Social media’s aura of indispensability seems to be over. Forbes’ Maureen Henderson argued persuasively in a recent column that quitting social media gave her more free time and allowed her to focus on her priorities. She concluded by saying:
I dropped social media and my participation in it like a hot potato and I haven’t looked back. I held a client meeting at Dunkin’ Donuts. If I wanted to see adorable pictures of my nieces, I had to email my sister to request them. I had more room in my schedule for the gym. The less time I’ve spent working on my online brand, the more offline opportunities have come my way.
Henderson isn’t alone in leaving Facebook and other social networks. Rory Maher, an analyst at Capstone, found that in every market where Facebook has achieved at least 50 percent market penetration, its growth has stalled or declined in the last three months. In the U.S., the number of users decreased more than one percent in the past six months. People aren’t yet abandoning social media in droves but many Americans have considered the possibility of stepping away from Facebook and its ilk; almost half of Americans actually think Facebook itself is a passing fad, according to a new Associated Press-CNBC poll.
Increasingly, individuals are questioning the value of social media and are going cold turkey on social because they think doing so will improve their personal lives. Businesses, unencumbered by these kinds of fluffy considerations, are critiquing social media from a different – and altogether more quantitative – angle. They are increasingly realizing that social media marketing doesn’t actually drive sales.
The “like quest” social media savants have been calling mandatory is beginning to look like a profitless venture.
There’s a reason why Viveka von Rosen, a “LinkedIn Expert, Speaker & Trainer and Evangelist” said in an interview, “I think we’ll see a lot of our business and life relationships moving from URL to IRL (In Real Life) again. It’s all well and good to have a million fans and a hundred thousand followers, but let’s face it, the real communication…happens when we interact with people face to face (F2F) and one on one.”
Von Rosen may be overstating her case, somewhat. Email marketing, an old standby that was denigrated in the lemming-like leap to social media, still works for businesses – even if it doesn’t foster “face to face” interactions. The Direct Marketing Association actually found that, when sales are measured by dollars spent, email marketing outperformed its social rival by three-to-one.
Social Media’s Waterloo
IBM Smarter Commerce, a tool that tracks sales on 500 of the top retail sites, found that less than 1 percent of sales on Black Friday 2012 were driven by social media. Collectively, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube contributed to just .34 percent of Black Friday sales. Embarrassingly enough, Twitter contributed to exactly zero percent of Black Friday sales.
Black Friday 2012 demonstrated that some of the busiest, most well-trafficked sites on the Web don’t meaningfully contribute to a day of feverish consumerism; they’re no good at “convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need” even on a day when people are eager to do so.
This grim conclusion only confirmed the thesis advanced by Forrester Research earlier in the year: “Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers. While the hype around social networks as a driver of influence in eCommerce continues to capture the attention of online executives, the truth is that social continues to struggle and registers as a barely negligible source of sales for either new or repeat buyers.”
What Social Can Do
But even if social media marketing “registers as a barely negligible source of sales,” it doesn’t follow that we should abandon it entirely. What marketers and businesses need to do is adjust their expectations.
Social media marketing, in itself, may be of “barely negligible” value but it can be used to augment other older marketing methods. A business that distinguishes itself from competitors using social media platforms stands more of a chance of being found by potential customers. And once a business has gotten the attention of customers, it can use its social media platforms to remind customers of its existence – either by turning them into brand loyalists or through dogged persistence. This latter quality is of particular importance because it’s much easier to retain a customer than collect a new one. Businesses that remind previous customers about their offerings can expect to generate recurring traffic and revenue.
These may sound like small aims and, compared to many of the promises self-appointed social media gurus have made in recent years, they are. But they have one virtue that shouldn’t be ignored: they aren’t a product of hype but come from critical, objective analysis – the kind of analysis businesses always should use to develop their strategies.
GlobalWebHQ understands the limitations of social media marketing – as well as the advantages it can offer businesses. If you would like to talk about effective social media marketing strategies…or chat about Dilbert cartoons call (972) 436-9500 today!