Social Media - The Marketing Wonder Drug? Not Quite!

Social media, social networking, social sharing, Web 2.0 - no matter what you call it, it's everywhere these days, and for good reason. The numbers are astounding:

  • One out of every nine people on Earth is on Facebook, with users spending more than 700 billion minutes per month on the site.
  • YouTube users submit more than 48 hours of video to the site every minute, more than 8 years of content per day.
  • On Twitter, users will send more than 1 billion tweets in just one week's time.

Unfortunately, there's another side to this success story.

As social media has grown in popularity, so has the number of so-called social media experts. Too often, these are people who will tell you without reservation that social media is the new marketing wonder drug - able to cure every marketing, franchise lead generation, and customer service ill that's ever ailed you. But don't buy it.

While it does offer some unique and, if used properly, valuable benefits, social media also has three serious side effects that every franchise must be aware of - especially before eliminating any proven strategies from their budget.

Side Effect #1: The Overdose
There's only so much any one person can take.

No matter who you are, you have but 24 hours in a day to do everything from shower to sleep, which means that the amount of time you have to consume social media is finite, especially if you have a job.

Since you have only so much time per day to devote to social media, sooner or later you're going to find yourself prioritizing whom you interact with and on which social media platform you'll do it.

"Social media overdose" is the point at which people start saying "No" to accepting more friends in Facebook, stop following more people on Twitter, or say "I just don't have time" to the newest social platform. The introduction of the new social network Google+ is a great example of this.

Google+ has everything going for it: nifty new features that solved problems plaguing other social networks, the amazing potential to increase your search engine ranking, and the substantial pocketbook of Google to fund it all. Despite all this, the social network is struggling. It's like a ghost town; people just aren't there. That's not to say it will always be this way, but until there's a compelling reason to leave Facebook and interact on Google+ instead, don't expect things to change much.

Side Effect #2: The Hangover
One way or another, you're going to pay for it.

Let's be honest... One of the main reasons that social media experienced such an immense buzz in the beginning was because it was FREE!

Almost overnight, businesses everywhere were drooling over the idea of replacing more expensive traditional marketing mediums, like TV, print, and ad portals, with free Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

Then reality set in.

Sure, it's free to create Twitter and Facebook accounts, but establishing a meaningful presence, building an audience, and developing relationships with your target audience takes some serious time - a minimum of 10 hours a week, according to social media gurus. But in business, time is money, and right now none of us can afford to throw our our money around, no matter what the currency.

Side Effect #3: The Placebo Effect
Does social media actually work?

According to a recent study conducted by B2B magazine, while 93 percent of marketers are engaged to some extent in social media marketing, 75 percent have no ROI attribution program in place to measure its effect. Many don't know if measurement is even possible.

How can this be? How can marketers be spending so much time, money, and effort on social media but so little about the results they're getting?

Welcome to the dawning of social media accountability.

Marketers are tired of the fluffy metrics traditionally used to measure social media, such as conversations, followers, retweets, and likes. Instead, they are increasingly demanding that social media use the ROI metrics of more traditional forms of marketing. And for good reason. After all, if you're going to pull resources from one marketing tactic and dedicate it to social media, you have to know that you're getting at least similar results.

Here are five suggestions that can help you begin measuring social media results - for real:

  1. Provide a coupon code exclusively to your fans or followers.
  2. Promote a limited-time, product-specific discount to your fans or followers.
  3. Give your fans and followers a special fans-only customer service phone number for all of their purchases, questions, or feedback.
  4. Showcase links to sales-ready landing pages.
  5. Invite fans or followers to up to receive a special white paper, subscribe to an e-newsletter, attend a free webinar, etc. Each lead allows you to track any future sales activity to the initial social media effort.

Melinda Caughill is Partner, Strategic Marketing at Third Person, Inc., a marketing, advertising, and company based in Milwaukee. Contact her at or 414-221-9810 x302.

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