Okay, first I’ve been studying social media.

Not formally and not in the triple blind and an army of PHD’s or lab rats kind of way. But rest assured I’ve been studying what it does to businesses and professionals.

My study has concluded that it kills brain cells–and that’s a bad thing. I thought I heard a few years ago that brain cells grow back but I wasn’t able to find any search results that helped:

 

Social media acts as a stimulant. Only it stimulates the wrong thing. It stimulates a waste of time. Sure it connects you to your friends and family and yes it can help you land business… but for most professionals it isn’t the highest best use of your time.

Why do we do this? Simply because it’s what the market wants… it’s a shiny object and that shiny object is what brings us traffic and leads. I follow the marketing rule that says sell what the market wants but deliver what the market needs. But here’s the truth…

Social media is typically the 4th or 5th strategy/tactic we help our clients with.

Typically there are things within the realm of branding, marketing, lead gen, sales, and business development that take precedence. I’m willing to guess that most likely this is the case for you and your business as well.

What About Your Business?

In your business there are greater marketing opportunities than social media. Mainly because social media lacks a key marketing opportunity.

Intent to purchase or more specifically the immediate need or want to purchase your product or service.

Immediate intent isn’t the only problem. We are entering a time of mass social distraction.

For instance, I logged into Facebook yesterday and a few of my friends shared pictures of their dinner. It made me think… before social media did people take pictures of their dinner and then when you came over they said… “you got to see this, here’s what I ate last night… do you like it?”

It’s not just pictures of dinner or mundane updates, this isn’t a new complaint for the social space. The larger noise problem is the massive increase in spam and business participation. The social media space is becoming more saturated each and every day.

For instance, Direct Marketing News reported that Wal-Mart has launched 3,500 Facebook pages so they can distribute local offers. I’m sure other big box stores can’t be far behind with this strategy.

Social Has Lost the Novelty

Not just the novelty for standing out but also as a novelty in connecting with your target market.

It’s not unique or even a competitive advantage to connect in social. Sure, if you stack up a company that excels in social against one that doesn’t they might have a slight edge (although this depends on industry), in the end it has very little measurable effect on the bottom line.

But I’m still beating around a larger point. There are greater marketing opportunities in your business than social.

Even more important are foundational issues like the definition and dedication to your brand promise and your big idea. A dedication to focus and put effort into these will give you a better measurable result.

Direct Response Marketing

I also believe that this focus on social media clouds what should be the focus of most marketing efforts—direct response. This type of marketing is orientated on creating a sale today. Not spending time, effort, and resources on building a relationship for a sale down the road, and this is the promise of social interaction.

I’m not knocking permission marketing (which is what social ultimately is), I’m saying that if you haven’t locked in your direct response marketing channels before you enter social then you’ve have your the priorities reversed.

Direct response done properly creates predictable results—I’ve never seen a social campaign that has predictable results. Also, direct response can typically be scaled—social can scale but the scalability is exposure and has no bearing on actions you take.

That’s why it’s important to get your direct channel machine effective then add the layer of social media engagement.

The Allure of Social Media

But you say social media is free and you can connect directly with your target market… Yes those are valid arguments to participate. But here are a few problems…

First, social media isn’t free—it’s taking a valuable resource, usually your time (or someone’s time) and there is an opportunity cost inherint in that. Second, sure you can connect with your target market and maybe find “brand evangelists”, ultimately it’s still not something you can scale effectively with predictable results.

That’s what you need your marketing to deliver for you. Your marketing should be your best salesperson. It should be something that you can rely upon to deliver sales, leads, or prospects—that’s its sole goal.

Predictable Results in Your Marketing

I’ve never participated in, heard of or seen a social marketing campaign that produced predictable results. I’ve participated in and seen plenty of direct marketing campaigns that have—for this alone I believe direct marketing efforts should be the primary focus of your marketing efforts. If these have not been dialed in then I believe you have zero business participating in social more than a customer support channel.

That’s step 1, focus on building a strong direct response marketing channels then add social. What are your thoughts… is social such a change in tradiational marketing that I’m off base here?