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.
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.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!