There is a lot of confusion and hesitation surrounding social media in business circles.
For the last few years it seems to be this way.
Executives and marketers have been trying to figure out how social media impacts new customer acquisition and business efficiency. We’re a few years into the world of Facebook and Twitter now and we have a pretty good idea of how things are working.
Here are some thoughts on what social media sites are best for your business.
Things have changed a lot since 2007.
If you think back to that time we were just getting into the social media crazy. Social media was starting to creep through the entire US. It wasn’t just on the coasts. It wasn’t just in the big cities. Social media was being used by regular Joes and Janes in every day towns.
The interesting part was that nobody was really using Facebook other than college students (I remember getting access in early 2005 as a college student).
In 2007, people were using MySpace.
You could upload photos. You could be friends with people you knew and people you had never met. The design of the site was awful, but that was part of the appeal. You could make it look however you wanted and for the most part MySpace was a mess, but it was a mess people loved.
Probably beginning around 2007 and 2008, Facebook really started to take over. The company turned down a one billion dollar offer from Yahoo! that now looks genius at least for the stakeholders.
Today, Facebook is still king of social media, but there are signs of potential decline.
Think that’s crazy?
You would have been called crazy if you would have said that MySpace would tank after its peak in 2006.
Businesses have been using Facebook since around 2007. It started by setting up regular profiles. Facebook cracked down on that and made all businesses switch to business pages around 2010.
Since that time business pages, the news feed and other areas of Facebook have gone through changes.
For the last few years businesses have been putting a lot of money into Facebook and from my perspective and experience the results have been mediocre at best.
Facebook is a very top of the sales funnel type of channel for businesses. It’s a way to introduce your brand to new people and potentially earn their trust with content eventually leading them down the path to a sale.
If you look at Facebook that way it has potential to work. I think this is why you’ll see companies trying to grow their Facebook like counts. They want to gain access to the friends of their followers.
But Facebook has now done something to make that a profitable endeavor. You can get access to friends of friends, but you have to pay for it and really the only conversion you’re probably getting (that you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten) is a new follower.
Facebook needs to make profit and they do that with advertising. They’re doing some interesting things around advertising. It’s kind of like their chipping away at what was once free for businesses and starting to charge for those things.
From my point of view those things weren’t even that great to begin with.
Where I do see value from Facebook is getting shares that lead to your own online property. There isn’t really much you can on Facebook to make this happen. If you create a popular blog post or video or graphic your followers will share it. You don’t have to focus on one social media site or another. People will share it on their preferred site.
Final thoughts, unless you have lots of time and money to spend I would advise against Facebook. If you can afford the advertising spend there is some potential. Just be careful about what you’re paying for. How likely is that new like on Facebook to lead to a sale?
Twitter really started as just a part of Facebook. People leave updates. Where Twitter really got popular was with celebrities and it’s still a main reason Twitter is successful today.
Someone they were able to get celebrities to create interesting content on the site.
For the celebrities or the brands it’s kind of like getting press. You can use social media to get exposure because social media is kind of the new media in a way. Instead of reading the paper or turning on the TV, people are seeing what the news is on social media sites like Twitter.
So a celebrity or anyone really can make some news on Twitter and gain exposure. The more people that know about you the more potential customers you have.
A movie star can make a ruckus one day on Twitter and pretty soon their asking price per movie goes up because more people want to go to the theater and see them.
It’s possible your business could take this approach. It might require something controversial to really get attention or you could try to create mini waves by creating really interesting content.
Everybody kind of thought that Google+ was about beating Facebook. It’s turned out to not be like that at all.
Google+ is about Google getting more information about people. They already have data from our messages (Gmail). They have our browsing habits (Chrome). They have our website information (Analytics, Webmaster Tools, etc.). They know the type of advertising we purchase (AdWords).
Google+ was about getting even more information. They want to know who we are, what we do, who we know and everything else about our lives.
To make this platform grow in popularity Google is giving a few carrots to website owners.
Content creators, like bloggers, can use Google+ to get better search results via Google Authorship. It’s a good carrot. It works. It’s to my benefit to have a strong Google+ profile because it helps search results for my properties.
This carrot probably has a lifespan. Google will keep providing carrots until they have the information they want and I’m sure they have a few more things up their sleeve (self-driving cars?).
But it’s obvious Google is making moves to strengthen its advertising stance. If they could there is no reason to think they would serve 100% paid ads for all search results. They’ll have a tough time keeping up all the new searches people search for but Google wants to provide the best results. They never said anything about those being organic or paid.
It’s a reason to diversify your traffic: search, socia, direct, email, etc.
Pinterest, Instagram, Etc.
Just a year ago Pinterest was the darling of social media. I’m starting to hear less about it now. It’s a lot of work to collect all those images. People were in it for the thrill of showing off how cool they were to their friends.
It was great for businesses too because people could share your stuff on Pinterest. That was free exposure to people that otherwise wouldn’t know about you.
The jury is still out on Pinterest, Instagram and other similar sites. It’s about exposure and if you can figure out how to get that exposure you’ll get some new customers.
Again, I think a site like Instagram is great for celebrities. It’s easy for them to share photos with fans and if the photo is newsworthy they get more coverage and exposure. The more people demand those celebrities (or businesses) the higher the price goes for their work.
LinkedIn is really making moves in the professional space. I haven’t used it much beyond making a few industry connections. I think it has been used in the past as an online resume, but now it seems like a sales professional’s dream.
By spending money and following the guidelines you have access to people that are your target customer. I think that’s the place to be if you’re in sales going forward. I’m sure there will be some backlash along the way, but it’s an interesting direction.
Two years ago Google made a huge change to search rankings that really boosted the traffic on YouTube. If you do any number of searches on Google chances are high you’ll see a video or five as the top search rankings.
This wasn’t part of any Panda or Penguin change. This was a ranking change where Google simply gave more prominence to its own property.
It’s controversial in some ways. I see it in the music industry where an artist can have a video on their own site for their own song yet the top ranking for the song name and artist will be a YouTube video that might not even be part of the artist’s official YouTube page.
Probably, but it’s Google’s world and they can do what they want.
I do see it from Google’s side. They can trust their own properties. They can’t always trust other sites to provide google content. It’s safe for them to show sites like Wikipedia and YouTube high in the rankings.
There is some advantage here for businesses. If you create YouTube videos based on questions people are searching for you can get a lot of exposure for your business. It’s still a lot of work and investment to create videos, but it’s getting cheaper.
A lot of this discussion has been about creating content and because of that we need to touch on business blogging.
A lot of the content you see on social media sites originates on blogs. There are tons of links on Twitter and Facebook. It’s all from other websites.
People want information from trusted sources. You have a choice of creating that content for another business like Twitter and Facebook or you could do it for yourself on your own site and give the social sites a little bit in an attempt to try to entice their audience to come to your site.
There are still rays of sunshine in the social media world, but it’s still a relatively unknown way to get new customers for businesses. If exposure really helps your business then social media can work if you can do crazy things to get that exposure.
The advertising platforms are also taking shape. If you have money to invest in advertising there is likely some profit to be made.
At GBW, we invest in business blogging. We focus on writing articles that rank well in search, get shared in social media and get people to subscribe to our email list.
It’s about diversity of traffic.