John Wanamaker is famous for saying, “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half!” With an ever-growing number of sophisticated online tracking tools, you’d think that wasting advertising dollars would be a thing of the past. But, in fact, companies are wasting just as much (if not more!) on online media and advertising due to a number of factors, but mostly because they’re confusing activity with results.
In business, the only thing we can take to the bank is money – checks, credit card payments, cash and any other forms of monetary deposits. Leading indicators to revenue, as we all know, are paying clients (orders, contracts, sales) and actual leads from qualified, genuinely interested prospects. However, much of the social media marketing I see is a heck of a lot of activity metrics (clicks, followers, open rates of e-mail, visitors to a site, etc.) that cannot be directly tied to generating a qualified lead, much less cash in the bank; so, unless someone can directly show me how an increase in Twitter followers turns into more profit for a company, I’m not impressed. In fact, I believe management of all the social media sites ends up taking an enormous amount of time away from more productive lead generation and marketing activities and opens the door for customer service and PR failures.
For example, if you have a Facebook fan page, you now need to monitor it daily – even hourly – for negative client comments, which are now public for the world to see, unfiltered and out of context, instead of a client simply e-mailing you their complaint, where it can be addressed privately. Further, clients will assume they can message and/or post their requests to your Facebook page instead of going through the proper channels; if you fail to address their request in a timely manner because it didn’t go through your normal process of handling such requests, you’ve just created a customer service failure that is open for the public to see.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you should shut down all social media sites and marketing; there are situations where it’s a very smart and strategic part of a business strategy. But, as my mother would say, “Don’t jump off a cliff just because everyone else is.” Be sure that whatever you’re doing online in social media can be measured and quantified to tie in to key sales, service and growth goals you have for your organization, and do not accept “getting our name out there” as a sufficient result for your marketing efforts.