October 2, 2009

Delete Your Facebook Fanpage—Now

I’m tired of people who pitch social media marketing as a way to make sales. Either they aren’t measuring the results they get for clients, or they don’t care. Every good case study is either about how someone used a famous friend’s endorsement to make new sales, or how they made a tiny number of low-profit transactions they probably would have made anyway.

I hate pitching social media marketing—but I still do it, because it does serve a purpose. But the most important part of the pitch is the warning: if you follow the convention wisdom, your social media presence is almost certainly costing you sales.

Think about two groups of people: the next thousand to become Facebook fans of Ralph Lauren, and the next thousand to search Google for [polo shirts]. They’re both telling you something with their online behavior.

The searchers are telling you that they want polo shirts. When they shut down their computer and go outside, they want to be seen in those shirts, and they want to be seen as the kind of person who would wear those shirts. The first group also wants to be seen as the sort who would swear polo shirts—by people who see their profile online, not people who see them in person. Both groups want the same thing. Only one of them pays to get it.

Facebook fan pages are the brand addict’s Methadone clinic. Tickling all the same neurons in roughly the same ways, without making the user expensively chase the dragon.

Don’t give your fans an easy way out. If they’re going to show that they like your product, it better be because they’re wearing it, eating it, smoking it—or anything, as long as they’re buying it.

The Purpose of Social Media: Research, not Sales

I spend an hour or two a day on Twitter, Facebook, and social bookmarking sites. I don’t do it because I can sell anything through them. I guess I’m spoiled by SEO—I’m used to appealing to people who show up at a site because they searched for exactly what the site is about.

Right now, social media marketing is a lot closer to traditional advertising: you might be able to guess at what kind of people you’re talking to, or what they’re generally interested in. But unless you’r advertising in a trade magazine, you have no idea how soon they intend to spend money.

But social media marketing tells you what they’re thinking, and what they’re saying—if people on Twitter and Yahoo! Answers are asking the same question, you can write the definitive answer, and use that answer to get links that help you get better search traffic.

Just don’t expect to sell anything right away. And definitely don’t let people interact with you much. Interacting with brands is just one more way not to buy.