lousy Facebook post
Maybe NO social media presence is better than a lousy one?

One of the biggest mistakes that small businesses make is thinking that doing something, anything, on social media is better than doing nothing at all. But, in the end, that’s typically not the case. In fact, this path really only leads to a waste of time and money, and not to successful social media presence.

Let me tell you what I mean.

Over the course of about a year I advised an organization that decided to begin using Facebook as a marketing mechanism. They asked me first to meet with them and to explain social media marketing in general– how it differed from traditional marketing and what its benefits were. Then they asked me back to discuss how they could specifically use it for their own unique marketing goals, so I laid out a set of steps for them to follow, starting with a strategy and ending with measuring the ROI from their effort.

And this advice differed little when compared to any of the advice I offer in these columns, or to anyone else for that matter. I explained that marketing via social media took a different approach; that it could not be conducted with the same goals, agenda or expectations as what they were used to with respect to traditional marketing.

And, subsequently, with my assurance that it was a viable mechanism for marketing, the organization decided to take the plunge and start a Facebook page to use as a tool for gaining exposure.

But then, for some inexplicable reason, they forgot every piece of advice I gave them and went instead in the opposite direction. They hired a traditional marketing firm with little experience or expertise in social media and began posting without any central theme or evident rationale.

And so rather than portraying a thought out strategy backing a well-designed campaign, their attempt is awkward at worst and lukewarm at best.

And their results reflect their half-hearted attempt. I expect they will get few new page likes and even fewer new customers in the end.

So, then what’s the point? They are spending good money on a campaign that will give them little to show at the end of the year. If management (rightfully) asks what the return on their investment is there will be nothing worth mentioning, certainly nothing that will be valuable in the long run.

The organization’s leaders went into it thinking, “well, doing something must be better than doing nothing.” But unfortunately, now they’re spending money on a worthless effort with no direction or goals. They were better off in the position they were previously in.

So what would my advice be based on this episode? Merely this: if you are not going to dedicate yourself, your resources or your organization to a great social media marketing campaign, then don’t bother starting one in the first place.

Yes, it takes time to do it right. One thing I typically recommend is that before you even begin to post you sit down and write out your goals and then create a corresponding strategy – who will post, where will content (picture, videos, etc.) come from, what type of content will it be?

Yes, it takes understanding a new way to market. Another recommendation I give is to study the differences between social media and traditional marketing. They are worlds apart and the approach to one does not translate to the other.

Yes, it takes money. It won’t be cheap to hire someone to do this for you, whether it’s someone internal or a third-party organization, but the results reaped from the expertise of someone who knows what they’re doing will be worthwhile.

And finally, yes it takes patience. The results gleaned from a good social media marketing campaign do not happen overnight. Instead you will begin to see a trend six months or even a year later. When I began an aggressive social media marketing strategy for New Mexico Tech the university had three straight years of declining enrollment. It wasn’t until two years after we began our initiative did the school see record enrollment for three straight years.

Sure, it takes time, understanding, money and patience to carry out a strong and effective social media campaign. But I assure you there are few strategies that will give you the results you’ll see in the end if you do it right. And if you don’t want to dedicate these things to your social media effort, then trust me, you’ll be better off just doing nothing!