Is your social media marketing in the right place?

Some social media marketing tactics can win you a lot of traffic, without generating a lot of revenue. Karen Morris explores how to find the right balance.

The other day I came across a discussion online about the power of new media. At the centre was a video created in March 2010 by Blair Fowler a 16 year old YouTube blogger. The blog was about a competition for Shoes of Prey, an online design-your-own shoe store, who paid Blair to create a video about their product.

The video had over 450,000 views and more than 90,000 comments. It was the fifth most-viewed video on the day of its release.

You may think that this is about to be an unreserved acclaim of the power of social media. But, while the figures on this are amazing, the one problem is that the demographic of Blair’s viewers are in the 13-17 age groups. And the price point for Shoes of Prey is well above what this market can generally afford. In his first post about this in his blog, Michael Fox, co-founder of Shoes of Prey, commented on the small conversion rate from the traffic (194,107 in one day) to the site as a result of the blog. He went on to say that the conversion rate from a piece by Tee Twyford of NZGirl on one of the popular TV morning shows in New Zealand was a much better result in terms of actual sales.

Although Blair’s blog is clearly powerful and she engages well with her viewers, the problem initially was that essentially this produced little more effect than paying for a TV ad, with quantifiable figures. To capitalise on the non-converting traffic Shoes of Prey made strategic changes to their website to allow people to share their designs more easily on Facebook and Twitter, and they actively engaged in the conversations that were going on about their brand in a bid to capture the attention of the older sisters and mothers of Blair’s audience.

This resulted in a significant increase in sales and goes to show that numbers are not the most important factor when it comes to developing rewarding relationships with your market.

For any business, being very clear about who your market is and where they consume their information will allow for the development of a much more cost-effective engagement program, whether that’s online, direct or through the media.

Small business owners have a limited budget for marketing and promotion so, if you’re going to go down the social media path, you need to make sure you assess the real cost of the exercise, despite most claims that social media is free promotion. Sure, it’s free to sign up to Twitter, Facebook and a myriad of other social networks but the cost comes after that.

Trying to emulate the fantastical figures and conversion rates reached by the amazing Facebook campaigns created by expensive agencies for the world’s leading brands is generally completely out of reach for most small business owners. Facebook competitions are now nigh on impossible unless you use a third party app – more costs. And, to be really effective in social media you need to engage by investing your time which, presumably you don’t give away for free. Even if you write your blogs after hours (yes, just like this one), there is an associated cost with what you’re achieving.

Certainly experimenting with social media is a much less risky operation financially. It is definitely a much lower investment in terms of real dollars and the ROI can be off the scale if you get it right. But, at the end of the day, trying to talk about the day’s latest commodities figures on your Facebook page is likely to be as effective as sending a boating journalist a media release about the launch of your latest fashion range.

There is no doubt that social media is becoming a major part in how brands and business, even small business, can effectively communicate with their market. But, like everything else, a scattergun approach won’t return dividends. Do your research before you start and treat it like a specific, measurable project that you can adjust along the way.

Now, time to go shoe shopping!

Karen Morris is the creative director at Inscriptions Media.

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