The voices questioning the impact of social media are legion, and we have shared some of those voices with you over the last eighteen months. Most of those voices that question the value of social media question not its presence or influence, but the way so many sectors of modern ‘connected’ society assume ‘social media presence’ equals profits or political change.
Ato such unfounded optimism helps keep us all in check. But such arguments, again, challenge an exponential formula linking ‘free’ social media with economic growth or social change.
MP Mueller takes a slightly different approach to offering challenges to the social-media bandwagon, suggesting that small businesses should think about social media as they would any other investment: does it pay dividends to the organization?
“I watch companies pant, like a dog chasing a truck, to have a big presence on social media, seemingly without pondering whether it’s a good investment for them.”
In her recent article in The New York Times, Ms. Mueller mused about the SM blitz offered by an off-site airport parking lot during a business trip. What’s to ‘Like’ about a parking lot? What sort of a YouTube presence could it possibly sustain? (I can answer that one: a series of videos demonstrating how to park without going over the lines or rolling into the adjacent space or keeping your car’s trunk too far out in the driving lane. Clearly such skills are no longer offered in driving schools.)
From there, she offered three myths about social media meant to spur organizations’ thoughts as they consider climbing on board. Her insights speak for themselves (and she has some entertaining thoughts on social media as practiced by funeral homes), but we want to emphasize one here: that social media constitutes ‘free advertising’.
Most small companies have limited budgets and should evaluate social media with the same rigor they would other marketing tools. Tending the social media garden takes lots of time. And, time is money, whether you do it yourself or pay someone to do it.
As evidence, she cites a story and infographic on SocialTimes.com showing that (for a corporate entity) an ongoing social-media presence can run well over $200k a year. Even if a couple of corners can be cut by a small business (and a few corners cut for a nonprofit), the fact remains that an organization should seriously map the cost and effectiveness of a social media presence, which itself will require resources.
The benefits can be huge for many businesses, but Ms. Mueller argues that some of those benefits are built into the kinds of businesses that then use social media. For example, an already hip and dynamic product, like PlayStation, sees a great Return On Investment when people connect to the company via its Facebook site. A firm of divorce lawyers? Not so much (If you need to ‘Follow’ a divorce lawyer’s tweets, you need to stop getting married.).
Ms Mueller is no skeptic or nay-sayer, but common sense can often be set aside for the next big thing. Ask Anthony Wiener.
Written by: Christopher Gardner, PhD