OK, a bit of background for this post. It might seem odd that we, a predominantly digital business, are blogging about why you don’t need to worry too much about social media for your business – and I’ll admit, it’s an intentionally provocative title. (We’ve also shamelessly stolen the concept of the blog post from the loveliest of lovely social media people, Ian Anderson Gray…)

It should also be read in conjunction with its complementary blog post, “The Top 5 Reasons you NEED Social Media Marketing for your Business”.

But it has a serious point; a couple of weeks ago, I noticed on Twitter that a local social media ‘expert’ was proudly advising their clients that they only need social media to market their businesses.

Bad Social Media Advice
This is the appropriate face to pull whenever someone tells you that social media is all you need… Ok, ok, I’ll be honest. We just wanted an excuse to post this photo.

Let me reiterate that point, because it truly is remarkable – they tell their (paying) customers to do no marketing, except on social media.

Nothing. No press releases. No market segmentation, followed by targeted PPC campaigns. No exhibitions, no promotional events, no landing pages, no sales funnels – not even a highly targeted direct mail campaign.

Now, obviously this is tremendously bad advice (and we hope the ‘expert’ in question has a sizeable professional indemnity policy in place), but it did get me thinking. The optimal marketing mix is always going to be different for every business – but generally it includes a closely monitored blend of both online and offline activity. After all, as we all know – the whole point of marketing is (say it with me):

to get the right message, in front of the right person, at the right time.

So, you need to get your message right. You need to get your targeting right. And you need to get your timing right. Sometimes, social media is perfect for this. Sometimes, however – and in the majority of cases – social media isn’t the best gamble for this. Success is often a result of chance rather than skill. Be honest – how much of your marketing budget (which you definitely have, don’t you?) are you prepared to gamble away?

So, this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but we always make the following points to our clients. If you ever find yourself being advised that social media is all you need, feel free to roll your eyes in despair while mentioning some of the following:

1. You only get to reach other social media users

Well, this one’s pretty obvious I suppose. Now, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t a LOT of social media users. There are. As of January 2015, there were 2.078 BILLION social media users worldwide.

Ask yourself – are they YOUR customers? How do you know? Is this based on data and evidence, or a gut feeling? Or – even worse – because a social media ‘expert’ has told you they are?

Without wanting to state the obvious – if you advertise yourself on Twitter, you are only advertising to other Twitter users. Are they your target market? If so, great! Let’s chat about how to segment, drill down, and run some high-intensity focused marketing campaigns! If not, then why are you wasting your time on there – or paying someone else to waste theirs?

Chances are, at least some of your customers are on social media. But you don’t want to just find them by accident, do you? That would be gambling away your marketing budget – and that’s not exactly desirable.

2. Social Media is transient

Social media site developers are smart little cookies. They know what makes us tick, and how to push our levers to keep us coming back time and time again.

Social Media Attention Span
This guy has an amazing attention span. Look how interested he is in the ball. Yeah, people on social media aren’t like this. They get bored easily.

One of those levers is our attention span – it seems that our attention span is in an ever decreasing spiral. I remember being told as a young marketer that the longest we could expect anyone to concentrate on a task is about 20 minutes. Not anymore – in this digital age, if we haven’t delivered our message effectively within 6 seconds, we might as well be nailing jelly to a tree.

6 seconds. 6 SECONDS. Terrifying.

Social media platforms do their best to cater to this by promoting a fast message churn – finding ways to get us to generate new content all the time, so that whenever you log in, there’s a whole new set of messages, statuses, and tweets to make sure we never get bored.

And the chances of your marketing messages being delivered to the right person at the right time? Pretty slim. Unless, of course, you’re smart enough to make the platforms work to your advantage. Want a hand with this? Just ask! 🙂

3. Social Media is noisy

Of course, this constant churn means that social media can be noisy. REALLY noisy. Millions of people shouting at the same time, all trying to be heard. It’s important to understand if you have messages effective enough to cut through the noise, and reach the people you really want to reach.

Social Media is Noisy
Check out this stock photo of a woman shouting into a megaphone. Why is she shouting? She has a megaphone. Madness.

Now, this isn’t impossible, but it certainly isn’t easy. You need to truly understand your customers, their behaviours, preferences, and online activity. You need to have a pre-prepared landing or squeeze page ready for the leads you generate, with clear calls to action. You need to optimise every step of the sales funnel to make sure that you are converting those precious, hard-won leads into income.

And unless you are crafting your messages with all of this in mind, well, you might just be adding to the noise.

4. Social Media can take up all your time

One of the most common mistakes we see on social media is the old “post and hope” approach. Put some tweets out there, and just hope the right person finds it, at precisely the moment they are ready to make a purchasing decision. It’s essentially the online version of flyposters.

As I said above – sometimes this works; but most of the time, it doesn’t.

So, you get to thinking – “well, perhaps we’re just not posting enough”. The more you post, the more likely it is that a message will hit home, yes? So you post more often. Before you know it, you’re having lengthy conversations about how One Direction have definitely split up, and it’s not just a temporary hiatus. Then you look at your watch, and it’s lunchtime. But that’s fine, because you’ve been marketing your business, haven’t you? That still counts as work, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it??

Well, no. Not really.

5. Relying on Social Media can mean you miss other (more appropriate) types of marketing

And this is the real killer – if you believe the hype that only social media matters, then you will miss out on a wealth of other – more appropriate, more effective, and more lucrative – marketing opportunities.

I don’t just mean offline marketing either. This includes all the incredible ways you can promote yourself online too – outside of social media.

Ways that start with a true understanding of your customers (want a hand with this? We can help!), and get your business in front of them at the most effective time. There is a world of marketing opportunities out there – don’t miss out while you’re having a conversation about One Direction.

How can Impact help with our Marketing?

If you’ve read our other post on this topic, you’ll know that there are really good reasons to take advantage of social media marketing – and there are also really good reasons to be smart about how you approach it. Ignore the hype, and set about creating a truly solid and effective marketing plan – one that segments your customers, brings in data to give you proper insight, and constantly seeks to improve your messages to deliver a true Return on Investment. One that understands your competitors, your market, and the drivers behind consumer behaviour.

Sounds daunting? It doesn’t have to be. We will work with you to create your marketing strategy – avoiding all the pitfalls mentioned above, and give you the tools so you can grow your own business.

If you’re not ready to create a full-blown marketing plan, we also run ad hoc marketing advice sessions – available by the hour – for just £79 (plus VAT) – perfect for getting started, getting past a mental block, or fine-tuning your campaigns.

If you want to get more customers to find you online, then get ahead of the competition with our inbound SEO marketing.

And, of course, you could take advantage of our Social Media Training, or even let us manage your social media for you.

See? It’s not so bad after all. Just remember – if someone ever tells you that social media is all you need, run away. And run fast.


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David has worked with countless UK charities, businesses, and schools - with a brilliant track record of helping them with their biggest challenges. David is the founder of the Impact group - including Impact Charity Advisors, Impact Business Advisors, and Impact Education Support.