With all the hype surrounding social media for business, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is the single most important thing for your business to do in marketing right now.

But it’s not.

In fact, social media accounts for a small fraction of all sales leads that convert into customers online globally, according to a recent Marketing Sherpa report that analysed 270 million website visits.

So if you go after social media for business before you consider the big ticket online marketing strategies, it would be like trying to fish for minnows when you can see salmon jumping out of the water!

Here are the facts…

All Social Media For Business Combined Is Just A Fifth Of Google Search Volumes

When it comes to making sales, somebody has to visit your site and take some action before you make any money.  And while the big social sites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and all the rest are clearly buzzing with activity, they seem to generate just a fraction of the traffic that converts into customers.

In fact, according to this article about social media for business from Search Insider, statistics from over 270 Million website visits show that under 10% of all visitors came from social media, while almost half of all traffic comes from Google natural search results.

If you want to produce the best results from your marketing, you need to do it scientifically.  Which means measuring and going after the areas that produce the most traffic.

Now, what I do know about social media is that it can be an incredibly powerful tool to use for making relationships with specific, targeted individuals.  So if you’re trying to network your way into a big contract with a specific firm, a good social media strategy might be a great asset.

On the other hand, the majority of small businesses just want to generate leads online with the minimum of cost and fuss.  In decent volume.

I have taught many of my clients how to exploit the internet for their businesses, including a payroll business, a heating engineer, a luxury travel company and many others besides.

The Secret is Not Social Media.

Social media takes a lot of time to do well and is only so popular because everybody who’s on social media will talk it up.

The figures speak for themselves.

So, while most businesses struggle to understand business internet marketing, it is not difficult to design an online marketing strategy that will quickly produce results.

In fact, if one strategy could be considered a “secret weapon”, it would be email.

Most people think that emails sent by businesses are spam, and they want to avoid becoming spammers.

Yet the reality is that email produces massive spikes in traffic to your website when you’ve had a bit of practice.

And that massive spike in traffic can turn into a spike in sales, too.  Or fill your restaurant.  Or get people to attend a webinar or seminar at an accountancy practice.  Or any other action you want them to take.

You may want to take a look at my email marketing tips post for further information on this topic.

It’s one of the first strategies I get all my clients to use and it never fails to generate leads from the internet.

Back To The Data – Social Media – Ho-Humm…

So from the same article linked earlier, it’s apparent that Google natural search listings are huge at 50% of the traffic.  Which tallies with our behaviour online, doesn’t it?

You want to buy something, you start by doing a Google search.  Then you visit a few sites.  Research and consider any reviews you found.  Finally you make your decision and either a website or a shop somewhere gets your business.

But the important point here is that Google was your tool for research.  While you may have chatted to some friends on Facebook or Twitter about it, the chances are that you researched a lot more yourself.

So when you ultimately made your decision to buy, if you bought online, you probably used a Google search to find a place to buy it.

And your customers are doing just the same, too.

So what’s your strategy to make sure your website is on page 1?

Forget social media until you’ve sorted out your website to work as a proper online lead generation tool, not just a shop window.

Forget social media until you’re building an email database (email is another massive traffic generator for website sales)

Forget social media until you’ve got as much traffic as you can realistically squeeze and afford from SEO and Pay Per Click searches.

And don’t go right to social media then, either.  Consider Facebook and LinkedIn paid advertising before you consider tweeting and other social strategies.  It’s way more hype than substance, and so let your competitors go chasing after it while you take the lion’s share of the business by being a wolf and thinking for yourself, not a sheep who follows the crowd.

In fact, for most entrepreneurs in the UK, who want to focus their efforts to produce maximum results, the advice is crystal clear.

Forget social media for business.

This website features in the Feedspot top blogs for business coaches.

4 Comments

  1. Tim Spencer on April 21st, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Hi Lee,

    Interesting take on Social Media.

    I would disagree slightly in that although the numbers you give say that only 10% of visitors come from Social media, there are many examples of businesses using social media as their main form of traffic.

    The problem that I often see, especially with small businesses, is that they use social media as a promotional platform and virtually every post they make is promotional. Those that use social media as an engagement platform, fair much better.

    Also, Social Media is only a part of a marketing strategy, but can help boost the websites rankings, simply because Googles’ focus has changed recently and Social Media plays a big part of that (G+).

