook and MySpace were really the only social networks out there, and it was all brand new. At that point, the number of people using social networks was small, and as Greg Satell described in his excellent article about the primary forces driving the evolution of social networks, the growth of new social networks is driven in large part by small, dedicated, and close-knit communities.

But it’s a different world, now. With Twitter, LinkedIn, a multitude of blogs, dog treats and all the social bookmarking sites like Digg and StumbleUpon joining the ranks of the old guard (in Web-time), social media marketing is not, in the main, about conversations or relationships. We’re talking marketing, here. Sales is about conversations, relationships, one-on-one. Marketing and PR, by their nature, require a better person-to-customer or message-to-customer ratio than 1:1. If SMM requires building 1:1 or even 1:5 or 1:10 relationships, it will be short-lived.

Luckily, it doesn’t.

As evidence to support my claim, white english labrador puppies let’s look at the facts. Do you use LinkedIn? Originally a career aid, it’s fast becoming a key B2B SMM source. Check out the discussions on LinkedIn groups. The vast majority of them, probably 90%, aren’t discussions at all. The comments listed are a big, fat 0. It’s a rare discussion or posting that generates any comments, and those are usually of the “Great post!” nature.

What about Twitter? For all the talk about the importance of connecting with your followers on Twitter, the vast majority of tweets get no response at all. 53% of Twitter users reported they didn’t care that they didn’t get a response (see Mashable’s article of 4-22-2009 on Twitter attitudes). Not what you’d expect from those seeking conversation. The statistics show that the “top 10% of prolific Tweeter users account for over 90% of tweets.”

Even Facebook groups and fan pages aren’t a flood of conversations and relationships. For example, while 52% of women (the most active FB users) have fanned a brand or page, puppies for adoption only 10% engage in product or brand-related activities. (See the related article of 9-1-2009.)

Of the reasons for joining a fan page, studies indicate “The top five reasons for joining a brand or fan group are to “get news or product updates” (67 percent), “view promotions” (64 percent), “view or download music or videos” (41 percent), “submit opinions” (36 percent), and “connect with other customers” (33 percent). Meaning only 36% want to engage with the business at all, via submitting opinions, and only a third want to engage with other customers. (See the report of 03-2009 on Facebook’s page redesign, and low engagement.)

Nope. If you’re trying to market through social media by having a conversation or building relationships with customers and potential customers, you’re engaged in a time-consuming, low-ROI activity that is likely to reach about a third of your target customers, at best. That might pay off if you are one of the social media celebrities, like Gary Vaynerchuk or Chris Brogan, Ai Social Media Marketing App who makes a living to a large extent by being Someone on Twitter, etc. For most businesses, it doesn’t make any sense at all.

But SMM is different That said, I do agree that SMM is different than other online marketing. Digital marketing to date has, for the most part, mimicked offline marketing. It’s been a broadcast method. You advertise online, broadcasting ads just like on television, billboards, and in magazines-albeit with more granular targeting. You send out email blasts, like the junk mail flyers and postcards we all get in our physical mailboxes. You send out newsletters (or links to podcasts or videos), like the flyers real estate agents, financial planners, and so on send to our physical mail boxes.

And just as we tune out television and print ads, and throw away the junk mail and newsletters, people have gotten good at tuning out online ads and hitting the delete key for all the spam and newsletters.

SMM is different because rather than broadcasting, it’s about congregating. It’s about you, the business person, going to where the customers are congregating, and engaging them in that location, on their terms.

The problem is that businesses haven’t figured out exactly what engaging people means. Because social networks were originally for people to converse about their shared interests, businesses have taken the same approach. With social networks and the like growing, and because of the nature of marketing, it’s a losing approach. For the most part, people don’t want to converse with businesses or marketers on social networks. But that doesn’t mean that social media isn’t a valuable method of marketing and that you can’t gain more by marketing through SMM than through traditional means.

If it’s not about the conversation, what is it about? Simple. It’s about value. It’s about coming to the online festival or conference where everyone is congregating and offering something of value that makes people want to come to your booth…and hear you…and keep coming back every time they come to the festival. Because you’re interesting, useful, helpful.

The only reason that potential customers are going to follow you, Emsculpt NYC a stranger or business that’s online to, in essence, sell, is if you offer something of value to them. Generally, online that means information of value, such as news or articles. But it can also be resources, coupons and freebies, tools, or just entertainment. Remember those Facebook statistics? Most people fanned pages to get something.

The good news is that this approach fits very well with marketing’s traditional goals and leverages marketing resources well. Presumably, you know your target customer. That means you know what those people are interested in and what’s valuable to them. And most likely, you already produce some of the information and other resources that are valuable to them, or in the course of your job, you regularly uncover information and resources of value to them. Now, all you have to do is become the distributor and purveyor of that valuable material, through social networks.


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