Social Media Marketing seems to be the latest buzz word for anyone looking to increase their online presence and sales, but is Social Media Marketing (SMM) all it is cracked up to be?S.M.M companies are now springing up all over the place these days and they are telling anyone that will listen about how incredibly important social media like Facebook twitter and YouTube are to your business but, for the average small to medium sized business, does marketing to social networks really live up to all the hype? Is spending a small fortune on hiring a SMM company really worth it? And has anyone really done their research on this before they hired someone to set up there Facebook business page? Some SMM companies are setting up things like Facebook business pages (which are free) for $600 to $1,000 or more and telling their clients that they don’t need a website because Facebook is the biggest social network in the world and everybody has a Facebook account. Now while it may be true that Facebook is the largest social network in the world and yes, Facebook’s members are potential consumers, the real question is are they actually buying? Social media marketing companies are all too happy to point out the positives of social media like how many people use Facebook or how many tweets were sent out last year and how many people watch YouTube videos etc. but are you getting the full picture? I once sat next to a SMM “expert” at a business seminar who was spruiking to anyone who came within earshot about the amazing benefits of setting up a Facebook business page for small business (with him of course) and selling on Facebook. So, intrigued by the aforementioned “experts” advice I looked him up on Facebook only to find he had only 11 Facebook friends (not a good start). So being the research nut that I am, I decided to take a good look into SMM in regard to selling to see if it actually worked, who did it work for and if it did why did Social Media Marketing work for them? And should business rely so heavily on social networks for sales?As a web developer I was constantly (and now increasingly) confronted with several social networking challenges when potential clients would say that having a website sounds good but they had a Facebook business page and had been told by various sources (the ever present yet anonymous “they”) that social networks were the thing to do, but after discussing their needs it became quite clear that those potential clients didn’t actually know why they needed social networks or SMM to generate online sales, They just wanted it. For small and medium sized business I always recommended building a quality website over any type of social network, why? Well it’s simple really because social media is Social Media, and social Networks are Social Networks they are not business media and business networks (that would be more like LinkedIn). I know that sounds simple but it’s true and the statistics back it up. The fact is that social media marketing fails to tell you that Facebook is a social network not a search engine and despite the number of Facebook users and Google users being around the same, people don’t use Facebook in the same way that they use a search engine like Google (which has around half the search engine market), Yahoo and Bing to search for business or products. They use it to keep in touch with family and friends or for news and entertainment. In a recent study done by the IBM Institute for Business Value around 55% of all social media users stated that they do not engage with brands over social media at all and only around 23% actually purposefully use social media to interact with brands. Now out of all the people who do use social media and who do interact with brands whether purposefully or not, the majority (66%) say they need to feel a company is communicating honestly before they will interact.So how do you use social media marketing? And is it even worth doing?Well first of all I would say that having a well optimized website is still going to bring you far more business that social media in most cases especially if you are a small to medium sized local business because far more people are going to type in “hairdresser Port Macquarie” into a search engine like Google, Yahoo and Bing than they ever will on any Social Media Site and if you don’t have a website you’re missing out on all of that potential business. However despite all the (not so good) statistics I still think it is still a good idea for business to use social media just not in the same way that a lot of SMM professionals are today, Why? Because it’s clearly not working in the way they claim it does. Basically SMM Companies and Business as a whole looked at social networks like Facebook as a fresh market ripe for the picking and when Facebook started getting users measured by the millions PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel invested US$500,000 for 7% of the company (in June 2004) and since them a few venture capital firms have made investments into Facebook and in October 2007, Microsoft announced that it had purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million. However since Facebook’s humble beginnings up until now (2012) both SMM Companies and Business have failed to truly capitalise on the huge number of Facebook users online. The truth is numbers does not equal buyers. Is it in a Social Media Marketing company’s best interest to talk social networks up? Absolutely. Is it in a Social Network like Facebook’s best interests for people to believe that companies can sell en masse by advertising and marketing with them? Of course it is. In early 2012, Facebook disclosed that its profits had jumped 65% to $1 billion in the previous year as its revenue which is mainly from advertising had jumped almost 90% to $3.71 billion so clearly the concept of SMM is working out for them but it is working out for you? Well… statistically no, but that does not necessarily mean that it never will.I believe the major difference between social networks and search engines is intent. People who use Google are deliberately searching for something so if they do a search for hairdressers that’s what they are looking for at that particular time. With something like Facebook the primary intent is usually to connect with friends and family. In October 2008, Mark Zuckerberg himself said “I don’t think social networks can be monetized in the same way that search (Search Engines) did… In three years from now we have to figure out what the optimum model is. But that is not our primary focus today”. One of the biggest problems