Is Social Media Marketing Fundamentally Disingenuous?

“But they don’t really want to be your friend; they just want your money.”

I’ve heard it before. With all the focus on engaging customers through their personal lives, some people react to the very concept.

They make a valid point—they absolutely do. Business do have a profit motive and if there was no money to be made in social media marketing, they simply wouldn’t do it. So that’s the end of it, right? The naysayers win?

Not quite.

The key is in being likable. You almost always hold that key. But that wasn’t always true. Before TiVo you had to listen to commercials. Before satellite radio and streaming music you had to listen to commercials. Your newspapers and magazines are laced with ads. This is what is often called linear or “megaphone” advertizing: you have to listen or really stick your head in the sand.

But in no small way the younger generation has demanded customization in all aspects of life, right down to what ads they are exposed to. This is where social media comes into play. They can choose to let companies have more exposure towards them. I cannot emphasize enough that they the prospect, is choosing.

If a company tries to take advantage of that, gets too pushy—bam, they lose their likability and their influence. It is a very tight feedback cycle.

So I would argue that no, while there are some companies in social media who are not really engaging because they are clinging to their old megaphone habits, the fact that engagement and likability forces companies themselves to change in response makes the relationship ultimately serving to the end-customer. It is actually a signal of the end of over 100 years of one-way communication.

It should be embraced.


How to Not Use Social Media

So you don’t have time to maintain a social media effort for your business? If so, the worst thing you can do is simply ignore it. Someday you will employ social media, whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you. What you don’t do now can negatively affect what you do later on.

1. Secure Your Brand

Make certain you claim your company name. On Facebook this means more than setting up a company page, you need 30 “likes” in order to claim a vanity URL (e.g. www.facebook.com/your_company). Get some friends or colleagues together and do a little 24hr “like bomb”, then claim your vanity URL. Who knows, if it goes well you might decide it’s time to launch into social media anyways. Don’t forget Google+ and others: To see what is available on what sites, use a tool like namecheck.com.

There is a risk-management aspect to this too. Sometimes competitors decide it is a great idea to hijack your brand. Unless you have an actual registered trademark brand, it will be nearly impossible to reverse it, and even if you do, you’ll pay out some billable hours to your attorney.

2. Keep your directory info up to date

Even if you don’t make a single post, make sure your about information and contact information is up to date. This is to protect yourself from your customers having a negative experience.

And that’s it. Just two things. It will require a little time, but there is too much risk in doing nothing.