For a few years now, a notion has been building momentum in the e-commerce world (and brick and mortar) that you must have a social media presence with a carefully thought-out strategy. It is a gigantic bandwagon, and if you aren’t on it you feel like a prehistoric outsider, banished from the clan. Is it really the right strategy for everyone?
I developed a company blog for our site. It doesn’t get that much traffic. I advertised on Facebook in the early days only to see terrible results. I setup a company Facebook page, a Twitter feed and a Pinterest account. With some regular postings, I slowly grew the audience. But the big question was loomed: Did any of that amount to anything? One day I checked, and all of it combined is less than a fraction of 1 percent of sales.
I thought that I was doing something wrong. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my company is a bit of a supermarket (albeit a niche one), and most people don’t “like” or “follow” their supermarket. Even if they do, it doesn’t really affect their purchasing decisions.
So, whom does all of this social media buzz work for? It works for “cool” brands or products that you’d want to tell your friends about. It works if you need to help spread the word about a significant sale— where the passing on of information adds value. It might even work for me, if my strategy changed and I dedicated a large proportion of resources towards it … maybe.
I had dinner recently with a good friend and fellow Wharton graduate, who works with the top e-commerce companies in helping them to better understand their customers and then to market to the different segments. I posed my social media frustrations, and he asked whether I measured the success of a sale based only on the last method through which someone came to my site. Unfortunately, this is one of the only easy metrics to see: What did someone click on to get to me? He proposed that while people may not necessarily be clicking over to my site and making a purchase from a social media hyperlink, it may be affecting their purchase decision overall.
We concluded that given the size and nature of my particular business, it doesn’t really make sense to try and do all of the work that would be required to research the details of that question, nor would it make sense to dedicate a large amount of resources to trying to make it a success. There are simply too many more lucrative opportunities to move my business ahead by.
I see a lot of people blindly thinking they need to have a social media strategy, but before jumping into it, I think business owners need to figure out if it is really something that is worthwhile for their particular business—and to what degree they should dedicate resources to social media..