4 Reasons Why Social Network Marketing is a Bad Content Strategy

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Social network marketing is a poor strategy if your aim is new business, solid leads, and good traffic that converts.

Playing around in the social networks *might* be good for branding, interacting with current and potential customers, but even that is questionable.

What is Social Network Marketing?

Social network marketing is diving (creating content that benefits your reader and you) into your social networks – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ with the sole aim of generating leads that convert into real business. Social network marketing is generally what people are thinking/hoping for when they ask me, “Bill, can you help drive people to my web site?” Most social network marketing is all about getting people to click-through to another site/landing page where they can ‘convert’.

Social network marketing doesn’t work for several reasons

1.  Driving is a poor, make that a lousy, strategy. Pushing people to go places they weren’t planning to go online, or in the real world for that matter, just doesn’t work. The ROI on time invested is terrible. Pulling people is the best strategy. This means that giving people something worth finding is at the heart of a solid content marketing strategy. In a previous article here at SEJ, I demonstrated how a very aggressive social network marketing strategy can indeed increase traffic to your home site, but the cost in time with return on money made isn’t worth it.

2. Your social networks will tire of you and your marketing. Even you really think you are doing a favor to your 1000s of, ahem, ‘intimate’ friends and 10s of thousands of deeply loyal followers, and 100s of people in your circles and the circles you are in, plus your 100s of business connections, truth is, they are not in your social network so you can ‘do them a favor’. If it smells like marketing, they know it’s a duck.  You can see in the graph below how one of my students got her friends and family to come to her site by marketing to her Facebook network. Notice how the numbers dropped off by the week until she finally gave up and let organic growth do it’s thing.

Social Network Marketing

Social Network Marketing

3. Referrals from social networks aren’t good shoppers. Historically, visitors that come to my website from a social network referral perform very poorly. That is they don’t turn pages. They don’t look at ads. They don’t buy. More often than not they will look at whatever they were sent to see, then smile, laugh or swear, then back out = bounce. And we know that a bounce is the worst thing that can happen to your site. Search engines understand that a bounce = the visitor came but didn’t like what they saw and left = poor quality that results in a worse ranking going forward.

4. The numbers don’t add up. Best estimates are that it costs $1 – 1.50 to acquire a Facebook fan. And it costs more to keep the fan. Harley Davidson and Victoria Secret estimate that about half of one percent of anything posted on Facebook is only seen by the person who put it there. What that means is that I, or somebody I pay, must update my Facebook page 200 times before somebody MIGHT see what I did. I need 100 ‘people saw this’ to maybe get one click-through to a site where I want them to take action. And I need 100 click thrus to get a 1% action rate. That’s 200 updates times 100 times 100. I either need to be a mad dog on my Facebook or have a lot more friends. But remember, friends cost money. Visit any of the Facebook pages of your favorite star, company, hero. Find out how many fans they have. Look at how often they update. Check the number of comments and divide by the number of commenters/likes by the total of number fans. What’s the percentage?


Social network marketing is a bad strategy. It costs too much time to acquire fans and followers, to find good stuff to post,to post and to maintain, And who’s paying whom to do the work?

If you want good solid leads that convert, create good solid stuff at your home site. Do it so much so that people will come looking and start sharing organically. That kind of content marketing strategy is solid and cannot be beat.

Next article: 4 lies SEOs tell and blame on the search engines.


Screenshot taken March 22, 2014

Featured Image is property of BillBelew.com

Note to readers: From March 26-April 14th I will be somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean or in the Mediterranean Sea, courtesy of a luxury cruise line with my wife, traveling for FREE, talking about Social Media to people my parent’s age (and I am old!) I really enjoy the comments and dialog below, but I probably won’t reply until I get back from the cruise. I am not ignoring you.  I am avoiding the 75 cent/minute internet charge on the ship!

Bill Belew
Professor, Speaker, Author, blogger, all-around old man. Having taught a full 48-hour MBA course in Marketing with Social Media at a graduate school in Silicon Valley, Bill delivers insights from recent, real and relevant case studies. Bill has been working in social media for more than 8 years and has more than 90 million unique visitors from organic search to his network of sites and in a variety of niches. He knows what works, what doesn't, what can kill a site, and what can cause it to grow. Bill has a network of 5000+ Meetup followers in the heart of Silicon Valley. He is a paid, professional, international, in-demand speaker.
Bill Belew

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34 thoughts on “4 Reasons Why Social Network Marketing is a Bad Content Strategy

  1. I do agree getting followers and fans are not that easy. But when you post something interesting and catchy, people would definitely visit your site via social networks. Engagement is the main thing. Today everyone comment and like others post even if its not sounding great its because to get likes and comments on their own. This way it always work.

