Friday, January 22, 2010

Social media is not The Magic Bullet

By Jennifer Spitzer

If you own a business, especially a small one, and you decide to sink all of your marketing funds into social media, your business is going to fail. There… I said it.

As a marketer, I always find it interesting when I work with small business owners who are searching for what they call the “magic bullet” of marketing. What they’re looking for is a single tool or strategy they can invest in, knowing it will drive revenue for their business consistently over time. I can see the wheels turning in the heads of business owners who have experienced some success with social media. “This is it. It’s fun, and easy, and doesn’t cost anything. Think of the money I’ll save by cancelling my direct mail program or skipping the next trade show”.

The fundamental truth about growing a successful business is There Is No Magic Bullet. Marketing strategies are like financial portfolios – you need to have a combination of short and long term investments and you need to be well diversified. In today’s world, that means a healthy mix of traditional media, like direct mail, magazine and television as well as new media like social networking and email. Heck, even Google uses direct mail to promote their pay-per-click advertising. The notion that this sexy new media is going to replace traditional marketing strategy is crazy.

What’s even crazier to me is that some social media “experts” are suggesting it will. First of all, social media hasn’t been around long enough for there to be any real experts. To me, there are simply people who know a lot more than others on the topic. They understand the tools and know exactly how to use them. The answers to the real important questions like, “How long is it going to take before I see new customers and start generating revenue?” and “What kind of ROI can I expect?” remain to be seen.

You have to put your business where the customers are, and that’s why a diversified marketing mix is so important. Some of your customers will find you online while others will call you because they saw you doing work in their neighborhood. Others still will respond because they received a direct mail piece or simply because their friends said you do good work. Now you have social media to help you connect to consumers in new ways. Over time, you will gain trust within these networks and business will grow.

There’s no doubt that social media is here to stay. If your business hasn’t embraced the tools yet, it’s time to get on board. Just don’t expect your phone to ring off the hook with new customers simply because you start tweeting a few times a week. Instead, think of it as a powerful new opportunity to add to the overall marketing arsenal. Reaping the rewards of social media is going to take time, effort and a strong strategy… and it will be worth it.

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