For the past year or so I have been commenting about on-line marketing mainly through channels like social media, business media and all the various forms of content management. My main view has been that while all this activity might seem like it’s worthwhile, for a lot of businesses, who have had a couple of years to experiment with it, this effort has turned out to be pretty much useless for anything other than a minor awareness blip. For some it has led to a re-examination of all the hype generated by the main social media platforms, where they find that all this activity is being recommended by marketing people whose vested interest is in making their own businesses grow by getting their clients involved in these types of online programs.
I have talked to a lot of different people inside and outside the online marketing business about this and the general consensus boils down to a few important points
1. Online marketing in the form of content management and social media programs, only produce above break even ROI for a very small percentage of businesses. And the majority of those businesses are marketers who teach social media program development techniques and manage content management programs. The remainder are primarily composed of businesses in the retail sector, who use social media platforms to create buzz of their business, and offer the kinds of products and services that people like to recommend. (ie restaurants, technology repair, home repair etc.), people with a genuinely unique service, and of course large corporations who have been convinced that they simply ‘need’ to be there.
2. The web site remains the most important online marketing tool in arsenal of most businesses, especially if you are in the service business in any way, shape or form. Your web site, especially if it’s well put together, written and designed, gives people the ability to check you out in much greater depth than they can by reading a LinkedIn profile, or following your blog or trying to find your tweets or FB posts.
3. Many businesses, large and small, have been brainwashed (by unscrupulous marketers) into believing that if they post something really interesting on a social or business media site, that a great many of the people they are directly connected with will forward their really interesting stuff to all the people they know. This is simply a myth, governed by something called the 1% rule, which is pretty self-explanatory.
4. A lot of the so called ‘social media success stories’ you hear about are generally the result of considerable spending in conventional media. Marketers will try and convince you that if, say Coca Cola can do it, then you can too. They forget to add that Coca Cola is one of the most recognized brands in the world and spends millions to keep that positioning. Anything they do on line, while creative and intriguing, is actually activity they could easily do without, and budget wise, a drop in the bucket. For most smaller business there are no drops in the bucket and bucket is very small.
5. Small to medium sized business need to be very careful when embarking on a social media or content management program. As social and business media sites and the Internet in general, become saturated with content, the churn rate increases and visibility rate decreases. So you could be spending a lot of time trying to get a little bit of business and (providing you value your time at some nominal rate), be losing money in the process.
The Other Side Of The Coin
Now don’t get me wrong…it’s good to have an online presence in addition to your web site. It can never hurt, But how much time you should be spending on it and how much dependence you place on it, should always relate to the return you are getting. If it’s not enough, you need to treat is either as a loss leader or get the hell out before it costs you too much time and expense.
The other important aspect of online marketing is finding online marketers with the courage (ie lack of greed), to tell you the truth about whether they think a social or business media or content management program is actually right for your business.
As a creative strategist and communicator, my job is to look at the big picture of the clients I work with. Often times this will involve consulting with any number of experts in specific vertical fields. You should treat your business the same way and use whatever means necessary to identify the people who can help you and who you believe will always place your best interest above their own.
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