3 Groups That FAIL at Social Media Marketing

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Nearly 9 out of 10 businesses– 88%–say they will use social media as a marketing tool in 2014. That’s the highest percentage ever, according to eMarketer. It’s clear that businesses are fully embracing social media marketing as a way to engage with prospects and clients. And more importantly, perhaps, businesses are putting more effort and more focus on social media marketing than ever.                       

But, despite the attention paid to it, most marketers are failing at social media marketing. And sadly, agencies are leading the way in this failure by a) failing to effectively market themselves with social media, and b) failing to correctly implement useful social media tactics for their clients.

The agencies and advertisers that fail at social media marketing fall into 3 overarching groups.

The 3 Groups

1. The ‘We Should Have a Facebook Account’ Group

This group has a company Facebook page because they know they should have a company Facebook page. They had their brother/cousin set it up for them and they think it’s cool. The same goes for Twitter, LinkedIn (if applicable) and maybe even Pinterest. They set up these pages and now they think they’re doing social media marketing. Good things will just start happening…

Wrong. Good things generally don’t just start happening, regardless of how awesome your Facebook page may look.

Most SMBs and, frankly, many  agencies fall into this group. They have Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts, but they are rarely updated, and they serve no discernible purpose.

This sad tale becomes even more tragic when it describes an agency. Recently I was on the website of a digital agency based in Dallas. They claim to do SEO, PPC, social media marketing, and web design. The website looked great and the calls-to-action were strong. One look at the website and it was clear that this agency knew what they were doing.

But then I clicked on their social media icons.

The last update on their Facebook page was on February 25….of 2012. Their last tweet was in 2011. They didn’t even have a Google+ page. This agency that offered to help me with my social media marketing couldn’t even keep their Facebook page updated.

Simply having corporate social media accounts does not mean a company is doing social media marketing. Having a Facebook page for the sake of having a Facebook page is a poor reason to have a Facebook page.

2. The ‘Post Some Stuff and Hope’ Group

Farmers have a saying: “There are no ‘good’ farmers, there are lucky farmers.”

Every Autumn when the snow flies and the plants freeze, when the ground hardens and the temperatures drop, farmers simply ‘hope’ that the plants will eventually awaken out of that winter freeze. They hope that the trees spring to life, that the seedlings sprout, and that the bushes produce fruit. They simply hope their effort to get the fields ready last Autumn will actually produce something come springtime.

Unfortunately, many marketers do the same thing with their social media marketing efforts.  They set up their profiles and they post on these profiles because they know that they’re supposed to. Then, they just hope something good happens. They post and they hope. They’re like farmers simply hoping the crops come up next spring.

Posting and hoping is okay (it’s certainly better than not posting at all). But marketing by hoping doesn’t generally work very well. This group of marketers has no discernible goal. There is nothing driving their efforts. There is nothing concrete they are trying to accomplish. There is no lead goal, no revenue goal, no engagement goal. They are just doing stuff because they know they’re supposed to have a Facebook page and a Twitter account and post on each of them occasionally.

Then, after 6 months of posting and hoping they get a little bit dismayed when no one is interacting with their posts. Their hope has not generated any results.

Their frozen tree died.  Most marketers–even really good marketers at really good companies–fall into this group.

3. The ‘Comments and Like’ Group

This group does a little bit better. They have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a Google+ page and they update them regularly. And, stunningly, they get some interaction. People comment, they like, they even occasionally share content. This group of marketers is generating some  real engagement from actual human beings. This is exciting!

And even better…they have actual goals! They have quarterly goals for Twitter followers, Facebook fans, +1s and Klout score.

That’s fantastic.

But, after 6 months the CEO wonders why he’s paying someone to update these social media accounts. “How much revenue does social media marketing produce?” he wonders. Other questions follow: How many leads is social media generating? How much web traffic does it produce?

The weakness with this strategy is suddenly laid bare. While the marketers in this group have goals, the goals are largely vanity numbers. Their goals consist of empty engagement metrics that make you feel good but don’t actually accomplish anything: Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and Klout score don’t produce leads or revenue. And neither, frankly, do comments, +1s, and likes.

