Social media campaigns have been the hottest trend for small businesses, celebrities, SEO companies, corporations, and pretty much anyone else trying to make money, for the last five years or so. Countless corporations have hired self-proclaimed “social media gurus” to run their campaigns for them, a decision that has benefited many of these companies about as much as if they had simply dumped a year’s salary in the garbage can.
More recently, tools like Hootsuite have allowed SEO managers to publish massive amounts of content indiscriminately across social media channels, providing unwitting small business owners with what appears to be a massive campaign – a campaign that is no more useful than about an hour’s worth of citation building. As John Tabita points out is his Selling Social article, the hard data indicates social media activity does not translate into actual conversions.
The problem is that we are completely missing the point of social media. It has never been about click-throughs and conversion rates. When used correctly, sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others have the potential to cheaply catapult a business far beyond where any other form of marketing could take it. The key is understanding what you’re actually trying to accomplish and what you need to make it happen.
The Rules Have Changed
Try, if you can, to forget everything you know about search engines, link building, and algorithms for a few moments. Social media doesn’t play by the rules we know. We’ve been unsuccessful simply because we’re trying to harness an albatross to pull a wagon.
Social media provides businesses with an opportunity to elevate their brand beyond the actual merit of their products. It’s a chance to put something other than price in the customer’s mind. It’s a chance to enter a competitive market and become more than just another option on the shelf.
In the past, this was accomplished via advertising. Throw Michael Jordan in your Nike commercial, and almost overnight, your fledgling shoe company has elevated itself above the industry’s long-standing powerhouses. Today, advertisements can gain universal acclaim for their entertainment value and make almost no money for the company that launched them.
Look at Old Spice. After running a widely acclaimed television series for several months in 2010, the company had hardly seen any effect on sales. Once they ran a combined Twitter and YouTube video-response campaign, however, answering Twitter followers’ questions with specifically addressed YouTube videos, sales shot up 107%. A company like Internship.com can pay $50,000 for Charlie Sheen to tweet their product, and end up with an additional 74,000 new applications as a result.
The point here is simply that the paradigm for branding has shifted. It’s no longer about simply getting your name out there. Thanks to the internet, people know about a thousand more brands than they’ll ever actually purchase. Building a brand has become much more involved, and the answer is social media.
What’s The Goal?
Remember how we said it’s not about click-throughs? If I see that my friend likes Bob’s Bakery on Facebook, and I visit the page, I’m probably not going to purchase a bakery product at that moment. The same applies to an electronics distributor. I’m not going to buy a new 72 inch Samsung TV, simply because I somehow managed to end up on their page. When I’m in a bricks-and-mortar store, purchases tend to be more spur of the moment – more of a see-and-buy type deal. Online buying is a much more intentional, premeditated affair.
Accordingly, the goal of social media is NOT to get me to click-through to a purchase. The goal is for me to think of Bob’s Bakery or Samsung as something more than “just another option” the next time I’m hungry for a muffin or in the market for a new television.
The Key to Social Media – Engaging Personality
People are attracted to engaging personalities. The entire premise behind social media is the unprecedented ability to look into the lives of others and engage with people and entities on a level that was not previously possible.
Take a look at your Facebook page. What do you see? Deals? Coupons? Announcements? Links to reviews? If so, this page has completely missed the point; this type of information should be on your website. Social media is about engaging with your audience. Think of it like speaking to a room full of teenagers. No one cares about your wealth of information. If you don’t personally involve the audience, nothing you say is going to stick.
A social media page should be full of questions to customers, contests, and personalized responses to fan comments. The more engaging the content, the more personalized the responses are, and the more involved your customer community is, the more successful your social media campaign will be.
This is an extremely involved process. You need someone with a likeable personality running your campaign. It’s not about content as much as it’s about engagement. Posting massive amounts of article links and one-liners won’t accomplish a thing. Running a contest with desirable prizes, on the other hand, will work wonders. Celebrities only rule social media because their job is to market and brand a personality.
If you will consistently engage with your consumer base on a personalized level, you will actually give your brand a personality, creating something more than an “option” in your customers’ minds.
It’s that simple. If you don’t have a personality, hire one, and then engage, engage, engage!