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Social Media Marketing is Not for Every Business

Many businesses wonder if they need to be marketing on social media. Often times, they are surprised when I tell them that it might not be a good fit for their business. The reality is that allocating budget, time, and other resources into social media marketing may result in wasted resources and disappointing results.

Speakers at social media marketing events enthusiastically proclaim that social media is the pinnacle of customer engagement. At a recent event, I witnessed an attendee from a manufacturing company ask a question regarding his use of Facebook. The attendee’s company manufactures industrial components and supplies OEMs. He wanted to know if Facebook could help generate sales. The speaker answered, “Absolutely!” but failed to give a thorough explanation of why or how this would work well. In reality, the answer is that social media marketing is likely not the best use of that particular company’s marketing budget and other resources.

When trying to decide if social media marketing is a good fit for your business, here are some important questions that you must answer:

1. Does your target audience want to engage with you through social media?

While social platforms are good opportunities to drive awareness and connect with a consumer audience, this isn’t always the case for B2B and industrial organizations. The customers of the manufacturer who asked a question at the conference are procurement personnel or buyers at large OEM companies. It seems fairly unlikely that they are awarding supply contracts based on a promoted Facebook post that popped into their feed. Additionally, it becomes much more difficult to segment and target social users by profession, as many keep their personal and professional online personas separate. Finally, even if you can target these specific professionals, that doesn’t mean that it will be effective. Just because I am a professional parts buyer for an OEM, for example, doesn’t mean that I’m going to be interested enough to engage with you because you popped up in my feed while I’m trying to scroll through info from my friends, family, and personal interest groups. Ultimately, you have to identify your audience and how they want to engage with you.

Does your target audience want to engage with you?
2. Is social media a good allocation of resources compared to other Internet marketing channels?

Businesses do not have infinite resources. Budgets, time, and internal capacity are in limited supply. This holds true for every operational aspect of business, but particularly when it comes to marketing. It is imperative that resources are deployed where they will have the greatest net benefit. Every budgetary dollar deployed to one channel is a dollar that’s potentially removed from another channel. To maximize the overall ROI of your digital marketing strategy, you can’t afford to spend on channels that return at a lower rate. For many businesses, there are just better allocations for their budget than social media marketing. For example, an expertly designed paid search placement, or PPC campaign has the unique ability to position your business to capture potential customers who are actively and currently seeking your products or services. By identifying and targeting specific search terms, you can drive awareness to potential customers that are further along in their buying journey, and subsequently convert at a high rate. In that scenario, you wouldn’t want to miss out on high value opportunities by diverting funds to social media campaigns if they convert at a lower rate. Making data driven marketing decisions to ensure maximum ROI is how great companies continue to aggressively gain market share and grow their customer base.

3. Do you have a comprehensive social strategy?

Maximizing the value of social media requires more than just paying a consultant to retweet regurgitated inspirational quotes or witty commentary on current events with the occasional product/service plug. Companies that leverage social media successfully create a comprehensive social strategy. A comprehensive social media strategy should start with what you hope to achieve. Some common goals include: driving brand awareness, customer engagement, generating selling opportunities, and supporting recruiting initiatives. If you haven’t identified your goals, you can’t strategize how to reach them. Additionally, a successful social strategy should take into account the three pillars of digital marketing: earned media, owned media, and paid media. You should have a deep understanding of how you want these different opportunities to work together to drive engagement and help you reach your goals. The first step in meaningful social media marketing is always developing a comprehensive social strategy.

Do you have a comprehensive social strategy?
4. Do we have the capacity necessary to be successful?

Once you have developed a comprehensive social media strategy, the next step is to take a realistic look at the implications of your strategy. Trying to execute this plan without considering and understanding the implications of it is a recipe for failure and wasted resources. Creating a Facebook page and having an intern post some company news at random intervals is just fine if you don’t have any goals for your social efforts. However, if you intend to actually make use of social media as a marketing platform, it is important that you understand that it is going to require diligent work. This often revolves around content creation, data analysis, and regular campaign optimization. Ongoing customer engagement is no small feat. Enterprise level organizations often have a team of full time staff dedicated to these tasks. You need to be realistic about both your internal capacity, as well as your selected vendor’s ability to meet these demands.

These are just some of the considerations that go into a well-planned, well-executed Internet marketing strategy. If you meet a marketing professional that claims that every business absolutely needs to invest in social media, run (don’t walk) the other direction. While social media marketing can be a very fruitful marketing channel for some businesses, that isn’t the case in every scenario. Ensuring the maximum return on marketing spend requires thoughtful consideration of your specific business, audience, budget, strategy, and capacity.

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