Why Social Media Fails (sharing our trade secrets)

Over the years, we've developed social media strategies for many different types of businesses and helped our clients train their staff on these techniques.  We have a learned a few things about why social media fails. In that time, we noticed a number of common mistakes that businesses tend to make when it comes to social media marketing, and we found ourselves telling clients the same things over and over again.  Using these experiences, we've created an e-book called The Three Stages of Social Media.  It's a free download, and I encourage you to get it.  This book will help you begin to see social media in a new light.  By just applying the lessons in this short e-book, you will make social media work at its optimum level for your business.  Below is a taste of the insight contained in the book, namely social media marketing's primary purposes as well as the main areas where it can fail.

The Three Main Purposes of Social Media Marketing

There are three principal purposes for using social media in a business operation:

1. Social proof.

People look to see the size of your fan base and engagement as a measure of being "real.”  This essentially boils down to engagement on your social channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), as well as how you are reviewed on third-party services (Amazon, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.).

Your social channels provide social proof by giving people a candid look at your company and how others respond to you.  Overlooking this is one of the most common reasons businesses fail at social media--they don't pay attention to the channels that provide social proof.  If you are taking advantage of multiple social channels, each must be given equal attention.  For example, your business may look great on your Facebook page but maybe you haven't kept up-to-date on your Twitter profile. This can have a very adverse effect on your business.

By using third-party review sites, potential customers do their due diligence about your company.  They are looking for further social proof.  They want to see that you're solid, that you're established.  They want to know what other people think about you.  You can have a great presence on your social channels, but if you have mixed reviews on Yelp, you're going to lose customers before you even have a chance to get in contact with them.

2. Building a regular audience.

Building an audience also builds brand awareness. If you don't have an audience, nobody's listening. If you don't have an audience, you don't have any brand awareness. You've got to create brand awareness and establish your unique value proposition. This is your company's face to the world.  To build a consistent audience, you need to reach them through a channel, somewhere they expect to receive regular communication.  You can think of this like a TV or radio station that people tune into.  They're looking to be entertained and educated and are willing to be converted to buyers.  This can be a channel like Facebook, or something unique to your business such as a blog.

I can't stress how critical this step is. If you get impatient and start spending money trying to sell, I guarantee you'll be disappointed in both the results and the cost.

3. Promoting your content.

Your website is the cornerstone of your online presence, and the purpose of social media marketing is to promote the content that is on your website.  When it comes to social media users, this is where your product will be sold.  Everything you do in social media should, directly or indirectly, be promoting what is available for purchase on your website, and directing users on how to get there.

The Three Main Areas Where Social Media Fails

1. Social media is not connected to an overall marketing strategy.

When utilizing social media marketing, businesses tend to think regarding specific tactics and forget about overall strategy.  The number one thing that people fail to do is to set a strategy tying their social media to an overall marketing strategy.  At P5, we know these marketing elements are all linked together and we take a broader, more inclusive view.  We put all the pieces together, first setting the overarching strategy, and then drilling down into tactics.  There are three stages of social media and each of these stages has its strategy—this is what we talk about in our e-book.  Download your free copy at the bottom of this page. Your tactics must adjust for each stage.  But, in order for your social media to grow, you must have an overarching growth strategy as well.

Most businesses don't approach the use of social media in an organized way.  More times than not, it's approached like throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.  An overall strategy is important from the beginning of a social media marketing campaign, and failing to connect everything to a singular strategy can have detrimental effects.  Many factors need to be taken into account, such as targeting the right audience, what channels to use and how to coordinate them, and how best to create quality content and promote it thoughtfully.  There's rarely team buy-in or tying into the marketing plan. 

But rushing into tactics is so seductive that its like “ready, fire” with no aim because strategy IS the aim. And a tactic that might work at one stage of social media doesn't necessarily work as well at another stage.  For example, the core of your social media is your blog. It’s an important tactic to be used correctly.

Social media serves many purposes, but if it's not driving traffic to your website, getting you new leads and eventually sales, you haven't gone about it in a way that you can succeed with your social media. Chances are you’re focused on tactics, and you are doing things in a disconnected manner.

2. Social media does not link to SEO, content selection, and blogs.

So, let's talk about how these components connect.  People don't understand how social media links to SEO (search engine optimization), and so often social media marketing fails because businesses do not recognize the importance of this connection.  At a given business, the teams responsible for SEO and social media marketing have very different tasks, and therefore they can often fail to connect.  But these teams are always after the same goal, and it is important to stay in regular communication and have the same vision in mind.

The importance of promoting content can’t be overstated. The quality and type of content are of major importance because you can actually harm your SEO by putting content on your website that nobody reads. That’s another reason you must promote on social media and in other ways and other channels. If you have pages on your website that no one's visiting and no one's reading, this will have a negative effect on your SEO—sometimes very dramatically.

The bottom line is there's a synergy that must be created.  It's tying together your conventional marketing, social media marketing, SEO, and content that makes you successful. This is where your competitors' social media fails.

3. Social media is not used optimally for business.

Social media for business requires the kind of thought that you would put into any marketing plan.  Businesses using social media rarely devote the time and resources necessary to build their channels and content to drive business.  Driving business through the three stages of social media is necessary to produce revenue.

One problem is consistency.  A social media team should post consistently to ensure their social media presence and audience grow. There must be a compelling reason for people to join your social media channels.  When you're promoting the content of your blog, you should have social posts at regular intervals as well, something users can anticipate. Make sure that there's consistent content for people to engage with and that it's relevant, interesting, and fun.

Another big reason that businesses social media fails is that they post too much about sales efforts and not enough on content.  A client wanted to know why people were leaving his Facebook page in droves.  I said, "Everything you post is a promotion for you and what you want them to do.  You're not being social.  You're being sales-y."  There is a reason it's called social media, not sales media.  He was wasting the audience he worked so hard to build. 

We turned that ship around by limiting sales to 20% with the remaining 80% being fun content that related to his industry.  This simple refocusing on content turned things around rather quickly.

Final thoughts for you to succeed

Social media is indirect.  It takes time, it takes a budget, and it takes consistency.  It takes a strategy, clear goals and the right tactics to work. Set up your metrics so you know what is working.

Over time, the payoff can be substantial if one is patient and resists the urge to focus on sales efforts, and instead focuses on interesting, engaging content.  If your social media fails, keep trying.  Now you know how to make it work for you.

Posted in: Social Media

Irene Donnell

Irene Donnell

Irene Donnell is the social media marketing specialist at P5 Marketing. She is the author of three eBooks on social media success and a workbook that allows companies you apply her methodology. Her talk “Social Media Sorcery – How Social Media and SEO Together Are Magic” was one of the best-attended talks at WordCamp LA in 2017 and WordCamp Riverside 2017.