Now that we're more 15 years into the phenomenon of social media (Facebook launched in 2004), it's a fact that very few businesses are doing well with it. Why? Because social media is about authenticity and people who are extroverts. That's right: at its core, it's built for people, not companies. It explains why celebrities and a handful of people willing to live their lives on camera, or pretend they are, build up millions of followers. As a result, they have an outsized presence. But in the end, does it amount to much? The answer is probably not.
We're not opposed to social media, so please hold the negative replies. But don't spend any significant part of your digital marketing budget Facebooking, Tweeting, or Instagramming because of peer pressure – or because you've heard other business owners bragging. Frankly, if any small or medium-sized business reports phenomenal social media results, we'd be skeptical based on a lot of experience. The reality is that a little bit of this and a bit of that and hopping from this year's hype to the next year's fad will eat up budget dollars that are better spent on search engine optimization (SEO).
Social media can be a small part of SEO programs, but it doesn't drive results like excellent website content, an active blog, and offsite backlinking. Many of the world's followers want to jump on the social media bandwagon with little or no evaluation. They ultimately waste dollars and time. Business leaders and owners who are wisely skeptical will evaluate it and only invest small amounts until they see it accomplishing their sales goals.
If you're convinced that you should deploy digital marketing resources and budget to social media, don't outsource the content (words and pictures). It needs to be 100% authentic and from inside your company to be effective. Digital marketing agencies can be good advisors for guiding your in-house staff in developing buzz-worthy content. But as outsiders, they can't fake it for you on social media with sustained effectiveness. What agencies write on their own will be benign posts that gain little traction and are ignored. It's no way to improve your sales.
Developing and maintaining social media is continuous work. But even miraculous social media channels will only give you results in proportion to the actual work involved (it's not easy nor cheap). It's why you need to approach social networking with a results-oriented mindset. Don't jump in with a large budget at first. You need to be disciplined and measure ROI to make sure it's working one month in, six months in, and after a year.
Social media is like other digital marketing channels. It's serious work requiring sustained effort. Ignore peer pressure and do it only if you have the commitment (and resources), and keep an eagle-eye on the results to be sure it's paying off.