Why You (Yes You) Need Social Media

From Flickr user Ben Grey http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben_grey/

From Flickr user Ben Grey http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben_grey/

Working in social media marketing allows me to interact with a range of clients.  Some are tech savvy computer whizzes who know exactly what they want from me and can communicate objectives and milestones without difficulty; these clients can already do what I do, but need someone else to do it while they focus on things that need their attention more, like the product.  Others have dabbled in social media, maybe they have a Facebook or know a little about Twitter, and although they might not know everything about social media, they also have a clear grasp of what a campaign might entail and are often really excited to work alongside me and learn; these clients are great to work with and often after six months to a year of working together, they find they can manage the social media on their own take over.  The final kind of client I work with is the techno-phobe; someone who has had little or no experience with social media, doesn’t spend much time on their computer at all (just email usually) and prefers face-to-face interaction over virtual; these clients sometimes have unrealistic expectations about the scope and breadth of the work that I do and are easily frustrated by the lack of immediate gratification.  To this third group that I address the following:

Why Social Media Marketing is not the same as Sales

1. Sales is about closing a deal; social media marketing is about forming a relationship.  Although social media marketing can pave the way for sales and encourage brand loyalty you will never see a 1:1 relationship between follows and purchases – it just doesn’t work that way.

2. In sales, it’s appropriate to push the client towards a purchase; in social media marketing, engagement is key but being pushy is a turn-off.  This ties back to No. 1 in that the end goal of selling versus relationship building is very different and thus, from a psychological point of view, the approved tactics differ.  If you pressure people in a store it can make the difference between a purchase and a regret (for both you and the customer), but if you pressure people online it makes you seem like an out-of-touch bully who is more interested in money than people which is a big no in social media marketing.

3. In sales, the conversation should always be focused on you; in social media, it should be on the customer/client.  This might seem like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how many clients push me to post promotional announcement after promotional announcement.  People enter your store because they are interested in your product (a website would be the online equivalent) and in that environment it’s appropriate to keep the discussion on you and your wares.  But if you think of social media marketing like a giant conversation, then consider that no one likes the guy who just keeps shouting “buy my stuff”!  It’s important to prove to the customer/client that you’re worth the precious space on their feed or dashboard by creating what’s called a ‘value add’.  Whether it’s a silly video, an engaging conversation, or a product giveaway, it’s important to be dynamic and engaging – never boring.

4. Sales measures effectiveness in dollars; Social media marketing measures effectiveness in follows/likes/shares.  This is perhaps the hardest thing to teach clients.  No, follows aren’t going to be a direct correlation to sales, and no, being popular online doesn’t guarantee your success as a company; but social media marketing is a long game.  More follows means more potential for shares, which means more potential follows – it’s a cyclical relationship.  If one of every ten follows clicks on your website, you might see an increase in sales, and if 100 people share the video you made, you might see a really large increase in sales; or you might not.  Like everything in business, the market is fickle and success isn’t guaranteed.

So, if I can’t promise success, and social media marketing isn’t really about selling things, then why do it?  The long and short answer is: because you have to.  A vast majority of today’s purchasing power (from college kids getting apartments to young families looking for personal trainers to writers peddling their wares) is online.  This generation does everything online, and relies on the convenience, the accuracy (1000 bad yelp reviews can’t be wrong), and the immediacy of those interactions.  To neglect an online presence today is to relegate your business to it’s geography, which arguably undervalues your product and your market.

Today’s consumers want more than ever before, and those that are best able to meet the consumers where they are with what they want will be in a much better position than those who belittle the importance of social media marketing and the consumer engagement experience.

How do you define the consumer engagement experience?

The Secret to Success

I am, for most intents and purposes, your quintessential Type A personality.  I can be controlling, I always want to be right, and I strive for perfection in everything that I do.  These tendencies impact every area of my life, and I’m often forced to choose between putting out a product that doesn’t meet my ridiculously high standards or putting off the deadline and devoting untold hours to a single piece (i.e. this blog post).  When I was younger, I would push myself harder and faster and usually succeeded in being the biggest fish in a small pond, but as I got older, it quickly became apparent that a) I was never going to be the biggest fish in my pond-turned-lake-turned-ocean of competitors and b) that even being the best at something didn’t guarantee either my success or my happiness.  After years of struggling to ‘be the best’ I was struck with an epiphany in my late 20’s:

Perfection ≠ Success

Just because a product, a song, a book, or a person is perfect, does not mean that it/he/she will be successful.  People aren’t looking for the most perfectly made computer, or the most insanely competent personal assistant; what they want is something that meets their needs, something that they’re compatible with, and something that they can grow with.  People are willing to select an inferior product (or person) if they find things about it that they love, and they will overlook a superior product/person in a heartbeat if they cannot find a connection.

It’s so much more important to get your product (or yourself) out into the hands of potential buyers and employers than it is to shelve it for years trying to get it ‘just right’.  That need to be perfect is a reflection of a fear of failure inside you, and if you can find it within yourself to let go and allow forces beyond your control to take over, you will find that a lot less time will be wasted, and the results will ultimately lead you to success.  Getting immediate feedback and generating buzz around your product will do more to improve it than your perspective alone could anyhow, and if your product (or you) doesn’t work, then you can go back to the drawing board and start on a new approach before wasting all that time on something that was never going to succeed in the first place.

Courtesy of Flickr User @LyndaSanchez

Courtesy of Flickr User @LyndaSanchez

In the end, success is about trust, confidence, and tenacity.  If you can trust in the universe, show confidence in yourself and your product, and stand behind your ideas with a fierce tenacity – you will realize your vision and achieve success.

Of course, my experience isn’t universal.  What are your suggestions for success?