Social Media: Does sharing trump conversation?

Photographer: jscreationzs

Remember back in the old days of social media (18 months ago) when everyone seemed to see the big opportunity in social media as “joining the conversation”? Well … I just read this great post by Tom Martin, and it helped crystallize something I’ve known but maybe haven’t fully recognized.

Martin takes aim at the “conversation” motivation of social media and juxtaposes it with data (from eMarketer) on the real motivations of why people “follow” a brand in social media.

His point is valid, but there are some apples-and-oranges comparisons. First, Martin is right in that people don’t primarily interact with a brand or business to “have a conversation.” The eMarketer data bears that out. Second, Martin is also correct in his criticism that this “joining the conversation” mantra by social media advocates may obscure the point that it’s really all about content.

He’s absolutely right: Creating and also sharing content is what is at the root of successful social media.

However, that’s not to say that being adept at reacting to customers via social media isn’t intrinsically very valuable and builds loyalty. Using social media as a customer service platform or “response engine” is a tactic that works well — but admittedly won’t work for every business.

But look at two case study posts I’ve written. Here are two companies that implement social-media-based customer service successfully:

So, Martin is right in that content and sharing (at least from what I’ve eyewitnessed) are at the root of social media success, and they pair well with motivations. That doesn’t mean, however, that the “conversation” element is not relevant. The “listen and respond” cycle is a “conversation” too if you think about it. I will agree, though, that there is a lot of hype about “conversation” — but that’s just fuzzy thinking.

Real social media practitioners should already know it’s all about content and sharing. But where does “listen and respond” end and “conversation” begin? It’s a gray area.

Facebook for business: Getting beyond the hype to what matters

If you’ve read my blog before, you’re probably aware that I think the best blog on social media and marketing is Jay Baer’s Convince and Convert. Lately Jay has been on a tear on the subject of Facebook and the over-hyping of what “Like” actually does for brands. He wrote a trilogy on the topic, and they are totally worth the time and effort to read:

Still, I wanted to summarize a few salient points that stuck with me.

  1. First, Baer noted in this post that there’s a little too much of the tail wagging the dog when it comes to understanding what a “Like” actually means. In other words — people don’t “Like” a brand out of the blue, it comes AFTER they’re already familiar with and like the brand in the real world. So … anyone thinking Facebook is the start of the chain of events that leads to a “Like” usually has it wrong.
  2. Baer emphasizes that counting “Likes” is kind of nonsensical. It’s just a click folks. It’s nowhere near the commitment someone shows when they even sign up for a newsletter. (And effective, click-getting, response-generating emails are somehow forgotten in all the “Like” hype.)
  3. Think long and hard before doing Facebook customization. The vast majority of interaction/comments to updates are from News Feed — not Wall postings. Think about that. Nobody goes around visiting Facebook pages after they “Like” them … it’s all about the News Feed on their “Home” page.

So Baer is of course a big-brand kind of guy, and I’d just like to add from what I’ve seen with successful small and mid-size Facebook users, this is good news. It means you’re still getting a heck of a lot of bang from your buck just from status updates. Of course, how to do that right is another story …

For small businesses using social media, amateur hour is ending

Photographer: jscreationzs (via www.freedigitalphotos)

MarketingProfs has an article with good, detailed data from a recent study of small businesses, innovation and social media. The headline is Small Biz Report: Social Media Adoption Levels Off , which at first glance may cause some to think “uh-oh,” the bloom is off the rose. The article offers insight into a study of 500 small businesses, conducted by Network Solutions and the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business.

You can’t read too much into one report or study, but I think there’s a silver lining here: small businesses are getting more savvy about social media, how to use it, and figuring out what works best. My hunch is that the SMB world will break down into those who market online with varying degrees of success, and the “left behinds” — those who didn’t try, or gave up and are no longer on the radar. So take note — the clock is ticking, it seems.

Of those using social media, 30% plan to increase “investment” in their because of it. This means that about one-third have figured out that social media investment = reinvestment. The two feed each other and are connected.

Of those using social media, there’s been a 37% increase in brand-awareness usage in the past 9 months, and a 34% increase in using social media to reach out to customers. At the same time, using social media to get leads has stayed the same or decreased. Here’s how I read this: Generating leads is a difficult task for any organization and is time/resource-intensive to do — for any business large or small. Small businesses are figuring this out, and shifting to where they get more “bang” for their social media “buck”: in creating awareness and building loyalty.

And, as I’ve suspected, companies that were identified as “highly competitive,” by no coincidence, spend more in online advertising and a whopping 72% say they expect to make a profit from their social media investments.

Again, you can’t read too much into one study, but it does seem to confirm that SMBs are getting past the “adoption” phase. In the new phase, successful online marketers will start to “walk away” from those that don’t.