What Social Media Can and Can't Do for You

  |  July 17, 2009   |  Comments

Social media isn't everything people are hoping it will be, yet. Still, there's value in being a part of the online 2.0 conversation.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you don't need me to tell you that social media has legs. And it's getting leggier by the minute.

Many companies don't fully understand what to do with social media. They don't see the path to benefit from it. Others have tried using it and walked away not seeing the value of social media. Others still don't get it at all, and have left themselves completely to the mercy of the online mobs.

Most of us are somewhere in between.

Social media is at its best when used as a tool to listen and interact with buyers in the early-to-middle stages of their buying cycle. This is the time to focus on providing consumers with content that matters to their buying process. While it's possible to direct sell and find customers "in the market" today, it's also difficult. Most of today's companies are overly obsessed with late-stage buyers; thus, this kind of thinking seems to them less valuable.

What It Can Do

Relationship building, goodwill, and improved customer service are what social media can do for you. Also, social media can:

  • Help your company communicate with early- and middle-stage buyers more effectively and push them closer to a sale.

  • Help your customers communicate the bad and the good, with you and everyone else they know.

  • Help you listen to what potential buyers in your sector are talking about.

  • Help you find opportunities to delight customers.

  • Push you to become more focused on the customer.

What It Can't Do

If you think putting up a Twitter account or a Facebook fan page will build huge gobs of closable traffic overnight, you're kidding yourself. Relationships need nurturing. Social media can't:

  • Drive hundreds of thousands of new qualified visitors (yet) to your site or store.

  • Let you take control of the customer dialogue about your company. Those days are long gone.

  • Be your primary channel for marketing your mid- to large-sized company.

More on Buying Stages

A short example: early-stage buyers have only identified a need (e.g., "I need a winter vacation this year"). Middle-stage buyers know approximately what they want (e.g., "I want to go to Florida this summer"). Late-stage buyers know exactly what they want (e.g., "I'm going to Florida and I'm making reservations and buying plane and park tickets now").

Do you think someone in early or middle stage might be influenced to by social media? If you aren't convinced, look at what happened to United Airlines.

Anybody who is thinking about going on a winter vacation and happens to cross the "United Breaks Guitars" video will think twice about United. That is a negative influence on early-to-middle stage buyers.

Now, say it's 10:30 a.m., you're starting to think about lunch, and you come across this video? Andy Sernovitz, an interactive marketing consultant and author, writes about P.F. Chang's brilliant use of Twitter. They're clearly trying to influence early-stage buyers, but this isn't easy to bring to mass scale.

Still, Not Everyone's Convinced of Social Media's Value

Patricio Robles, tech reporter at Econsultancy, recently wrote specifically about monetizing Twitter and real-time search. I agree, because Robles was talking about social media as an ad platform.

Where we part in our agreement is in thinking that real-time search and social media have no monetary value. Remember, social media can build relationships, though not paid traffic generation.

Some Practical Steps for Getting More From Social Media

  • Reward customers who talk about your company in social media, both good and bad.

  • Remember, bad word of mouth can be good for your brand too.

  • Quit talking about yourself all the time. It gets old, really. Talk about your customers. Heck, just share a joke to break things up so you aren't "wewe-ing" all over yourself.

  • Unconvinced that social media has legs or is a match for your company? Test it. Offer a social media specific promo code and see if it gets traction.

  • Use social media to take an interest in your customers needs. For instance, are you selling items in a vertical sector? Search for "follow" and "friend" people in that space. Add value to the conversation about their needs. (Early-stage buyer prospecting.)

  • Use it to meet people. Meeting people is good.

Where's the Value for You?

Social media isn't everything people are hoping it will be, yet. Still, there's value in participating and investing resources to be a part of the online 2.0 conversation. Just temper your expectation, and use it for what it's good for.

Have you had to prove that social media has value to someone? Tell us how you won them over and we will share the best stories in a future column.

Meet Bryan Eisenberg at Search Engine Strategies San Jose, August 10-14, 2009, at the McEnery Convention Center.

ClickZ Live San Francisco This Year's Premier Digital Marketing Event is #CZLSF
ClickZ Live San Francisco (Aug 11-14) brings together the industry's leading practitioners and marketing strategists to deliver 4 days of educational sessions and training workshops. From Data-Driven Marketing to Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email, this year's comprehensive agenda will help you maximize your marketing efforts and ROI. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Analytics newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

BigDoor: The Marketers Guide to Customer Loyalty

The Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty is imperative to success, but fostering and maintaining loyalty takes a lot of work. This guide is here to help marketers build, execute, and maintain a successful loyalty initiative.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Internet Marketing Campaign Manager
      Internet Marketing Campaign Manager (Straight North, LLC) - Fort MillWe are looking for a talented Internet Marketing Campaign Manager to join the...
    • Online Marketing Coordinator
      Online Marketing Coordinator (NewMarket Health) - BaltimoreWant to learn marketing from the best minds in the business? NewMarket Health, a subsidiary...
    • Call Center Manager
      Call Center Manager (Common Sense Publishing) - Delray BeachWanted: Dynamic Call Center Manager with a Proven Track Record of Improving Response...