Social Media Marketing: Truth, Lies and Facebook Advertising

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Social media marketing – it’s a term surrounded by just as much confusion as buzz.

What is it, how does it work, and can it really grow your business in the ways many marketing gurus are promising?

Social media marketing
Social media is a useful tool for most businesses, but the expectations surrounding it have been blown out of proportion by biased buzz and excessive media coverage. Let’s lay to rest some of the myths and look at exactly where social media should fit into your online marketing strategy.

The Illusion of Something New

The first thing to be aware of is that a lot of the hype around social media is deliberately (and often misleadingly) created, on purpose, by marketing professionals. These people need ‘the illusion of something new’ to justify their consulting or speaking fees and sell more of their books. They can’t simply stand up and say, ‘The same marketing that used to work online still works just as well as it always has.’

They thrive on the never-ending appearance of a new trend in marketing that only they have the secret to harnessing. In reality, there is often nothing to harness, and this is unfortunately the case with a lot of social media marketing.

How to Use Social Media

Now, from what we’ve told you so far you may be thinking we are anti-social-media. That’s not the case – but it is important to understand exactly what social media can and can’t do for you. Too many businesses (especially small businesses) are throwing good money after bad on social media marketing strategies that will never produce worthwhile results in terms of ROI.

Social media’s primary function is to build relationships – not generate new ones. It’s not a direct response tool. Generally speaking, if you have a choice between spending a dollar on Pay Per Click ads on Facebook to generate ‘Likes’ and spending that dollar on SEO or even Google Adwords, you will virtually always get a better return from search.

When a user is on Facebook or Twitter, they are not actively looking for something. Search engine users, by definition, are searching for something – often for products, or for a solution to a specific problem.

The bottom line is, people who are actively searching for something are much more likely to make a purchase in the immediate future. Someone who is just ‘hanging out’ on Facebook may ‘Like’ a page, but that doesn’t indicate they intend to buy something as a result. This is why social media marketing teams often use vague metrics like ‘awareness’ to measure results, rather than direct sales figures. The direct sales generated from large social media campaigns are often less than desirable.

The Commitment vs The Payoff

That said, social media direct marketing can be effective, but it is often prohibitively expensive for small businesses to do properly – and in any case, it is still less likely to produce a good return on the time and effort required, compared to other forms of direct marketing.

If you do choose to pursue social media marketing as a core part of your online strategy, be prepared to put a lot of time and money into it before seeing any results. If you’re not prepared to do that, you social media strategy should be secondary to search engine marketing, content strategy and other ways of spreading the word about yourself online.

Search Still Dominates for Targeted, Buyer Traffic

The reality is still that if you want targeted visitors landing on your website who are actually capable of buying from you, and interested in buying from you, search engines are still your best option. Yes, platforms like Facebook advertising do allow for laser-pinpoint demographic targeting, but the typical conversion rate for a Facebook ad campaign is much lower than that for a properly put together Adwords campaign or organic search engine optimisation.

The bottom line: social media is a great way to stay in touch with existing customers and offer value to potential future customers, building relationships that may eventually convert into real business. But it needs to be a supporting element in a more well-rounded online marketing strategy. Make social media the core of your online marketing plan at your own peril.

Need help with you online marketing? Contact us – we can help.

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Tom McSherry is the founder and chief strategist of Premium SEO NZ. Tom has been in the digital marketing industry for 8 years providing digital copywriting and optimisation services to businesses in New Zealand and around the world. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

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