In yet another study on the effectiveness of social media marketing, Social Media Examiner just released its 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.
For its 5th annual survey, the online newsletter polled over 3,000 marketers to understand how they are using social media to grow and promote their businesses. What stood out for me is that vast majority — close to 90% — of those surveyed felt the most important benefit of social media marketing is increased exposure.
At the bottom of the list, as you’ll see in the graphic below, is improved sales, coming in at only 43%.
If, as the survey states, 86% of marketers indicate that social media is important to their business, then why isn’t social media helping them to sell more products and services?
It could be because 87% of marketers are still questioning how to measure their social media ROI. As the study states, “Clearly very few marketers have figured this one out.” Facebook comes in as the most popular social media network, yet only 37% of marketers think that their Facebook efforts are effective.
Can You Make Money?
So if you thought that social media would increase your sales, think again. Having spent years in charge of advertising for one of the largest companies in its industry, I can understand the dilemma for marketers.
When companies are using multiple communications channels to reach customers, how do you separate what’s working and what’s not? How do you know if it’s your advertising and not your sales promotion or public relations that is igniting sales?
Now, add social media to the mix and the picture is more confusing than ever. I envy direct marketers. Email your target audience with an offer and measure the returns.
But most marketers can’t track the value of their campaigns.
Many small business owners are bombarded with offers from companies to teach them how to make money using social media. Create a product or service, promote it on social media, put a shopping cart on your website, and off you go. The reality is a little harder to swallow. Sure, most people can make a little money online, but is it enough to make a living?
Burnish Your Brand
I personally think that the marketers got it right when they said most important benefit of social media is to increase their exposure. In other words, social media can burnish your brand. We know that the most hallowed brands such as IBM and Coca-Cola also happen to sell lots of products and services. People buy from brands they trust.
Maybe we just need to take it on faith that social media works, but indirectly, in selling products and services because the more people know you and like you, the more likely they are to buy from you.
This isn’t highly original thinking. But it’s good to remind ourselves once in a while that you can’t expect an immediate return on your investment in social media, or any other marketing channel, for that matter.
It takes time to build brands. Social media has the power to do that.
A Summary of the Findings
Michael Steltzner, the founder of Social Media Examiner, discusses the key findings in this video. For a copy of the study, visit Social Media Examiner.