Now, obviously, there are SEO benefits to be reaped from social media engagement. (Michael Fleischner and Moz both argue that sharing and +1ing are among the biggest SEO factors).  But ultimately, everything you do as a marketer has to be measured by leads and revenue. Every marketing activity has to generate something that ends in revenue. And unless you’re a Fortune 500 company, or you have a massive audience, social engagement metrics generally don’t translate into much of anything useful.  Likes, comments, and shares really only serve to make marketers feel good about themselves.

Agencies Should Do Better

If you’re a marketing agency that purports to offer social media marketing why aren’t you implementing, or teaching your clients to implement, more robust social media marketing strategies? Sadly, even doing an adequate job at social media marketing will distinguish your agency from others that haven’t published to their Twitter account since late 2011.

Agencies should simply not fail at social media marketing.

The Correct Way to Do Social Media

Unless you’re a massive brand like Ford or Coca-Cola, you can’t just post an update and hope something good will happen. That’s a recipe for disaster. And you certainly have to have more lofty goals than merely an occasional Like or Share.

Marketers should have firm lead goals from their social media efforts. The best way to do this is via a process of firm engagement.

For example, whenever someone retweets an article from our blog, we will immediately reach out to that person, thank for them the retweet and then ask if they’re interested in our product, or at least, invite them to a webinar. This activity alone produces several demos  each month. We do the same thing with LinkedIn and Google+. If someone looks at our profile or comments on an article we post, we send them a message asking if we can answer any questions about our product. We do the same thing with Facebook. The results we get from these efforts are significant. We simply don’t really care about Shares and Likes. We care about 1 to 1, person-to-person engagement.

This person-to-person engagement strategy takes more time than posting and hoping.  It is not as ‘efficient.’ But it works.

The other thing to note here is that these efforts of engagement sometimes don’t produce ‘traditional’ social media marketing engagement metrics. For example, 15 product demos produced from social media each month may not translate into 15 comments on Facebook. But, guess which one we would rather have?

Long story short: don’t post and hope something good happens. Farmers don’t have a choice, they have to wait until the winter cold thaws. Marketers have a choice. You don’t have to just post and hope. Go out and make it happen. If you don’t, all the time you’re spending posting content on your Twitter account will be for naught. And certainly don’t focus only on vanity metrics that make you feel good about yourself.


Featured Image Credit: Jeremy Fagergren. Used with permission.

McKay Allen

McKay Allen

Director of Content and Communications at Convirza
McKay Allen is the Director of Content and Communications at Convirza. He has spoken at SMX, Social Media Strategies Summit, LeadsCon and Content Marketing Conference. He has hosted over 200 webinars and interviews with marketing experts. In a previous life he was a TV news anchor and reporter.
McKay Allen
McKay Allen
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  • http://forge.co.nz/google-ranking/ Perry Bernard

    Brilliant post, McKay. Identifies social media marketers for what most are and effectively points out the issues. We are currently working on ROI measurement and will have our social media (mainly Facebook) in full swing from later this January. Setting performance targets that are measured in dollars rather than just ‘likes’ is definitely a key to getting social media right.

  • http://www.cendrinemarrouat.com Cendrine Marrouat

    This is an excellent post, McKay. You hit the nail on the head everywhere.

    I find this obsession for numbers and bogus metrics annoying. Not everything should have a dollar sign attached to it!

    • http://forge.co.nz/google-ranking/ Perry Bernard

      Hi Cendrine,
      Are you proposing that the point of your social media campaign is neither metrics or dollars? The main point of us marketing our business no matter how or where is most definitely dollars. We do have secondary goals, like brand awareness or market positioning, but even those are ‘conversion assisting’ with the main goal being building more business and profitability.
      Do you have goals for your social media campaign that are not linked to business goals? I’d love to hear what they are and how you measure if they are working if not using metrics like engagement, social sharing, following and likes for example.

      • http://www.cendrinemarrouat.com Cendrine Marrouat

        It’s not what I was saying, Perry.

        Yes I actually do. One of them is called “building good relationships with people” — and not just to make a living.

