I’m sure this question has been keeping you up sleepless at night.
So I figure I’d answer it by talking about Social Media.
Some of us are old enough to remember The Time Before Social Media.
Then again, some of us are old enough to remember a time, after Social Media became a Thing, but before it became a marketing fad.
There I said it.
Social Media Marketing is a Fad
Well, I grossly exaggerate. But as usual, when I engage in hyperbole, I do have a point in mind. Let me dial it back and make two much truer, possibly controversial statements:
Social Media Marketing is Vitally Important for Many Businesses
Social Media Marketing Is Virtually Worthless For Many Businesses
Listen up now, while I proceed to explain all.
I’m going to engage in a little history here. Later I’ll write a whole article on the subject.
Marketing is naturally subject to fads. Fads are basically a marketing phenomenon. Someone tries to get a fad going, or a fad for something just happens, and people get rich.
Feeding babies opium for their teething problems (that happened), hula hoops, and the tulip craze of the 17th century are examples. This is nothing new. I’m sure I could find examples from ancient Greece.
Something new comes along, like Social Media, why should it be different?
THE SOCIAL MEDIA CRAZE
A few years ago, the world was buzzing about Social Media Marketing as a marketing tool. The internet was flooded with stories of people getting 100,000 followers in a few days. Noticeably absent were stories of people actually making money doing that. They weren’t, because they were all people following each other in order to get followed so THEY could get rich.
That buzz was followed by a thousand stories of how Social Media is THE marketing of the future and if you aren’t killing it on Facebook and Twitter, you are like Neanderthal Man. You are LITERALLY about to be rendered extinct by a smarter, faster Marketing Man, Homo Sapiens Marketensis. (I just discovered him. I’ll win the Nobel Anthropology Prize for that, no doubt.)
Oh my, the hype! How great it sounded.
Who got rich off all that? Mostly people selling Social Media Marketing services.
THE HARD COLD FACTS
Here’s the way it really is. Social Media has three uses:
- To make it far easier to go viral. It is a business development tool, to reach potential new customers and get them interested.
- As a customer service channel, for two-way communication with existing customers.
- As an advertising channel, providing highly targetable demographics, so more of your marketing messages reach a higher percentage of the prospective customers you are trying to reach.
Understanding these is key to understanding which of these categories your business is in:
- Social Media is vital to your business.
- Social Media is useless to your business.
- Or somewhere in between.
So let’s talk about them.
What a great word this is, “viral.”
Because everyone knows what a virus is. It’s a disease caused by microscopic organisms that mysteriously spreads from person to person and before you know it, can go from one, to five to 5000, to 5 million people. Next thing, Zombie Apocalypse.
When we are talking viral in marketing, it is exactly the same thing. Except for the microscopic organisms and disease part.
The key point is this. In general, marketing goes from one source to many people. That limits its reach. If you didn’t watch the Superbowl ads, you weren’t exposed.
Viral marketing is spread BY PEOPLE.
Mathematically it is what is called a geometric progression.
Instead of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – it is 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128. The numbers mount up very quickly IF you can get people to spread it themselves.
This has been the gold standard and the holy grail of marketing since – forever. No matter how you get the word out about your products or services, you want people spreading the word on their own. What we have now in Social Media are platforms that are perfectly suited to spread ideas virally.
THIS is what makes Social Media unique and special.
Take Twitter for example. If someone you follow retweets something, now you, and everyone else who follows them, sees that tweet and may start following them. It takes just seconds to re-tweet.
All of a sudden they have over one hundred thousand followers. And some unemployed guy in Iowa, nobody ever heard of, is being invited to the White House.
Total cost: Zero Dollars and Zero Cents. And not necessarily a lot of time.
How easy is that process compared to traditional marketing?
Going Viral has always been huge in advertising – long predating the term. Never before has it been so easy. IF you can get people spreading the word.
Social Media does have other uses. It’s a great way to stay in touch with existing clients. It can be a sort of online complaint department. You can use it to let customers know about things. Like we won’t be answering the phones today due to the blizzard. Or we just rolled out a new product, click here to go to our website and read all about it.
And it can be a useful and effective advertising channel, as in Facebook ads.
Skipping those, the greatest Social Media purpose, what really makes it unique, is as a business development tool. Does it apply to every business?
Let’s get real.
What can a plumber tweet, post on Instagram or on Facebook that is going to go viral?
Virality travels on the basis of interest or curiosity. What can a plumber say or do – that has something to do with his business – that is going to be of interest to his prospective customers?
What would make a plumber cool or get people excited?
What would make you cool or get people excited?
So that is the first and fundamental question that has to be answered if you are going to use Social Media for business development.
If you can’t think of anything, then Social Media for you is going to be primarily a customer service tool or an advertising channel.
If you are running a luxury, all-inclusive, private sailing charter to exotic locations – now you’re talking.
NOW you can talk about which Social Media platform or platforms to use, and how to use them.
Now you can start to Go Viral.
And if you can make it happen, you can one day, in the not too distant future, wake up rich.