Is Social Media Marketing all hype?

The conventional wisdom these days is that social media is IT when it comes to marketing. I’ve seen all manner of blogs and articles about why business owners should be blogging and tweeting and facebooking as THE way to market their businesses. And we agree, social media can be awesome for businesses.  BUT… And what you are about to read is an act of marketing heresy…. The problem with this blanket generalization to the social marketing phenomenon is that it fails to account for the fact that just because you tweet (or post or whatever), it doesn’t mean anyone’s listening.

Look, apologies to the twitteratti, but according to this site, the average twitter user has 235 followers – yet when the median is calculated, there were only 31 followers. According to this site, the average is 126. Either way you slice it – that’s not a lot of people listening to your marketing message. Now of course, these numbers include a mix of businesses, people and fake accounts. But still, your odds of having a lot of followers is pretty small.

Another amazing statistic - 0.05% of the twitter population attracts almost 50% of attention. This one is not surprising at all. Celebrities, thought leaders and major brands tend to have a lot of followers – the rest of the 99.95% of twitter users don’t.

And here’s my favorite – 71% of tweets attract no attention. NONE. And what’s more amazing about that number – is that it’s an average, not a median. Meaning that tweets by average twitter users (the 99.95% of twitter users with few followers) are weighted the same as tweets by popular twitter users (the 0.05% with active followers). Which means that @ladygaga or @georgetakei getting a retweet is probably statistically much higher than this number indicates; and, more ominously, the likelihood of your tweets being retweeted is just that much lower. Why does this matter? Well, its about the value of your followers. Every marketer knows that an inactive or unresponsive lead is a dead lead. You log it and move on. Yet based on these stats, it means that the majority of people you're marketing to on twitter (your followers) are a waste of time...

Does this mean you should give up on Social Media altogether? No. There is plenty of data to indicate that an effective social campaign can boost sales and site traffic. It can even help you qualify better leads. But you must remember that social media marketing is an investment of time and resources because its success is entirely dependent upon building relationships with the brand's fans and followers. Hopefully a lot of them. And while it may be that social media is exactly what your business needs right now. It may be that it isn’t.  Or, more to the point, that your business doesn't have the resources available to invest in order to make the ROI work. And that's the point. You have to weigh the costs of the effort – including the collateral damage from the torture of making yourself tweet – with the benefits of the number of people you’re reaching. Once you've done that you can make an informed decision. Because you never know, someday you might be part of that 0.05%. Or not.

Oh, and don't forget to follow me on twitter! ;-)