There was a very interesting chat on #blogchat tonight, and as it happened, it mirrored a conversation Suzanne (the owner of this fine site) and I have been having over the last few weeks. The actual #blogchat topic was how to determine how personal or professional your blog should be. There was a lot of debate about how personal is too personal. There was a lot of commentary about how you need to make your customers feel well-loved and at home. All quite true. But, to quote Tom Cruise, show me the money in those scenarios.
I think there are some myths floating around in the online universe that need to be examined a bit more fully. I think as more and more people are entering the fray, some of these myths are becoming accepted truths, and that could be very detrimental to many businesses and brands. Here are five myths on my mind right now.
1. Transparency means be as personal as possible: When I was studying Social Media before I myself entered the fray, transparency meant that if you were on Twitter and your ultimate goal was to sell furniture, you needed to say somewhere in your profile, “Hey, I’m here to sell furniture.” You couldn’t masquerade as just some dude interested in mahogany and then swoop in for the hard sell. Now, it seems like transparency has become synonymous with being transparent about your personal life. If you have an illness, a death in the family, or a really sensational bathroom experience, you need to tell your customers, right?
How does that grow your business? In fact, if you blog perpetually about serious health problems you’re having or how unstable your life is, you actually might turn away customers. That’s definitely not going to help your business. Transparency means people know what you’re selling and how you’re selling it. It doesn’t mean posting your colonoscopy results.
2. Being as nice as possible will help your business grow: I’m pretty “kumbaya” as marketers go, but here’s a sad fact of life. If you are nice to millions of people (online or offline), your main reward is that warm and squishy feeling you get. If you are nice to your customers, or if you are nice to people who might one day become customers, that is how you build your business using Social Media. Being nice in general won’t do your business much good if you are being nice to sheep herders and your business is plumbing. Well, most likely anyway.
3. If my blog is warm and friendly, my business will grow: A lot of people in the blogosphere talk about nice things like your bloggy voice, your bloggy aura, your bloggy state of mind, and how you make your bloggy readers feel. And these things are, in fact, very important for the success of your blog. However, a successful blog does not mean that your business will grow. Again, it comes back to who you are inviting into your very zen website confines. If your traffic is huge but no one is involved, interested in, or aware of your business niche, you will end up with…good blog traffic. Nothing to sneeze at, but this is not how you will end up growing your business.
4. The time for “traditional” marketing is over: A lot of people who are joining the world of Social Media these days seem to think that Twitter, Facebook, and a blog are all you need to succeed in business these days. Oh, and maybe LinkedIn and YouTube too. And some mobile. Cuz mobile is new and flashy and very very shiny. For some businesses, this may be true (although I can’t think of one right off the bat). The ultimate question to answer is “Where are my customers and where is my competition?” Chances are good that your customers are still going to industry trade shows, reading trade magazines, and visiting websites to learn about new products. Chances are good that your customers still want some idea of your full line of products and offerings. Are you going to miss hitting your customers where they are because “traditional is dead?” Social Media is awesome, but it can only become more powerful when you integrate it with other marketing channels.
5. ROI is: a) Meaningless b) how many clicks you get on a link c) how many followers/fans/subscribers you get: Social Media practitioners sometimes take words from those cursed marketers (kind of funny, actually) but then, like Bill Murray in Tokyo, the words get lost in translation.
ROI stands for Return on Investment. That means that if I want to calculate the ROI of a new marketing tactic, I need to calculate my investment in that effort (which also includes time spent by employees, by the way), then, and here’s the step that a lot of people miss at their peril, I need to look at how many sales that specific tactic generates. I then need to see if what I got is more than what I put in. That’s the ROI.
In order to grow your business while continuing to use Social Media platforms, you need to find a way to measure your investment. That’s the real sticky wicket that makes Social Media ROI hard to measure. It’s not measuring the success you have. How do you calculate how much of the wages you pay went towards Twitter usage? If your employee is on Twitter all day while also doing other stuff, how much are you investing in your Twitter campaign? It’s not like an ad where you have hard costs for the ad development and the media space.
If you want to try to see what your return is, you need to dig deeper than how many subscribers, followers, or fans you have. Those people are not necessarily buying from you, which is where the return comes from. If you are not analyzing where your sales come from, you will be stuck in the analytics mud, no matter whether you are using Social Media, QR codes, or *gasp* print. The concept is the same across the board.
Conquer these myths, watch your business grow
It is very important to expose these myths for what they are, which, by the way, would be…myths. Legends. The stuff of…well, not really fairy tales, but something like it. If you want to grow your business, and if you want Social Media to be a part of the growth equation, you need to conquer these myths head on and start facing facts – business is about sales. Sales is about people buying stuff from you. It’s just as simple as that.