Small businesses often get sucked into the hype around social media.
The conversation often goes like this:
Q: So why do you want a Facebook business page?”
A: “Um, I don’t know, because everyone else has one?”
In a recent presentation by an analyst from BIA Kelsey, it was reported that “42% of small business owners *believe* that their top priority for using Facebook was customer acquisition”.
The key word there is *believe*.
However, the actual data shows that Facebook is probably not the best way to address the online marketing challenges of local businesses.
- According to a Reuters/Ipsos survey, 80% of Facebook users have never bought a product or service as a result of seeing an ad on Facebook or a comment in their timeline.
- Another survey asked people where they would start their search if they needed an attorney. Only 2% of the people surveyed said they would start their search on their favorite social network. About 33% would start their search on a *search engine*. Interestingly, 34% said that they would begin by asking a friend. (Yes, a real-live person!)
Intuitively, these results seem to describe what actually occurs in the real world.
I know in my own experience, I can say that I have never purchased anything directly as a result of comments seen in a social media newsfeed or an advertisement on a social network.
But Social Media Is Necessary
Yes, social media marketing can be a huge waste of time and money.
However, social media is definitely an important part of your overall online marketing strategy, when used correctly:
- Facebook and other social media networks should be used for brand-building, maintaining brand awareness and helping people in their decision-making process. You should not try and pitch your products and services directly to social media users.
- Social media gives you credibility. It humanizes you. In a world full of scammers and rip-off artists, social media plays a very important role in letting people know that you’re a legitimate business.
- Having a social media presence is now known to affect search engine rankings. Often referred to as “social signals”, search engine algorithms use social media to help determine where to rank your site in the search listings.
Local search expert, David Mihm, perhaps summed it up best by stating that “Too many people put too much faith in FaceBook, to the exclusion of other tactics. When looked at across all industries, social media is far less effective as a customer acquisition channel than a number of other plays, such as PPC, lead-gen sites like ServiceMagic/HomeAdvisor, or traditional search optimization”.
The key takeaway is this …
Social media is an important part of your overall marketing strategy and you should definitely use it. However, it’s not the place to pitch your products and services for *direct* customer acquisition.
That’s for search engines.