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What's wrong with the coming social media backlash.

Social media marketing backlashHave you noticed it yet? Every day, someone else says social media may not be right for your business. Intelligent, well-meaning people. The Boston Globe for instance, suggests social media may not be worth the time. CEO Josua Dorkin recently tweeted “Note to entrepreneurs, app and web developers: Not ALL apps need to be social! Not everything needs to be shared.”

There are two big problems with these views:

  1. Their definition of social media is far too narrow
  2. All social media is not created equal

A Definition of Social Media

“Social” is not Facebook. “Social” isn’t Twitter. “Social” isn’t LinkedIn. Sure, all of those are part of social. But they’re not the whole game, nor the only game in town. Social is people, interacting on the web, engaging with friends, family, fans and followers.

For instance, take a look at review sites. Whether using sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, OpenTable, Angie’s List or Google Local, customers enjoy telling others about their experiences with brands just like yours. Should you ignore this wealth of information about your brand–and your competitors? No way. Think I’m crazy? Google recently demonstrated how important it thinks reviews are by buying local reviews authority Zagat. Yelp seems unconcerned by Google’s entry into the space and tweeted “All of the restaurant reviews on Yelp could fill 16,894 Zagat guides, and only 26% of businesses reviewed on Yelp are restaurants…”

That’s a huge amount of content your customers are creating. And it’s all social.

Similarly, take a look at any video or photo-sharing site (such as YouTube or Flickr). Notice all those comments? Again, social content.

Yes, Facebook is the #2 website overall (according to Alexa). But YouTube is #3. Blogging services and are #7 and #18, respectively. Flickr is #34. Social platform Tumblr is #47. TripAdvisor and Yelp are in the top 250. And so on.

So, while there’s no question that your social strategy can’t ignore Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, there’s a lot more to social–and an appropriate social strategy–than just those sites. And you ignore the whole of social at your peril.

Not All Social Media is Created Equal

Second, which social channels matter to you depends entirely on where your customers spend their time. Facebook is an incredibly useful tool for reaching lots of people. But only if they’re the right people for your brand. As noted above, maybe you’d have better success focusing on niche communities or reaching out to bloggers serving your customers’ interests.

As noted in some of the criticisms of social media marketing, you may not see a return on investment if all you do is create an account and ocassionally post something. I agree whole-heartedly with Drew McLellan that your social media marketing must either:

  1. Save you money, or
  2. Make you money.

If you assume that all social media channels are the same and that they’re limited solely to the large social networks, then it’s reasonable to question the value of social media marketing. But if you look instead at:

  1. Your customers’ behaviors
  2. Your objectives

Then finding the right social strategy and channels gets much easier. Sure, you’ve got to watch out for the snake oil salesmen in social media. But, casting doubt on all of social due to some bad strategies (or bad actors), is silly. Focus on what your customers actually do, find the channels that matter to them, and saving/making money is very much in play. In which case, we’re not talking about social marketing. We’re talking about marketing, period.

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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