In the old Cartoon Network show "Dexter's Laboratory," about a boy genius named Dexter, the kid's dad is frustrated that his wife is constantly on the phone. Finally, unable to tolerate it any longer, he rips the phone out of the wall and says: "I can't stand another minute of this mindless gab!"
I have a similar situation with my wife, who is always on her desktop Mac, MacBook or iPhone. Doing what? Posting to Facebook, commenting on blogs or texting. The urge to snatch the device out of her hands, throw it on the floor, and stomp it flat is almost irresistible.
Survey Says ...
In my humble opinion, "mindless gab" is the perfect descriptor for social media, an activity of which I am largely not a fan, though a sometime participant.
Now I am gratified to find new research supporting my point that social media marketing 1) has a very low return on time invested (ROTI) and 2) is therefore, to a large extent, mindless gab. Let's look at some studies:
• A Gallup poll published in June (ow.ly/B961U), found 62 percent of consumers surveyed said social media has no influence whatsoever on their purchasing decisions.
• Custora studied e-commerce activity among 72 million customers from 86 U.S. retailers (ow.ly/B95DM, opens as a PDF). It found the top three sources for acquiring new customers online are organic search, cost per click ads and email. Email accounted for 6.84 percent of new customers acquired, while Facebook generated a paltry 0.17 percent of new customer acquisition.
Worse, customers acquired via social media are worth less than those from other sources. Organic search acquires customers with a customer lifetime value (CLV) 54 percent above the average. Twitter customer lifetime value is 23 percent below the average CLV.
• A 2014 survey from KoMarketing Associates found only 6 percent of B-to-B buyers said social media had "a lot" of influence on the buying process, and 30 percent said it's important, but not a deal-breaker. The majority—63 percent—said they were either neutral or did not consider social media to be a factor in the B-to-B buying process.
• A Citibank/GFK Roper survey of 500 U.S. businesses with fewer than 100 employees found very few small businesses in the U.S. use social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter for marketing. Three-quarters of the small business owners surveyed say they have not found social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn helpful for generating leads or expanding business in the past year.
• A report on CBS Money Watch stated most small business owners feel their social media marketing efforts don't produce tangible results.
• And finally, according to a survey of 10,000 online shoppers by ForeSee Results, social media interactions are the primary influence for only one out of every 20 people who visit retail websites.
Shouting Into the Void
One of my social media pet peeves was recently illustrated by a marketer, who shall remain nameless. She sent me an email with the exciting announcement that she had added 1,000 new Twitter followers in one month. My reaction: So what?
"Many people measure the success of their social media campaigns based on an increase in the number of likes, follows or impressions, but none of those metrics matter if you can't close the deal," writes digital agency executive Jamie Turner. "In the end, the only thing that matters is whether a lead turned into a prospect and whether the prospect turned into a customer."
The noble aspiration of social media is to be a forum for sharing ideas and information. In my opinion, social sites, especially Facebook and LinkedIn discussion groups, often fall far short of that ambition.
Fans of social media praise these venues because they make it so quick and easy to express an opinion and publish it to the planet. But writer Harlan Ellison says this is not a good thing. He writes: "People say everybody is entitled to their opinion. They are not. What they are entitled to is their informed opinion—an opinion based on research, analysis and knowledge."
So yes, I believe social media is one of the biggest time sucks on the planet. But that does not mean I think it is completely worthless.
Use It Well, or Not At All
Here are a few social media strategies that I have found productive either for marketing my freelance copywriting services, building my opt-in e-list, or selling my information products online:
- Participate in conversations on LinkedIn groups in the niches you are involved in, such as B-to-B marketing.
- Use LinkedIn to reconnect with former clients, colleagues and employers, and in doing so, let them know what you are up to and ask them what they are up to. For every five reconnections I make, two are not in a position to use my services, but three are—and, on average, one out of those three will want to hire me to do a project.
- Announce a new product on Facebook and Twitter with a link to a landing page describing and selling it.
And finally, a few more of my social media pet peeves:
- People on LinkedIn whom I do not know endorsing me for skills I do not have or services I do not offer.
- Infographics on Pinterest that are more complex and difficult to understand than the data they strive to communicate.
- People I don't know asking me to be their friend on Facebook.
- People who tweet about what they had for breakfast, and even worse, feel compelled to share a photo of it.
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at www.bly.com or call (973) 263-0562.