    I’d also say that email is only a part of the strategy too. Again, engagement is more important than promotion to get the emails opened in the first place. If the email contains useful and engaging information, then the reader will most likely open it and read it, but if it just contains promotion after promotion, it’ll just get deleted, and unsubscribe rates will rise.

    A better way is possibly SMS marketing. About 95% of text messages are read, and almost instantly too (http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/72904.html). If you think about most peoples behaviour when it comes to receiving text messages, or even your own, then this has to be a marketing solution worth pursuing. I haven’t done it myself yet, but I will be very soon!

    All the best
    Tim



  2. Lee on April 21st, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Hi Tim,

    Appreciate your comments.

    You’re right that social media for business is a useful additional strategy. But it should rarely, if ever, be the first place to look.

    There are simply far better ways to drive traffic to your website that wants to buy what you sell. For the moment, it’s a fringe strategy, rather than a core marketing strategy.

    I know lots of people who spend an hour or more every day on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Without exception, they want more business. They’re not big businesses, but solopreneurs in general and they invest far too much of their time into social strategies precious little into direct response.

    I don’t dispute that using social media to help SEO is a good idea. But again it’s a top-up when you face tough competition, and should not form the backbone of your Internet marketing strategy.

    I think the news report that my article links to shows the data pretty clearly. Just like in the Internet business bubble that burst around 2000/2001, there is huge hype surrounding the emergence of social media but little evidence to support the effort that’s going into it. In many ways, it’s an expensive distraction that most businesses would be better off avoiding if their goal is faster, sustainable growth. There will always be time to develop the social aspects later when they’ve got more profit to throw at it, rather than focusing on it to the exclusion of marketing that’s proven to work.

    There are crowds of people who are repositioning themselves as social media marketing experts and making some good income themselves from the connections they’re making and the traffic they’re driving. Apart from some very specific strategies to establish relationships with key players in target customers, social media in general is a social activity and not a business one.

    Email marketing has a place at the heart of most businesses’ marketing strategies, it’s still the biggest sales driver for online sales. I have helped clients to set up effective email marketing campaigns that produce substantial results – adding a large percentage to their overall sales.

    SMS marketing is very similar, but has to be used with even more care. Receiving a text message feels like a really personal connection and if you promote too heavily or too frequently, people will unsubscribe. However, for businesses with immediate offers (like restaurants and even fashion outlets) there is a role to be played by SMS. On the other hand, if a printer started sending me text messages with weekly offers, I’d be turned off immediately.

    Like most things, marketing strategy needs to be developed on a case-by-case basis and the skeleton for most businesses to achieve worthwhile lead volumes and sustainable growth from their website looks something like this:

    Great content on your website
    Lead capture
    Follow up (email, SMS or direct mail)
    Pay Per Click marketing
    SEO for those phrases shown to work effectively through PPC
    Social media

    Applyng any other sequence, in general, is simply slowing down lead generation and wasting effort. I just don’t see any good data to make me think it’s a good idea to prioritise social media for business growth.

    Lee



  3. Andrew on July 29th, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Hi Lee,

    That is an interesting article, because I believe email marketing and social media compliment each other.

    At the heart of digital marketing in the 21st centuary is the concept of consumer information. People dont want to be sold too, they want the information to be able to make their own decesions. They want to buy. This is the single reason why print media, exhibition marketing, telesales and televison advertising are all on the decline.

    Look at the yellow pages, why is it so thin these days? Easy, becuase when you want something you look for it on Google. Printed directories are fit for nothing but the recycle bucket.

    Social media is part of the inbound marketing process, (I notice that you have a linkedin profile), business who ignore it take the risk that their customers and competitors also do not use it. Can any business afford to let their competitors communicate with their customers via a channel that they choose to ignore?

    =



  4. Lee on August 27th, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    The point of my post is really that so many people are expecting social media to be a silver bullet marketing strategy. It just isn’t. It’s yet another way to engage with customers.

    In the perfect world, a marketing plan that includes both would be what you want to develop. And in these cases I think you’re absolutely on the money – email marketing and social media go hand in hand.

    But I’d always start a marketing plan at the non-social methods because they are far easier to scale up to produce higher numbers of leads, they require less day to day effort and they will often produce massive results that social campaigns cannot touch.

    For example, one of my clients is a startup that’s recently been valued at £2M by a seasoned investor. We’ve not even touched social media yet as one of the channels, yet we’re making up to a dozen sales a day of a high value product.

    For most businesses, I’d recommend leaving social media until the other bases are covered. Of course, there will always be exceptions…

    Lee



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