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S.M.M information mill now springing up everywhere these days and they are telling anybody that will listen regarding how incredibly important social media like Facebook twitter and YouTube will be to your business but, for the average small to medium sized business, does marketing to social support systems really live up to all of the hype? Is spending thousands on hiring a SMM company worthy of it? And has anyone really done their research about this before they hired a person to set up there Facebook business page? Some SMM information mill setting up things like Facebook business pages (which are free) for $600 to $1,000 or even more and telling their potential customers that they don't need an online site because Facebook could be the biggest social network on earth and everybody has a Facebook account. Now although it may be true that Facebook may be the largest social network in the world and yes, Facebook's members are potential consumers, the real question is are they actually buying? Social media marketing companies are all too very happy to point out the positives of social media marketing like how many people use Facebook or the number of tweets were mailed last year and how many people watch YouTube videos etc. but are you getting the full picture? I once sat next to a SMM "expert" at the business seminar who had been spruiking to anyone who came within earshot concerning the amazing benefits of setting up a Facebook business page for business (with him needless to say) and selling on Facebook. So, intrigued with the aforementioned "experts" advice I looked him up on Facebook only to find he'd only 11 Facebook friends (a bad start). So being the research nut that we're, I decided to take a good look into SMM in regard to selling to see if it actually worked, who achieved it work for and if it did why did Social media work for them? And should business rely so heavily on social networking sites for sales?
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Being a web developer I was constantly (now increasingly) confronted with several social networking challenges when prospective clients would say that creating a website sounds good nevertheless they had a Facebook business page and had been told by various sources (the ever present yet anonymous "they") that social networks were the thing to do, but after discussing their requirements it became very clear that those potential clients didn't actually know why they needed internet sites or SMM to generate internet sales, They just wanted it. For medium and small sized business I always recommended building a quality website over any kind of social network, why? Well it is relatively simple really because social media marketing is Social Media, and social networking sites are Social Networks they may not be business media and business networks (that would be more like LinkedIn). I know that sounds simple however it is true and the statistics back it up. The fact is that social media marketing ceases to tell you that Facebook is often a social network not a search engine and despite the number of Facebook users and Google users being round the same, people don't use Facebook in the same way that they use a google search like Google (which has around half the various search engines market), Yahoo and Bing to search for business or products. They use it to keep touching family and friends or for news and entertainment. In the recent study created by the IBM Institute for Business Value around 55% coming from all social media users stated that they do not engage with brands over social media marketing at all and only around 23% actually purposefully use social websites to interact with brands. Now most of them. people who do use social media marketing and who do talk with brands whether purposefully or otherwise not, the majority (66%) say they should feel a company is communicating honestly before they are going to interact.
So how do you use social internet marketing? And is it even worth doing?
Well for starters I would say that creating a well optimized web site is still going to enable you to get far more business that social media in most cases especially if you certainly are a small to medium sized local business because far more people are going to type "hairdresser Port Macquarie" into a internet search engine like Google, Yahoo and Bing compared to they ever will on any Social networking Site and if you do not have a website you're missing all of that potential business. However despite all the (not so good) statistics I still still find it still a good idea for business to use social media just not just as that a lot of SMM professionals are today, Why? Since it is clearly not working in the manner they claim it does. Basically SMM Companies and Business overall looked at social networks like Facebook like a fresh market ripe for your picking and when Facebook started getting users measured with the millions PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel invested US$500,000 for 7% with the company (in June 2004) and since them a few growth capital firms have made investments into Facebook and in October 2007, Microsoft announced that it had purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million. However since Facebook's humble beginnings up until now (2012) both SMM Companies and Business have failed to truly capitalise around the huge number of Facebook users online. The truth is numbers does not equal buyers. Can it be in a Social Media Marketing company's interest to talk social networks up? Absolutely. Can it be in a Social Network like Facebook's desires for people to believe that companies sell en masse by marketing and advertising with them? Of course it can be. In early 2012, Facebook disclosed what has profits had jumped 65% to $1 billion in the previous year as its revenue mainly from advertising had jumped almost 90% to $3.71 billion so clearly the concept of SMM is working out for them but it is working out to suit your needs? Well... statistically no, however that does not necessarily mean that it never will.
I believe the major among social networks and search engines is intent. People who use Google are deliberately trying to find something so if they do a search for hairdressers that is what they are looking for at that particular time. With similar to Facebook the primary intent is usually to connect with friends and family. In October 2008, Mark Zuckerberg himself said "I don't think social networks can be monetized just as that search (Search engines like yahoo) did... In 3 years from now we have to determine what the optimum model is. But that's not our primary focus today". Most significant problems business face with internet sites and SMM is perception. Based on the IBM Institute for Business Value study there were "significant gaps between what businesses think consumers care about and what consumers say they really want from their social media interactions with companies." For example in today's society folks are not just going to hand you over there recommendations, Facebook likes, comments or details without getting something back correctly, so the old adage "what's inside it for me?" is necessary. So the primary reason most of the people give for reaching brands or business on social networking is to receive discounts, the brands and business themselves think the reason people interact with them on social websites is to learn about new items. For brands and business receiving discounts only ranks 12th on the list of reasons why people communicate with them. Most businesses believe social media will increase advocacy, however only 38 % of consumers agree.
Companies must discover more innovative solutions to connect with social media if they want to see some sort of be a consequence of it. There were good quality initiatives shown within the IBM study of companies that had gotten some kind of a handle on the way to use social media for their advantage, keeping in mind that when asked what they do when they interact with businesses or brands via social media, consumers list "getting discounts or coupons" and "purchasing products and services" because top two activities, respectively a U.S soft ice cream company called Cold Stone Creamery offered discounts on the products on their Facebook page. Alternatively there is a great program launched by Best Buys in the U.S called Twelpforce where employees can respond to customer's questions via Twitter. With Cold Stone Creamery and Twelpforce the main benefit is clearly from the favour of the potential client & the great trick to social media marketing is to sell without selling (or looking like your selling) unfortunately most social media is focused the wrong way.
Constructing a tangible buyer to consumer relationship via social websites is not easy and probably essentially the most benefit to business' using social media to boost their websites Google rankings. But business' should realise that you can't just setup a Facebook business page and hope for the best. SMM requires effort and customers need to see value in what you have to offer via your social networking efforts give them something worth their social interaction and some time and then you may get better results.