Social Media Marketing Isn’t All About the Conversation Or Relationships

If you’ve been exploring or reading about social media marketing for long, you’ve surely read and heard that SMM is “about the conversation” or “about relationships” and for these reasons smm panel, it is fundamentally different than traditional marketing.

Maybe it was at the beginning, when Facebook and MySpace were really the only social networks out there, and it was all brand new. At that point, the number of people using social networks was small سيرفر بيع متابعين, and as Greg Satell described in his excellent article about the primary forces driving the evolution of social networks, the growth of new social networks is driven in large part by small, dedicated, and close-knit communities.

But it’s a different world, now. With Twitter, LinkedIn, a multitude of blogs, and all the social bookmarking sites like Digg and StumbleUpon joining the ranks of the old guard (in Web-time) cheapest smm panel, social media marketing is not, in the main, about conversations or relationships. We’re talking marketing, here. Sales is about conversations, relationships, one-on-one. Marketing and PR, by their nature, require a better person-to-customer or message-to-customer ratio than 1:1. If SMM requires building 1:1 or even 1:5 or 1:10 relationships, it will be short-lived.

As evidence to support my claim, let’s look at the facts. Do you use LinkedIn? Originally a career aid, it’s fast becoming a key B2B SMM source. Check out the discussions on LinkedIn groups. The vast majority of them, probably 90%, aren’t discussions at all. The comments listed are a big, fat 0. It’s a rare discussion or posting that generates any comments, and those are usually of the “Great post!” nature.

What about Twitter? For all the talk about the importance of connecting with your followers on Twitter, the vast majority of tweets get no response at all. 53% of Twitter users reported they didn’t care that they didn’t get a response (see Mashable’s article of 4-22-2009 on Twitter attitudes). Not what you’d expect from those seeking conversation. The statistics show that the “top 10% of prolific Tweeter users account for over 90% of tweets.”

Even Facebook groups and fan pages aren’t a flood of conversations and relationships. For example, while 52% of women (the most active FB users) have fanned a brand or page, only 10% engage in product or brand-related activities. (See the related prnewswire.com article of 9-1-2009.)

Of the reasons for joining a fan page, studies indicate “The top five reasons for joining a brand or fan group are to “get news or product updates” (67 percent), “view promotions” (64 percent), “view or download music or videos” (41 percent), “submit opinions” (36 percent), and “connect with other customers” (33 percent). Meaning only 36% want to engage with the business at all, via submitting opinions, and only a third want to engage with other customers. (See the MarketingPilgrim.com report of 03-2009 on Facebook’s page redesign, and low engagement.)

Nope. If you’re trying to market through social media by having a conversation or building relationships with customers and potential customers, you’re engaged in a time-consuming, low-ROI activity that is likely to reach about a third of your target customers, at best. That might pay off if you are one of the social media celebrities, like Gary Vaynerchuk or Chris Brogan, who makes a living to a large extent by being Someone on Twitter, etc. For most businesses, it doesn’t make any sense at all.

But SMM is different That said, I do agree that SMM is different than other online marketing. Digital marketing to date has, for the most part, mimicked offline marketing. It’s been a broadcast method. You advertise online, broadcasting ads just like on television, billboards, and in magazines-albeit with more granular targeting. You send out email blasts, like the junk mail flyers and postcards we all get in our physical mailboxes. You send out newsletters (or links to podcasts or videos), like the flyers real estate agents, financial planners, and so on send to our physical mail boxes.

And just as we tune out television and print ads, and throw away the junk mail and newsletters, people have gotten good at tuning out online ads and hitting the delete key for all the spam and newsletters.

SMM is different because rather than broadcasting, it’s about congregating. It’s about you, the business person, going to where the customers are congregating, and engaging them in that location, on their terms.

The problem is that businesses haven’t figured out exactly what engaging people means. Because social networks were originally for people to converse about their shared interests, businesses have taken the same approach. With social networks and the like growing, and because of the nature of marketing, it’s a losing approach. For the most part, people don’t want to converse with businesses or marketers on social networks. But that doesn’t mean that social media isn’t a valuable method of marketing and that you can’t gain more by marketing through SMM than through traditional means.

If it’s not about the conversation, what is it about? Simple. It’s about value. It’s about coming to the online festival or conference where everyone is congregating and offering something of value that makes people want to come to your booth…and hear you…and keep coming back every time they come to the festival. Because you’re interesting, useful, helpful.

The only reason that potential customers are going to follow you, a stranger or business that’s online to, in essence, sell, is if you offer something of value to them. Generally, online that means information of value, such as news or articles. But it can also be resources, coupons and freebies, tools, or just entertainment. Remember those Facebook statistics? Most people fanned pages to get something.