    1. Sachin,

      But how do you measure engagement in terms of money in and out? Driving people does NOT work. I can get people to come to my site from the social networks, but the time it took me to get them there and the conversion results were not worth it.

      Do you have data to the contrary? Please show me.

      Thanks for reading.


  2. Agreed. Social is about socialising, with maybe a little watching other people live, mixed with some trivia, like a cat falling off a table. It gets dreary.

  3. Couldn’t agree more, Bill.

    Social is great for branding, but terrible for driving sales.

    Social is great for building relationships with people who are potential link opportunities.

    That’s about it.

    We have seen, however, several eCommerce brands hit 7 figures from Social traffic alone ie. Diamond Candles, but the vast majority of websites do not lend themselves to that type of virality. And will they have any staying power? Who know.

    1. Ryan,

      Thanks for the case study reference on Diamond Candles. I wonder if they’d be willing to share some more internal data on money/time spent for return.


  4. I disagree with the fact that Social is a Bad Strategy.

    Surely you need to create content on your site and use Social to Drive and Engage. Maybe not directly to sell, but to educate. Yes it is a difficult process but in time you will become a well known authority in your space and it will be worthwhile I would say. If your business is short term. Yes don’t focus on that.

    Use Social to Engage and Not to Sell. People do not like to be sold to … they like to be engaged.

    my 2c

  5. Sachin,

    Engagement on your site is best. Engagement on your social networks is just activity. Pull marketing wins.

    Thanks for reading.

    Bill Belew

  6. I have read many articles which contain facts that social media is a big help to work out your marketing strategies more effective. I was surprised when I saw this post so I immediately read. I totally disagree that social network marketing is a bad strategy. You have good view points. But it’s not reasonable enough to say that social network marketing is bad, because even I, myself have proven that this strategy is really effective.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


  7. Razvan,

    I welcome disagreement. But do you have data to support that traffic from social is beneficial? I have data to the contrary. I can increase traffic to my site, but it doesn’t pay. The ROI on time is not worth it. Can you show me otherwise?

    Thanks for reading.

    Bill Belew

  8. Ryan,

    I can make 7 figures with Social … but first I need 7 figures to start with. Social doesn’t work for the little guy … or the big guy for that matter.

    Thanks for reading.

    Bill Belew

  9. yes I do. But this depends of the niche obviously. Not all traffic converts into leads sales. But the traffic can be a generator for another traffic that will generate leads … by word of mouth for example.

  10. Hi Bill,

    There are some good points that you pointed out in the article. But, on a whole, I don’t really agree with your opinion. In my case, the ROI has been tremendous, in the case of social network marketing.

    As long as my efforts are well rewarded, i have no reason to complain about it! Agreed that things may not have worked that well in your’s and some others’ cases.

    But, at the end of the day, what works for one may not necessarily work well for others! :)

    Kingging this post at Kingged, where I found link to this post. Hope that more people will read it from there.


  11. This seems to assume that you’re engaging in social media activity just for sales or just for branding but of course that’s just not the case. Most businesses use social media for brand awareness, customer communication, lead generation, community activities and more. I can’t think of any other communication method that facilitates such a wide range of activities.

    From personal experience I can definitely say that my social media activity has generated sales. The brand awareness we’ve generated has helped create leads and opportunities and I’ve used social media to create sales for clients also.

    The problem with measuring ROI on that is its difficult to differentiate between the time invested in brand awareness activities and those that are directly involved in lead generation because it all goes hand in hand. How can you say that the brand awareness work we’ve done hasn’t influenced the lead generation. Also, anyone interacting with our profiles will likely look back through our history which can affect their buying decision.

    1. Russell,

      I am NOT saying that social networking is ineffective. I am saying that it is a bad content strategy. Putting up content on the Social Networks vs putting up content on your home site is a losing proposition.

      Thanks for reading.


  12. Ann,

    Thanks for your comments. Can you share with me more details about your experience?

    I welcome other opinions. I welcome them more when you can show me the data.

    Thanks for reading.

    Bill Belew

  13. Arun,

    Thanks for your comments. Would you mind sharing with me some specifics from your experience? As in actual data from real and recent clients that you have worked with.

    I welcome differing experiences … more so if they are supported with facts.

    Thanks for reading.

    Bill Belew

  14. I think it depends on the product/company on Facebook. For example, clothing line will have more success than a bathroom remodeling company. Also, if a company is selling a very expensive product, like an indoor basketball court, a user probably isn’t going to go spend $10,000 to install a court in their basement just because they saw your ad on Facebook, but they may like and engage on your page which in turn shows up on their friend’s feeds. For this type of company, it’s all about impressions and building a community for conversations instead of every fan becoming a lead. For certain companies however, the ROI can be very high.

