Does becoming a more social brand really help grow your business?

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Recent research from statista.com says 83% of SMBs use social media as a way of driving growth for their business. The same source says 70% of professional marketers claim to have been successful in gaining new customers using social networks. Another survey in socialmediatoday.com tells us 80% of marketers invest in social media to increase brand exposure.

These figures tend to support our own analysis from talking to business owners and marketers in a range of companies. Faced with finding new business and launching a new product or service, for what has become a significant number of business owners and marketing professional in all sectors and locations, social media is one of the first things they turn to. But just how effective is social media in building your brand and growing your business?

I recently talked to customer experience professional and social media expert Augie Ray who is director of customer experience for a blue chip international company. Augie argues that marketers “cannot achieve their goals with the limited and shrinking reach of organic social media.  Within a year or two, I think all social media marketing will be paid/ads, with little effort dedicated to organic and free marketing.”

Augie says that while some brands do have a great success with social channels as they have great brand experiences that involve their audiences (examples are sports, entertainment and lifestyle brands like Apple and Samsung), most do not and should be wary of placing too much of their focus on social media for marketing.

“While marketing may not achieve the acquisition or scale they desire with organic social media, the medium still offers plenty of benefits for others in the organization.”

Angie points out that “while marketing may not achieve the acquisition or scale they desire with organic social media, the medium still offers plenty of benefits for others in the organization, such as customer care, product development and research.”

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You can read his well-argued post here but without simplifying the argument too much he says that social media marketing will always have drawbacks as users of channels such as Facebook and Twitter are turned off by a broadcasting approach that disrupts their stream. People don’t use social media to be sold to. You could, however, argue there are many reasons for social marketing failure.

One is that a disruptive approach to social media marketing that seeks to get your brand and your brand message in the way of users in their content will always be doomed to failure. I know I won’t be the only one to have dismissed or even blocked an irrelevant or annoying promoted Tweet in my timeline.

Being a social brand is not the easy option it at first appears.

Social media marketing that isn’t really social is one of the problems and will always be largely ineffective whether it’s paid for or not. Brandcasting on social media, you could argue, never really works.

Then there are issues with the platforms themselves. Are channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn really the right place to be concentrating all your marketing efforts? Do you need to take a broader view and mix your efforts across a wider range of media if you want to grow your business? It’s better perhaps to have a balance and nuance to your brand and marketing presence and to have a creative message and tone of voice you can use successfully over a range of platforms.

Do the existing social channels need to evolve even more or do we even need new ones that have more depth and even more flexibility? Are the channels that we’re using now still be the ones we’ll be using next year or in five years’ time?

Many people and many brands can look awkward and stilted trying to be social on what are essentially social interaction platforms, where adding value and providing comment and news is of more value that selling products or services.

Overcoming social media awkwardness needs work and self-reflection. Many of us know this from experience.

Is it maybe better to build your brand values before trying to engage on social media? And is it better to make sure you’re using better more useful tools to help you get your message across?

So will becoming a more social brand really help grow your business?

Being a social brand is not the easy option it at first appears. Like all successful branding and marketing campaigns, you still need great creative ideas, a lot of hard work and the right tools and insights to help you be more successful. Seeing all your brand elements in one place and managing your social channels more effectively would be a great way to start.

Eugene Burns

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