business face with social networks and SMM is perception. According to the IBM Institute for Business Value study there were “significant gaps between what businesses think consumers care about and what consumers say they want from their social media interactions with companies.” For example in today’s society people are not just going to hand you over there recommendations, Facebook likes, comments or details without getting something back for it, so the old adage “what’s in it for me?” comes into play. So the primary reason most people give for interacting with brands or business on social media is to receive discounts, yet the brands and business themselves think the main reason people interact with them on social media is to learn about new products. For brands and business receiving discounts only ranks 12th on their list of reasons why people interact with them. Most businesses believe social media will increase advocacy, but only 38 % of consumers agree.Companies need to find more innovative ways to connect with social media if they want to see some sort of result from it. There were some good initiatives shown in the IBM study of companies that had gotten some sort of a handle on how to use social media to their advantage, keeping in mind that when asked what they do when they interact with businesses or brands via social media, consumers list “getting discounts or coupons” and “purchasing products and services” as the top two activities, respectively a U.S ice cream company called Cold Stone Creamery offered discounts on their products on their Facebook page. Alternatively there is a great program launched by Best Buys in the U.S called Twelpforce where employees can respond to customer’s questions via Twitter. With both Cold Stone Creamery and Twelpforce the benefit is clearly in the favour of the potential customer & the great trick to social media marketing is to sell without trying to sell (or looking like your selling) unfortunately most social media marketing is focused the wrong way.Building a tangible buyer to consumer relationship via social media is not easy and probably the most benefit to business’ using social media to boost their websites Google rankings. But business’ need to understand that you can’t just setup a Facebook business page and hope for the best. SMM requires effort and potential customers need to see value in what you have to offer via your social media efforts give them something worth their social interaction and time and then you may get better results.Now just as a footnote Facebook shares have dropped to under $20 per share, that’s half their original price… and the lawsuits are flying
Around the world, the use of social media became a tool of ‘insecurity’ and for creating social change, leading to peace. Much of the impact was felt in the Arab world, and somewhat in the west, triggered by social economic discontent and maladministration.Apart from North Africa, the rest of the continent was not affected. It is yet to experience hostile political activism from its (social media) use. When the conditions for war became ripe, social media aided revolts against regimes.The general use of social media websites in Uganda by mostly young, curious, and adventurous people in universities and well-to-do homes started in 2006. The earliest site to offer and popularize social networking services was hi5.com. It was famous for its highly graphic and eye-catching features. The insurrection of Facebook.com was a year later.The blocking of hi5.com from access by university students provided the Facebook service provider monopoly over the market, as there was no other option for young people to start online relationships and share what was on their minds.When Facebook.com came into being, it spread like wild fire, so much that no one escaped. Now it is the most used social media by far in the world; all universities, corporate bodies, service organizations, and most Ugandans access internet, with greater use of Facebook.Hardly do staffs of organizations and companies spend a single day without checking in for chats, getting to know the minds of other people, and starting new relationships. In fact, to most users, visiting the site is a priority, despite having highly engaging schedules at work places.The use of social media for political reasons is still row in Uganda, though; there are some aspects of it emerging, especially visible during campaigns for political offices. It is limited more to expression of what subscribers have on their mind, for cementing social relationships, to pass time, to start romantic relationships, to promote business ideas, and to trace old friends.It also provides an alternative means of communication, cheaper than other media channels in many respects. While telephone calls cost more than a dollar to make a point to a single person around the world, the same amount enables mass communication, until exhaustion when social media sites are taken advantage of.Without having to meet high costs of travel abroad and back home to meet several tasks, it takes only almost no time and effort in some places of the country, which have access to internet, to fulfill several tasks in much less time.The manufacture of internet-enabling phones made life in the world of social media even more interesting; without having to go to class to learn how to use it, barely with so little to learn, majority of young people now use it, though, internet knowledge is limited to chatting and betting.But also circumstances limit them to having such amount of knowledge, to survive through betting and maintain loving relationships. The life-system in Uganda orients citizens to work hard to survive, rather than complain about leaders and politico-economics. Politics is an end for the ‘idle,’ and a reservation of those already surviving by it.Social media is most respected in the modern world for its role in generating and spreading violent protests and armed rebellions around the world, most especially in the Arab peninsula.While that is true, social media can be put into good use, without compromising peace and stability. For example, it can be used to promote business ideas and organization values in the eyes of clients.The widespread poverty, limited incomes, and low savings, whether perpetuated by the political class, motivate Ugandans to work harder and live on than generate conditions for violent change. A lot of people struggle to find a meal a day; the able-to-dos are restricted to certain choices of food that are cheap, and do not constitute balanced deities. Under such circumstances, social