    • http://forge.co.nz/google-ranking/ Perry Bernard

      Hi again Cendrine,
      I agree, building relationships is very important with social media. I’m not saying that isn’t part of what we also aim to do, but as a business, that isn’t the end goal for us, it’s part of the journey.
      Because a ‘good relationship’ is difficult to quantify, I guess you’d rely on sharing and engagement metrics to measure it. If not, how do you currently measure if you are successful in building good relationships in general, and is it possible to build good (or perhaps even ‘strong’) relationships with a large following? Do you draw your following off social media and sign them into subscriber lists or something like that?

      • http://www.cendrinemarrouat.com Cendrine Marrouat

        Hello again Perry,

        I absolutely understand and agree with you. What I was commenting on is the obsession on measuring everything for ROI purposes. I do understand that making money is important. But some things cannot be measured that way.

        I see social media in a different way. For my personal brand, I look at the comments and direct responses I receive from different social media channels. I monitor social media carefully, especially Twitter, and take part in conversations. And I address complaints as soon as I see them. Of course, good old metrics matter too. I am not denying that.

        Everything is about the conversation, to me. If you can open the door to that and be consistent, you will make a lot of advocates out of your audience. Word of mouth is so important! (And quite often, you cannot measure it until much later)

        I hope I answered your question, Perry! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

    • http://forge.co.nz/google-ranking/ Perry Bernard

      Thanks again, Cendrine,
      Unfortunately there’s not much left of my weekend (already Sunday eve here), but happy to say I am on leave still for the rest of the week! I hope yours is enjoyable!

      • http://www.cendrinemarrouat.com Cendrine Marrouat

        My weekend has been very enjoyable, thank you! And thank you for the conversation as well. ūüôā

  • http://www.idevtechnolabs.com/ iDev

    Many of SEOs’ are called them expert in Social Media Marketing but when we asking them about ROI than they have no answer about this. The Comment and Like group I want to talk most. They increase the visibility and popularity in very short time in compare to other.

  • http://skaledinthecity.com Britany

    What a relief to read an article about social media that isn’t recycling the same “tips” that everyone else is throwing around. Social media marketing can be so frustrating, especially at the early stages and ESPECIALLY when you need to demonstrate an ROI (which so many companies just avoid or ignore). Reaching out to individuals who interact is something we’ve tried to do, but should focus on more. It really is so much more significant than building numbers. And its definitely worth the extra time.

  • http://www.black68.com/ David Black

    Oh dear – I think I’ve just spotted myself in your ‘Post Some Stuff and Hope’ Group – a bit like that Kevin Costner film where he keeps hearing ‘Build it and they will come’
    Looks like I might have to move to a more measured approach to my Facebook accounts..
    Thanks for the article.

  • http://www.logmycalls.com/ McKay Allen

    It happens to all of us David. The key is admitting you have a mistake and then fixing it ūüėČ

  • http://www.ziggiziggi.com Ziggi

    Great article – trying to keep on top of posting and engaging with people on different platforms can be quite difficult when first starting social media marketing . Trying to find individuals to engage with is also rather frustrating as a lot of people who buy from us don’t interact with us. So how do we find and interact with these people?

  • http://www.justdocprep.com Joel Smith

    Active engagement in social media is the key. We try to post at least once a day, and always reach out to any active engagement on any posts. I think it gives new and potential clients a good idea of your business. If you are engaged with old and potential clients, they can expect that same level of engagement as a client.

  • Cindy Fry

    Love the marketing advice! I’m new at social media and this helps with focus and goals.

    the analogy you you use about farmers is totally incorrect. Like any business that would be recipe for disaster! Farmers rely on science and loss management, OK luck.

  • http://www.valentinedayblog.com/ kartik

    Looks like I might have to move to a more measured approach to my Facebook accounts..
    Thanks for the article.
    Awesome..everyone Must read it & share it

  • http://friendshipday2013blog.iquoteslyrics.com Yatin

    It happens to all of us David. The key is admitting you have a mistake and then fixing it.
    Great Article. Gave a precious time for a Good article.
    thanks a lot for useful info.