Social Media Connects Us to Friends – Not Prospects

Small businesses must clearly understand the core dynamic of social media if they want to avoid getting deeply frustrated by the whole channel. The social network is a place where people gather who already know each other, or decide they want to know someone (a person). It is not primarily a place to transact business. It may be someday, but the impulse of those who spend a lot of time on social networking sites is still to connect with friends socially. As a side activity, people on Facebook and other sites also indicate they ‘like’ businesses, but a fair number are still doing it for social “badging” reasons. Research from last October by ExactTarget and CoTweet (still relevant in my view, though some may call it ancient) confirmed the following:

  • Nearly 40% of Facebook users who become fans do so to receive discounts and promotions
  • 39% become fans to show their support for a brand to their friends
  • 23% of respondents said they also follow brands on Twitter
  • 10% say they subscribe to email notifications to follow brands
  • 43% of the Facebook users surveyed said they Like, or are fans of, at least one brand on Facebook
  • 34% of Facebook users say they Like brands in order to stay informed about company activities
  • 33% say they Like brands to get updates on future products
  • Among Facebook users who Like at least one brand, only 17% say they’re more likely to buy after Liking that brand on Facebook

This is decent news: You have a great channel through which to induce re-orders with special offers and content that reinforces your value. You also have a chance to create brand advocates by making it incredibly easy to pass on your special offers and content. That is the core value of social media: Motivating your fans to switch from passive appreciators to active advocates.

That last point above, however, highlights the BIG Catch in social media marketing: The people who ‘like’ you online are already your customers, and few indicate that their self-identification is a signal that their business with you is going to increase. Indeed, ‘liking’ seems to be a lagging indicator of appreciation. On top of that, 40% also report that to stay interested they expect rewards that cost you money, making that customer less profitable. So, for that socially connected customer to remain profitable you have to measure whether:

  • The amount they buy increases through your ongoing social media interactions
  • They frequently share your content
  • Their sharing (aka advocacy) brings in new business

The first measurement is something you should do as a matter of course: Track the sales from each account, note in their record whether they “like” or “follow” you, track what they buy and what offers generated business from them.

The second two are far harder: CMSs are doing a better job of building in tracking tools helping with measuring the rate of sharing, but you still must generate codes for every scrap of social marketing you do to try to measure success, and tie leads back to their source. The main tools for that are your landing page tactics and the information you gather through your contact forms (always a delicate balance to strike) and/or phone and in-person first contacts. Always ask:

  • What motivated you to contact us? Allow more than one response.
  • Where did you find out or learn about us (or the product or service)? Allow more than one response.
  • Which one “tipped the scale” and got you to call?

Your social strategy must recognize that the messages and content you push out is going to be noticed mostly by those who already like you, not people who have yet to experience your product or service. So you have to create content they really want to share, and you have to remind them to share it constantly.