The good news is that this approach fits very well with marketing’s traditional goals and leverages marketing resources well. Presumably, you know your target customer. That means you know what those people are interested in and what’s valuable to them. And most likely, you already produce some of the information and other resources that are valuable to them, or in the course of your job, you regularly uncover information and resources of value to them. Now, all you have to do is become the distributor and purveyor of that valuable material, through social networks.

Let’s take a concrete example. You’re a hardware manufacturer and you make tools for IT administrators, such as backup systems, firewalls, etc. You know your target customer, and surely you know the information of value to those people: best practices, free tools, checklists, good informational resources, events and training. Some of this information you can and should produce yourself. So, you put good content of value to these customers on your site, and promote it through the right LinkedIn groups, through Facebook, through Twitter, on Digg, etc. You drive traffic to your site. Rather than broadcasting an ad, you’re enticing people to your site by giving them something of real use to them.

A conversation can be part of the value you offer, of course. If you’re the above said hardware manufacturer and you offer IT people free advice and answers to all manner of technical questions through your Twitter or Facebook account, well, you’re offering value. And you’re engaging with those potential customers in an even deeper way that’s likely to pay off in the long run. That’s excellent.

But you don’t have to do that if your resources don’t permit it. Simply being a good resource for useful information, a filter and conduit to aid the busy worker suffering from information overload, that will gain you followers.

The right friends and followers The other benefit to this approach, is that you actually gain the right friends and followers: your target customers. Right now, I see too many business people, especially small businesses, trying to use social networks and using a scatter-shot approach. For instance, on Twitter, they follow a bunch of people with the right keywords in their bios and hope those people will follow them back. They hope those people really are their target customers. Or they use various tools to try to gain fans and followers, assuming that volume will pay off. They blast LinkedIn groups with marketing messages, essentially using the broadcast method in the social network.

Worse, yet, once they get these followers, they don’t tweet or post anything of value to retain the target audience. They babble, put out funny little personal comments, or just go back to the old broadcast method, blasting their new followers with advertising messages. In all these cases, people don’t have much of a reason to continue following or friending them.

The big gain from social networks is having regular, repeated access to your target customers. Unlike ads or email blasts, which are one-way shouts out to your audience, with social networks you often have day-to-day contact with customers or potential customers. They keep coming to the festival, and if you’ve offered something of value, they keep dropping by your booth. We all know that the more repeated, positive contact you have with someone, the better your chances of an eventual sale.

But that’s only if you are drawing the right people to your booth. Who cares if you have 1000 followers if none of them are potential customers? It isn’t even an effective word-of-mouth technique. Better to have 200 followers who are your target customers. They might actually buy from you, and their word of mouth will more likely be to other target customers.

How the heck do I know? It’s a good question. It’s not like I have a thousand Twitter followers (Twitter and LinkedIn are my primary SMM tools, right now). I’m just over 700. But you know, I’ve gotten those three hundred using just the approach I’m talking about. Even better, those 700 are almost all exactly the type of followers I’ve targeted.

I reactivated this Twitter account in April, after tweeting anonymously for a while. Originally, it was just part of my job search strategy, a way of getting more exposure, showing I was keeping busy, and building my resume and skill set. After doing a Twitter usability study to blog about, I realized there was a need for a Twitter app, and my husband and I decided to build it. At that point, in July, I switched to a strategy of gaining followers that constitute the low-hanging fruit for our app. I consciously started trying to attract followers who were business and marketing people, particularly those interested in or using social media marketing. The strategy I used was exactly the one I outlined here. I started writing and tweeting about information of value to that audience: studies, articles, and resources to aid them.

When I opened this account, I followed a small number of people, maybe twenty. I’ve never used the approach of following a bunch of people and seeing who would follow me back. The followers I’ve gained have come to me. Moreover, if I use TwitterSheep to get a tag cloud based on my followers bios it shows that I have acquired precisely the audience I was looking for: social media marketing and marketing folks, in general. The Lists I’m included in are also almost universally marketing or social media marketing lists.

One other thing. Check out my following to follower ratio. You’ll note that I’m not following a lot of people. I’m following about a third the number of people following me. If you don’t understand the significance of that, read this recent article (http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/08/26/twitters-golden-ratio-that-no-one-likes-to-talk-about/).

My point isn’t to brag about my follower success. It’s to point out that you don’t have to spend hours and hours engaging in conversations on social networks, nor use spam techniques like following lots of people and hoping they’ll follow you back. All you have to do is consistently provide information and resources of value to your target customers, promote it in a polite and palatable manner, and take the long view of your social media marketing. Over time, if you’re offering value, you’ll get the followers and website visitors you want, and over time, they’ll become the customers you want.

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