  15. Makenzie,

    No doubt money can be made on Facebook. I want to see who is doing it and how = open up their dashboard and show me.

    And not by selling/buying ads … but by creating content for friends to act upon – content marketing.

    Thanks for reading.

    Bill Belew

    1. Marc,

      The new SEO is putting up good content. That’s how I get found.

      How about you? How do you do it?

      Thanks for reading.


  16. Personally, I disagree with the premise of this article and think it is based on a narrow view of marketing…. “Social network marketing is diving (creating content that benefits your reader and you) into your social networks – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ with the sole aim of generating leads that convert into real business. ”

    That isn’t marketing. That is more like lead generation or sales. First, many businesses don’t rely on lead generation, for example CPG. Second, hundreds of years of marketing knowledge shows that purchasing is a process that is not directly traceable.

    Based on your definition, all “marketing” is a waste except direct marketing, online ads and sales.

    Marketing is “Marketing can be looked at as an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, delivering and communicating value to customers, and customer relationship management that also benefits the organization.”

    Lead generation doesn’t = marketing.

    This article should be called “Why Social Media Isn’t Great at Lead Generation or Driving Traffic”. To dismiss it as a marketing tool based on your narrow (and inaccurate) definition is short sited.

    1. Krista,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      I gave my definition of Social Network Marketing.

      If I had no budget and only time to create content = write something, I maintain that my time is best spent on my home site and poorly spent in the social networks trying to get people to do business with me.

      I welcome disagreement and discussion.

      Social Media actually is great at lead generation and attracting traffic. Social Networking is not.

      Thanks again for reading and for your thoughts.

      Bill Belew

    1. Thanks, AdInFusion for the comments … I think. 😎

      It’s by open and honest discussion that we can learn.

      Thanks for reading.


  17. I got to his article via Social Media. Before reading this, I didn’t know about Bill Belew. Next time I encounter Bill Belew online, I’ll know that he’s the guy who says content marketing via Social Media is bad strategy.

    It’s really hard to measure the benefits of this. If Bill Belew is trying to sell something to me in my next encounter with him, would I buy from him? Probably not.

    But if I consistently encounter excellent content from the author, establishing his credebility, I just might buy from him in the future (provided he has a compelling enough offer).

    So how do you measure the benefits of that? It’s difficult. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. It’s just very difficult to attribute sales to your social media efforts.

    1. Arvin.

      Thanks for your comments.

      May I ask a question? Do you make a distinction between Social Media and Social Networking?

      I do.

      I don’t know the route you came to know of this article but would like to.

      In the meantime, thanks for reading and your direct comments.

      Bill Belew

  18. Correct, For socializing and showing your service or products off. Not for growing on google. I think it helps organic traffic and a customer or 2.

  19. I think this article is very good.
    My humble opinion by the results I had is that social networks are good for branding, but not for sales. (In my case)
    I follow what works for me and I repeat that again and again. What give me results till today is blogging and video marketing.
    I’ve tried this I test things and then I take what’s better for me.
    So in the past I tried working… let’s say 3 hours blogging, 3 hours making videos (Youtube) and 3 hours working in social networks (Only Facebook) to test what would give me best results sharing the same content in each of them (when I say results I mean good buyers and sales) and I find out that the sales came for blogging and videos, nothing from Facebook. (I track everything)
    I think that a good post or a good video makes more that doing the same on a social network, but I say this because it works for me and I know that I have to lear a lot yet.
    Right now I’m doing blogging and I’m starting to do videos about a new company I joined. I won’t go through Facebook, Twitter… Maybe I didn’t lear how to do it properly.

    Let me share something that contradice your post with the only reason to give an idea or open some minds.
    A spanish marketer did this:
    He created a fan page about the new pope (When he was chosen). He created a post and it was about a competition. He wrote this: Would you like to get the t-shirt of the new pope? Become a fan of this page, like the post, comment and share this post to 5 friends and you’ll be in the competition to win the t-shirt and we’ll send it to you whereever you live.
    He promoted this post paying Facebooks ads. When he got 12,000 fans he chose 2 people and send the t-shirts to them.
    After that he made another post saying: To all you who didn’t win the t-shirt we are selling it here > sales pages and bla bla bla…
    Then many people bought the t-shirt. I think he earned around $2,000, $47 each t-shirt (quite expensive) 42 buyers from 12,000 and of course the investment in ads was low as he pushed the people to share IF they wanted to get the posibility to win the t-shirt.
    I think this was something very smart! So it’s depends of the business or item.
    But as I said I do network marketing and I didn’t get anything from Facebook, Twitter… Personaly I don’t like to jump in business to business so I do what’s worked for me.

    Thank you very much for this post and I think we all have to learn more always.
    Good ideas can make us make money in the correct place, in the correct time and with the correct audience.

    Max Meis