Is social media marketing really worth all the effort?

Is social media marketing really worth all the effort?

Many companies I work with find their marketing initiatives just don’t seem to work.  When you boil it down, it’s very often a reliance on old-fashioned methods or a lack of a clear strategy, or a combination of both.  But there’s another factor increasingly at play – and that’s a reliance on shouting louder to be heard.

Shout louder

It goes a bit like this.  With Facebook, LinkedIn and especially Twitter, it’s just so easy to shout your message at the market, hoping you’re loud enough and persistent enough to be heard.  The problem with that approach is that everybody is doing the same, so you need to shout ever louder to be heard.

Everybody should know by now that the ‘shout louder’ approach doesn’t work, but there seems to be a lemming-like need to keep doing it.  Imagine going to a face-to-face networking meeting and shouting at the group to buy your products and services.  And then imagine everybody else doing the same.  I can’t see much getting achieved – can you?

A lemming like need for numbers

All this is compounded by an equally lemming-like need to build an apparent social media audience.  People chase Facebook likes, Twitter followers and an ever bigger LinkedIn network as if they are a panacea to all ills.  It’s almost as if the Facebook likes are perceived to have some sort of inherent value of their own.

But the problem with that is it’s just too easy to buy a bunch of especially Facebook likes and Twitter followers for just a few dollars.  Do they have any value?  Probably not – but at least you can feel good that your Facebook page now has 50,000 followers.

There was a recent high profile example where of the 29,000 people who had liked Goldman Sachs on Facebook, 28,000 were from a village in Northern India.  I guess that’s possible; but it’s much more likely the likes were bought to look good.

Are people who they say they are?

And then there’s a further compounding factor.  Can you really believe somebody is actually who they say they are?  Here’s an example.

We recently had dinner at a local restaurant.  To say it was awful is an understatement.  In fact it was so bad I was moved to write a review on Tripadvisor.  I was fascinated to see that within a few days, there were a number of five star, excellent reviews of the same restaurant.  Curious, I checked out the profiles of the positive reviewers.

As soon as I did so it became apparent the positive reviewers were very unlikely to be real people; much more likely they were some social media agency somewhere paid to minimise negative comment.  Credibility – zero.

So what is an approach that works?

Getting a real social media following is about being genuine and letting you and your company’s personality come through.  It’s not about shouting, buying an audience, or paying somebody else to minimise negative feedback.

It takes time to be genuine, and the results of the effort are not instantaneous.  It’s not about some quick fix, such as buying a bunch of Facebook likes or a Twitter blitz.

It’s about having real conversations with real people and helping others find answers to their questions.  It’s not about just posting links to sales pages on your website.

The problem is, you have to stand out against the noise.  And that’s hard.  When your Twitter feed has 100 shouted messages, the 1 interesting one gets lost very easily.

And that’s why I find myself wondering if social media is in fact worth the effort we are all increasingly put into it.  I’m still looking for interesting case studies where it’s worked – if you’ve got one – please get in touch.

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