media is applied to seek and share strategies for escape, amongst which is the adoption of the tool of violence.Thinking hard about the situation provokes one to wonder whether the bad socioeconomic situation was deliberately conditioned by government to influence citizens to focus more on developing survival strategies necessary to obtain primary needs (food and meaningful standards of living) than give them space and time to nurse nationalistic feelings for situation change, through channels as social media.Opting to spend time in politics and generate conditions for socio-economic change, only detaches change agents from primary engagements necessary for them to survive. Besides, it is impossible to spent time advocating change on an empty stomach and work under a cloud of uncertainties about life and feelings of hopelessness. The consequence of that is violence against self and others, through substance abuse and crime. Under these conditions, the social media would be helpful at facilitating venting and release of bad emotions.The bad emotions lead to aggressive behaviors and turn out costly to society as much as to the aggressor. Aggressive people use violence as coping mechanism during hard economic and political times to make ends meet by any means, through violent robberies, violent protests, rampant corruption, violent relationships, and mob justice against bad economic, social and political elements in the community.Today, the menace of internal insecurity occurring among citizens, perpetuated by fellow countrymen, is hurting and creating fear at the domestic front. Whatever yields from the hands of hardworking Ugandans ends up into the pockets of robbers. They do not only end at denying fellow citizens what belongs to them, but going ahead to relieve them of their life obligations, through acts of murder!The murderers are people, who because of the hard economic times, marginalizations, and lack of redress from concerned authorities, resort to costly strategies to make ends meet. The use of social media prevails perfectly in such situations as channels, through which citizens advocate structural reforms.However, social media networking is still a privilege of urban dwellers, because of their closeness to influential areas, where new ideas from the rest of the world collect before spreading to the rest of the country. These include the use of phones with Facebook provisions, access to computers, and access to power.The limited use of social media, alone, does not save the country from popular revolts, change of political guards or socio-economic situation. But the same conditions, under which Ugandans live, will one day turn around to widely consume authorities for their irresponsibility, with or without it (social media). Many years before the introduction of computers in the country, revolutions took place. The process, though, is much longer. By the time it becomes necessary to act for change, mass mental illness, due to hopeless-living, could have weakened hopes in the minds of those still struggling on.But by the time conditions start to enforce change to occur, social media gadgets will be widespread around the country. They will ease change with far less effort, by highlighting the maladministration, inhuman living, and hopelessness, to provoke anger, hatred, and violence to enforce change. The opposite will also be true, when those in authority get emotionally-driven to act in people’s favor, so that the adverse effects of violence are prevented.Presently, there is growing insecurity and fear among citizens, which could spread to reach the class of Ugandans, who currently feel secure, so that; from self-hatred, there is mutual, group, and national hatred for everything in the country, including the leadership. It is at this time that the use of social media for political, economic, and social change will become relevant in mobilizing and coordinating rebellions.The continuing flooding of cheap Chinese phones and computers on Ugandan market will in the near future increase access to social media by most, if not all Ugandans. And when the social environment persistently gets ‘infested’ with poverty, famine, preventable deaths, insecurity, and maladministration, the use of social media to change the statuesque will be justified and eminent.Whereas the use of social media is an amazing strategy for positive change, it can be infiltrated by security agents, who will be attracted by its vitality of facilitating access to information on the state of the minds of users, mobilizing social action, and possible causation of revolutions and counter revolution, which is known to trigger mayhem to nations.The 1994 genocide in Rwanda provides a good insight about how bad counter revolutions could be. If no meaningful systems are in place to provide the elimination process of mindsets showing revolution and counterrevolution signals among people of the same nation, it will be always a matter of time for violence to erupt, facilitated by social media.There are, however, setbacks suffered by beneficiaries of social media once they misuse the facility, when some of the views posted turn out to harm their reputation, and deny them social capital or destroy relationships. Negative views posted push away loved ones, and create concern among authorities over the harm the negative-thinking person might cause to himself or others, through the social media.In all, meaningful change is possible when its need is so massive that signs make it clear to discontented citizens that leadership would be faced with little or no opposition; change would occur with even far less damage to the economy and to lives. The use of social media warrantees certain values to protect oneself from self-harm and image-destruction.Social media applicability for economic and social change is far from being real in Uganda. The ‘barometer’ reads peace and hard work for survival. The use of social media can turn out hurting, if no protective values and standards of use are set by the user.Effective use of social media is an event of the future. The mass use of gadgets, as phones and computers is bound to influence society in Uganda for the better, but only in a long term. The hard times in the country today can only be faced with resilience and coping as some citizens are already doing.But if the insecurity and widespread fears due to it becomes a mass effect; first, insecurity will become national; second, there will be a stronger need for change; third, a justifiable action for change will ensue. Generally, change has its time, it will always present itself.