I just finished reading Social Media is Bullshit by B.J. Mendelson. Despite the controversial title, and a Part One that probably made him no friends in the marketing industry, his message isn't that different than mine is. Numbers mean nothing. You might have thousands of followers on twitter, thousands of Facebook fans, hundreds of contacts through LinkedIn, you might even have high website visits, but none of that means anything if you aren't getting business from it.
Sometimes I notice themes happening in the podcasts I listen to, the books I read and the seminars I attend. And lately the theme I've been noticing is people putting the basic practices of marketing into using online media. And that makes me really happy.
Just last week I was at Tweetstock 8. This last event brought together big name authors like C.C Chapman, Dave Delaney, John Morgan and, the one I squeed over, Mitch Joel. Not only that, the director of social media from Chevrolet was there as well.
What I heard over and over at Tweetstock is that using online tools is part of business. It needs to be approached with business principles, with expectations, goals and measurable results.
Results. Return on Investment. Metrics. These are words people didn't want to use concerning social media for a really long time. Mostly because people looked for a direct line from tweet to sale which is not the way it works. It's not the way any other lead is measured!
In every sales job it is expected that a certain number of calls needs to be made to get one lead, and that a certain number of leads needs to be made to get one sale, and a certain number of sales needs to be made to get one referral. A lot of businesses have this system down, they know their numbers. But when it comes to posting something online they expect a phone call, or an online order, or a customer walking through the door the next second. And if they don't see that they say it's something that can't be measured.
And that's not true. They just haven't applied the same thought to understanding how many followers they need to get a lead, or how many video views they need to get a phone call.
These aren't easy things to figure out. They take lots of attention to detail. Yuck! Nobody wants to do that! And that's why we had years of people saying you couldn't measure using online media. And why a book like "Social Media is Bullshit" is written.
In the last part, when Mendelson takes some time to teach people how to use online media in a more responsible way, he shares a story of a cross-country trip he took as a fundraiser and how despite hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter he received almost no donations from them and no visits at pit stops. And he got frustrated since he was told lots of followers equalled success. But that is just not true.
The idea that lots of followers equals success is the reason the snake oil salesmen are out there selling us tools to increase our numbers. And it's also the reason that lots of followers does not equal success! It's a snake eating it's own tail. The more we rely on vanity metrics like the number of followers the more we try to increase that instead of increasing the engagement with the ones who really do like us.
"Increasing engagement" is one of those over used terms that means nothing in the online media world anymore. To put it into business terms think about when growing your business. Sure you can bring in more customers, but you know that is going to cost lots of money in advertising to get in front of more people so the growth will be minimal. Instead it's easier to increase the sales to your current customer.
Think of your current fans and followers on social media, on your website or blog, in your email list, as your current customer and work on increasing sales to them. All of your "engagement" online is making your product and your business indispensable to your current customers. What do they want? Give them that.
Here's a hint: They don't want an ad from you.