But the picture presented in Neilsen’s survey gets complicated when we look at digital media professionals’ satisfaction with social media marketing. A survey by Awareness, Inc. found that almost 80 percent of marketers would like their social media platforms to generate “better engagement” for their businesses. The same survey found that more than half of marketers are unsatisfied with the revenue being generated by their various social media platforms.
Awareness, Inc.’s data explains why a few very prominent brands have been wondering aloud if social media marketing does what it purports to do. General Motors, for instance, abruptly ceased advertising on Facebook last spring, suggesting that it was not getting a return on its investment.
More businesses, dissatisfied with their forays into social media and emboldened by brands like General Motors, will start to think critically about their investment. But there is a way for brands to benefit from social; they just need to adopt different platforms and adjust their expectations. Brands could get more value from their efforts in the social sphere by focusing on select social networks: social networks that help them build their reputations and cultivate real, authentic connections – like LinkedIn and Google +.
The Twin Disappointments of Facebook and Twitter
According to the marketing software company VerticalResponse, 90 percent of small businesses have a Facebook page and 70 percent also have a Twitter account. 34 percent of businesses say they post on Facebook several times a week and 21 percent say they tweet with similar frequency.
Facebook and Twitter are undoubtedly popular among small businesses but that doesn’t mean they convincingly benefit them. It’s likely that brands adopted these platforms because of the hype surrounding them, rather than from their demonstrated value as marketing platforms.
You now hear grumbles about Facebook that you didn’t just a few months ago – all because Facebook tinkered with the EdgeRank algorithm late last fall. The EdgeRank algorithm determines what content Facebook users see on their news feeds. Before Facebook adjusted EdgeRank, the typical Facebook business page was seeing a 26 percent organic reach for its content. After the EdgeRank update, the same pages saw their reach decline almost 7 percent. This decline strongly suggests that business’ pages have become less visible within users’ news feeds.
A few businesses have managed to evade the worst of these declines. But they have done so by purchasing promotional posts and Facebook ads. This is likely Facebook’s intention. As a public entity it has an obligation to generate ad revenue.
If Facebook’s unsubtle nudges to purchase paid advertising weren’t reason enough for marketers to reconsider their investment in the network, a series of numbers released by Reuters should:
- 34 percent of Facebook users say they are spending less time on Facebook than they did half a year ago.
- Those who said they were spending less time on the site said the site was “boring,” “not relevant,” or “not useful” to them.
If Facebook’s value as a marketing platform is increasingly suspect, Twitter’s has always been. Twitter has often been described as “just noise” and even unkinder things during its seven year existence. These criticisms don’t appear entirely unjustified.
CMSWire, an internet magazine that provides consulting services to businesses, has found that between 90 and 99 percent of the followers B2B marketers accumulate on their Twitter accounts are irrelevant, fake or contain potentially dangerous viruses. This may seem like a shockingly high number, but even celebrities and public figures like Lady Gaga and President Obama can’t claim that more than 30 percent of their followers are actual people. If Lady Gaga can’t use Twitter to build a real following, what chance does the typical business have?
Forging Connections with LinkedIn and Google +
Small businesses and marketing departments are unjustifiably enamored with Facebook and Twitter. And they are unjustifiably indifferent to LinkedIn and Google +. Just four percent of small businesses have a LinkedIn profile and only three percent have a Google + page. Of those that have either, a whopping 50 percent say they never post on LinkedIn and 68 percent say they never post on Google +.
LinkedIn’s anonymity isn’t surprising. The social network billed itself as a “business networking” spot, which made it seem stuffy and more than a little unfriendly. But it has quietly rebranded itself as a hub where professionals – not just business people – can mingle and interact with one another. This change in focus has boosted LinkedIn’s profile and it now has 200 million registered users in more than 200 countries. According to the social network’s own data, around 2 people join LinkedIn every second and almost 173,000 people join the site every day.
Facebook may have more than five times as many users as LinkedIn but the latter lets businesses do something they can’t do on the former: it lets them socialize with peers and become credible voices in their industry. It’s one of the best ways for businesses to network with one another.
LinkedIn’s ability to foster connections among people with shared interests prompted Sam Fiorella, a Partner at Sensai Marketing, to write:
While other networks are busy searching for more ways to gamify and monetize your membership, LinkedIn has continued to do what it does best: connect real people in a real way…LinkedIn has focused on key areas: an improved, slicker interface that better promotes the member instead of advertising opportunities; a content curation and sharing system focused on the user’s profile and activity from which Facebook could learn a thing or two…
Social media marketers looking to turn their brands into authorities should consider adding LinkedIn to their repertoires – and maybe jettisoning that Twitter account.
Google + is similar to LinkedIn. With its “circles,” “communities,” and “hangouts,” it encourages professionals to interact with finite audiences made up of like-minded people. The consensus among business owners is that Google + fosters engaging and thoughtful conversations. One business owner said, in an interview with Inc.com, “I believe Google+ is the best collaborative environment on the Internet. It has all the features that I want.”
Amanda Blain, a social media consultant, said that “Google Plus is relationship building. Social media in the true, give and take form.” The reciprocity and sense of community that inhere in Google+, and which are so rarely seen on other social networks, may be giving the network an advantage over its many rivals. Global Web Index just released a report showing that Google + has now surpassed Twitter in terms of number of active monthly users. In December 2012, Google + had 343 million global users – about 25 percent of global internet users. Twitter had just 20 percent.
If you have been wary of Google + in the past – and listened to the naysayers who deemed it a “desolate wasteland” – you need to consider building a profile for your business and start finding circles of peers who will be interested in your perspective and who can teach you something new about your field.
Putting the Social Back in Social Media
Facebook and Twitter haven’t delivered on their promises and their value as marketing tools is growing increasingly suspect; more and more brands – even sizeable ones like General Motors – are asking if their time and marketing budgets could be spent better elsewhere.
Rather than giving up on social media marketing entirely, brands should reconsider their approach to it. Instead of trying to get consumers to buy their products by using ambitious – if often misguided – Facebook and Twitter campaigns, they would do well to spend that time building and curating their LinkedIn and Google + profiles. By interacting with colleagues and like-minded professionals, businesses will be able to engage in conversations and become authorities in their industry. That’s a benefit any business can appreciate.