Social Media Doesn’t Fit Every Business Model

July 27, 2010

Social media is a lot like leggings; they naturally look great on some people, others need to work hard to pull off the trend, and yet another group should steer clear at all costs. A quick Google search for social media and business returns 257,000,000 results, most titles declare social media and business to be inseparable, as ubiquitous as having a telephone number. Still, being on the first page of Google doesn’t make something true. A little more searching and you’ll see that social media does not make sense for every business.

What follows is a mini-analysis of the social media decisions of two businesses using Mashable’s social media myths and Amy Mengel’s reasoning of why corporations are failing at social media.

The Small Business

Most marketing blogs will push social media as the perfect partner for small businesses because of the (seemingly) perfect price. However, as Gene Marks of the Philadelphia Business Journal explains, while there may be no cost to register for social networks, “many business owners…have found that it takes a huge time investment to keep their site active, up to date and relevant.” As explained in Mashable’s myth #2, social networking is not a Ron Popeil rotisserie, you can’t just “set it and forget it.”

The Journal’s article follows Heidi, a small jewelry store owner, who does not use social media to promote her business, and her business is doing just fine. Clearly, Heidi has dispelled Mashable’s first social media myth that “small businesses must be on social media”. She understands that social networking might be “a great place to nurture current and prospective customers…to build a community…a way to not only educate people about what you do but also community with people interested in your business,” but Heidi also understands that to achieve those results, your target market must be interested in social networking.

The real answer to myth #1? “Find out where your customers are and the best way to reach them.” Heidi did that by attending local jewelry fairs, advertising in her local paper, and keeping in touch with bigger customers via phone and e-mail.

The International Juggernaut

Small businesses may lack the customer base to support a social networking campaign, but number of customers is not the only parameter for deciding on a marketing strategy.  A business interested in utilizing Twitter should first consider whether the medium will assist in reaching the target market.

The Demographic Discrepancy

Tiffany & Co., the world renowned jeweler whose blue boxes send hearts fluttering, has a Twitter and Facebook account.

A Twitter demographic survey conducted in fall 2009 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project showed that Twitter and similar services are more popular among younger users, 33% are aged 18-29 and 22% are 30-49. 22% of users have a household income under $30,000.

The Tiffany consumer is affluent, a college graduate, and likely to live in the northeast United States.  68% of customers are married. Men usually make the purchases; however products are aimed at women, 25-48.

Let’s talk about…me!

Tiffany decided to ignore the possibly incompatible demographics of the world of social media, and their gamble could have paid off, if they didn’t fall into the trap of using social media to broadcast messages (myth #4). Tiffany is lucky in that, even though it may not have anything other than its own products to discuss (Mengel’s first cause of social media failure), they have an active, engaged following.

Updates to the Facebook and Twitter pages are rare and when they do appear the content is purely promotional. Posts include photos of celebrities and athletes wearing borrowed diamonds and announcements of new lines or additions to collections.

Is anyone home?

Mengel’s second, and what I believe to be an inexcusable reason for failure, is a company listening without acting. Customer feedback and conversations are reasons businesses start social networking campaigns! Sadly, Tiffany’s Facebook wall is full of comments, questions and even complaints about Tiffany products, all without a response from the company. “If a company creates an online presence that’s open and allows customer feedback, it creates the expectation that the company is going to do something with that feedback.” Instead, Tiffany gives off the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” vibe with its lack of interaction.

This post was created for my e-marketingclass. If you’re interested in other discussions on e-marketing, social media, or Antkeg remi, visit the class blog.

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