Al’s Column: Pros and cons of social media marketing

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April 25/May 2, 2016; Volume 30, Number 22

By Marty Gould

So, you’ve taken the plunge into social media and have no idea what to do. Or maybe you’ve been tending to your Facebook friends and Twitter followers for years but you still have no idea what to do.

Novices and experts alike are struggling with creating, executing and measuring the impact of their social media strategies. Is it a good way to attract new customers? Is it worth the time and money? Here’s a brief look at the pros and cons. Let’s start with the bad news first.

Platforms change—fast. Two years ago, Facebook was free. Now? Pony up and buy ads if you want to be seen and shared. Instagram and Snapchat are the hot new players today, but tomorrow, who knows? If instability and constant change make you crazy, keeping up with your customers and prospects as they migrate to the platform of the day will definitely drive you nuts.

It’s a waste of money. Nate Elliot of Forrester Research says most marketers are “wasting significant financial, technological and human resources” posting content on Facebook and Twitter. Many know their social strategies aren’t paying off, yet they keep spending with no hope of ever seeing a return on their investments.

And a waste of time. According to the 2015 Social Media Examiner Industry Report, two-thirds of all social media marketers spend more than six hours a week managing and posting content; 20% are spending more than 20 hours a week. If you’re handling everything in-house, that’s a lot of manpower hours that could be applied to other parts of your business.

Nobody cares. The advertising consultant known as the “Ad Contrarian,” Bob Hoffman, said social media is “tens of millions of disagreeable people looking to make trouble.” Not the best environment for building your brand.

Let’s now look at the pros.

Buy ads. They work—if you do it the right way. Facebook ads are inexpensive, so you can reach lots of potential prospects. The trick is making sure the right people are seeing your ads. Use the “lookalike” list feature by uploading the email addresses of your former and current customers and Facebook will find thousands of other people who look just like them (i.e. have interest in the same topics). But, like any advertising campaign, you have to do this consistently.

You can generate leads—if you have the right set up. Social media works best when your content pushes followers to a place where you can capture their email addresses, like a landing page on your website that directly relates to the content you’ve posted. Once you have email addresses you can market directly to your prospects.

You can measure results—if you have the right tools. Combining social media advertising with online display ads creates an opportunity to track exactly how many conversions you are creating as a result of your online marketing. It’s not cheap, but the results will help you sleep better knowing your online marketing investment is expanding your business.

Social media can be an effective marketing tool if used correctly. If you’re cranking out posts hoping people will see them, time to consider repurposing that same content into paid ads that drive traffic to your website. And be sure you’re able to measure the results of your campaigns.

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