Very low barriers to entry and a limited job market has created a bevy of social media consultants in today's marketplace. In a lot of ways, that's been a good thing as it has created an increased awareness among businesses regarding online marketing and is helping to give it a proper place at the table. On the flip side, however, is the over-hyped perception that social media is the holy grail of marketing. And therein lies the social media mistake.
This is in no way an original thought as it's been reinforced across the blogosphere, but it's worth reinforcing here as well. Social media is a strategy - a tool in the toolbox - that needs to dovetail with a comprehensive online effort. In certain instances, social media is simply not a fit for a company despite their intense desire for it to be so. I would go so far as to say social media has only been truly effective for a handful of our clients (I know, our bad). Having their feet in the social media pool has not necessarily hurt any of them, but I can't say that many are getting their doors kicked in with new business thanks to their Facebook fan page or branded YouTube channel. I also understand full well that a social strategy takes time before it starts to yield results.
The social media mistake can be summarized as this: making the assumption that social media is an absolute necessity for your business and jumping in with no strategy or measurements in place. To avoid the mistake, businesses (and their consultants) need to first ask three critical questions:
1. Who are my key customers?
2. How do my customers behave online? (think social technographics)
3. How much of my online marketing focus needs to be dedicated to social media?
Once those are answered - and assuming they point toward social being a route to pursue - then let's light the social media candle, lay down some metrics, and go all in. However, if in looking at your key customer you see better marketing opportunities outside of the social space, don't feel like a technophobe. There are likely other pieces of the online marketing pie that can have a solid impact in growing your business. And that's really the whole point, right?