I was recently giving an associate some advice on marketing his sons new website. It started off with “make sure you’re targeting your keyword phrases at the audience you want to attract”. It moved on to “chasing the long tail”, which was closely followed by “gaining links”, “consider ad-words” and installing Google Analytics. When I asked if the son had any marketing budget it became apparent the company was a single one-man band that was building up a new business and trying to make a name for itself. Nothing wrong with that, in-fact in my eyes this is to be admired. However one thing is for sure, very few one-man bands have a marketing budget and even fewer have time to spend on marketing even if they do.
Many will therefore decide to use an agency. Which is fine. But when using an agency it’s important you are giving them direction to make sure they are spending their time – which equals your money, on the most productive areas.
Many sole-traders however, will not consider an agency for online activity if they have a bit of knowledge of how things work online. They have used the Internet before, searched on google, have their own facebook page and even dabble with internet banking so how hard can marketing their website be?
Therefore I wasn’t surprised that after I had given some SEO and PPC advice which would keep a marketing team happy for a good few weeks, he asked the inevitable next question…
“OK, that’s good – What else could he do?”
Armed with the fact there was little budget, I took a deep breath and started talking social media marketing. Viral videos, Facebook business pages, Twitter profiles, status updates, Digg it, Like this, Buzz that, Tweet the other… It was all in there. I looked at his face and he didn’t have to say a word, “How the f*** are you suppose to do all that” was written all over it.
That’s when it struck me that an awful lot of companies, not just one man bands, will be trying to cover everything in a blind panic that if they don’t they are missing out. I’m not going to argue that the media multiplier effect works. But is it the best use of the marketing coffers to spread it over all forms of media?
The answer is of course simple. Yes… If it works! No… If it doesn’t.
Social media is just that – media, just the same as the telephone, carrier pigeon, postal service or smoke signals! And in turn needs to be measure and quantified in exactly the same way as any other marketing channel (although, good luck measuring the impact of smoke signals!). It may be new(ish) and exciting but it hasn’t necessarily made the revolutionary changes everyone seems to attribute to it.
It boils down to spending the time you have most productively. Which can only be understood through measurement of your activities.
Many people attribute social media with Barrack Obama being in power today. I don’t.
If the massively impressive PR train that was employed for Obama wasn’t using social media they would have been using other channels. Who knows which would have been most effective?
There are too many variables in this case to truly understand if social media had the impact many say it did.
If we look back to a time before social media there have been figures that have changed the world quite easily without one single tweet or status update. I’m sure Martin Luther King would have had a Facebook page during the Civil Rights era if it had been around. That wouldn’t have meant Facebook caused social change. It appears the founders of social networking sites would have us believe they have invented a media channel that is far superior to anything we have experienced before. And this is the reason it is capable of such great things. I believe it’s simply these now multi-millionaires are simply shouting louder than inventors of the past. Just think how many important decisions have been made over the humble telephone. Yet I don’t hear anyone attributing wars that have been won, disasters that have been averted and lives that have been saved to the humble dog-n-bone, do you?
Social media marketing is a worthwhile channel, but only by measuring its impact when compared to other forms of media can you know if this is the channel you should be investing your valuable time in.
This is why the single most important piece of advice I gave my associate was to install Google Analytics. Unfortunately I suspect it is the one piece of advice he may act upon but never follow up. To delve into Google analytics and use it to ensure you are choosing the best suited media to your campaign takes time and a lot of it. Time that a single person battling to make a new company work just doesn’t have.