Tweak Your Biz » Technology » Why Social Media Are Not a Strategy

Why Social Media Are Not a Strategy



Are you in business to be popular? Connected? Engaged? You are, or at least you should, be in business to make profit. Because that is what business is about. You may have chosen to be an entrepreneur for many reasons, but if you don’t have a profit you don’t have a business. It really is that simple.

There are many compelling blog posts and snazzy videos that strongly promote the notion that social media are imperative to the success of business. These posts usually incorporate something along the lines of “Social Media, can you afford not to?” Well, I want to put it on record that yes, many businesses can absolutely afford not to “do” social media. In fact, I would go so far as to say that for some businesses, engagement in social media is actually damaging.

The Personal Hygiene Analogy

If personal hygiene were an analogy for marketing, then social media would be perfume. To put this bluntly, perfume is no substitute for the fundamentals of personal hygiene. You need a 365 bathing plan, and perfume is no substitute for that.

What are social media?

The answer is partly in the question. Media, being the plural of medium, are ways to store or communicate information. There are many flavours of media:

  • Newspapers ~ print
  • TV stations ~ broadcast
  • Social media ~ digital

Social media can, like any other media, be used to achieve certain personal or business objectives. And used wisely, these media can work very well for business, but only as part of an actual marketing strategy. It will not work for every business and it is time to be honest about that. A radio advertisement will not work for every business, and it is ridiculous to presume that social media will work for every business. You need to pick the media that is most relevant and appropriate for your business. Sparkplugs on Facebook? I don’t think so.

What Social Media is not

  1. A Business Plan
    There are many components to a business plan, but frankly some businesses are so busy faffing around with social media that they’ve lost sight of the bigger picture.  How does your business make profit? What products or services should be sold to optimise profit? These are some of the big questions that need to be answered before you can develop a business plan or a marketing plan or even dream of engaging in social media. For a business, there are really only two business numbers that matter – Cash and Profit.
  2. A Marketing Plan
    You need to define your brand and identify your customer before you even begin to draft a marketing plan or select marketing media. Paula Ronan’s series here on Bloggertone,  “Do or Die Marketing” is a good place to start.
  3. A substitute for relevance
    The number of followers you have in any social medium is not an end in itself. Neither is building a community, engagement levels or indeed, (social media aside), the  number of website visitors you have. So many businesses focus on their social media metrics that they forget about the cost of acquisition of a customer or about the profit margin that they should be making. Social media needs to be relevant to your business objectives. There are many worthy and relevant business objectives for social media other than sales, such as brand building, awareness marketing and customer service. These all contribute indirectly to profit. What you and your followers do when they engage with you or visit your website is what is really relevant, not the number of followers that you have.
  4. Free
    Social media are not free. Even if you do not allocate an employee or outsource this function, it takes time to create and collate content, to broadcast it and to engage with your community. Time spent on social media can have a massive opportunity cost, if it diverts a business owner from focusing on making profit.

The Social Media Mantra

The bankers’ mantra is well known:

“Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity but cash is reality”.

Here’s my adaptation for social media, which I’ll call “The Social Media Mantra”:

“Followers are vanity but profit is sanity.”

What do you think?

Social media are not a strategy. They are, well, a collection of mediums. It seems likely that social media are here to stay. The popularity of individual social media networks may wax and wane, but people have an inherent desire to be connected and social media fills that personal need. However, when it comes to business, relevance is the name of the game. What do you think? Is it really relevant to every business to be using social media?

“Image from Ivelin Radkov/Shutterstock.”

 



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The Author:

Helen Cousins, a chartered accountant by profession, is a business mentor, trainer and consultant for a wide range of Irish SMEs, often working under the auspices of state agencies via her company Xcel Business Solutions. In a successful career spanning more than 25 years, Helen worked in accountancy practice for PricewaterhouseCoopers, and worked in Financial Controller and senior management positions in manufacturing industry, before starting her own consultancy for small businesses. Helen is also a self catering entrepreneur, operating her own self catering holiday home business in Wexford. She is a director and former Chair of the Irish Self Catering Federation, and she works closely with the tourist industry in Ireland. http://xbs.ie

Add Your Comment

  • http://twitter.com/fredchannel Fred

    First of all, welcome back Greg!
    It’s great to see you on the blogging road again :)
    Based on your description I believe you manage fantastically. I’m not a parent but assume that will probably be tougher to juggle one or two kids with work. You’ve got three. Maybe that’s the number to reach enough experience? :)

  • Sandra

    omg, you call this balancing work and family? I call it separating work and family! To be able to work with no children present, ah, what luxury you have in your day. Try this – wake to feed newborn at 530 am, do emails, put loads of washing on, feed 3 yo and 5 yo breakfast, take 5 yo to school, hang washing, settle baby, do emails and phone calls, feed baby, do emails, settle baby, feed 3 yo lunch…. you get the picture, I’ll stop at lunchtime. It sounds seriously to me that you might have a support person who is doing your stocking your pantry, vacuuming your floors, folding your clothes, etc etc that has not been credited in your article? Men – balance – bah!

  • Anonymous

    @Greg – Like you I control my own working arrangements. I was fortunate to have the first 2 years with no kids to when I was building my business and two little helper come along in the last 3 years. For me the key is to work hard when you are working and exercise for energy!! My day can be quite varied but generally meeting clients/onsite doing outplacement and when not in meetings setting up meetings and dedicated to marketing. Oh and every so often doing the fat frog – admin/finance :-( I never leave a down moment during the day – even bought a vodaphone portable mobile broadband and can be seen tapping away in my car if I arrive early for meetings. I (like most) work extremely hard but I feel blessed to have had so much time with kids. I reward myself and never work Friday afternoons.

    @Fred – yes juggling kids is difficult. I learned from my mistakes and now juggle while standing on the bed. I recommend it for novice juglers as it is safer with less tears :-)

    @Sandra – Support definitely helps and you seem to have many more balls to juggle – fair play. I promise you I help around the house. I have not been diagnosed but my wife tells me I have OCD.

  • Anonymous

    Sandra

    Thanks for your comments. You are 100% right, I am blessed with a beautiful wife and we support each other.

    We share the workload in the house and I do not shy away from the housework, which I agree is endless. I give our latest bundle of joy the 3am ever second night, feed the 2 and 4 year olds breakfast every day and put on the washing machine every morning. At 8am on Saturday I take the boys to the supermarket and do the weekly shop. The weekends are usually the time of the week when I get the vacuum cleaner out.

    Happy juggling

    Greg

  • http://www.btbtraining.com/blog Niall Devitt

    The first BT post where I must admit absolute cluelessness. Nothing constructive to add except don’t know how parents do it but you are amazing. Great to see you back Greg :-)

  • Allan

    Hi Greg,
    Read your blog and it rings a bell with me. I just think all parent have an in built guilt gene but we can only do our best for our kids.
    There is no balancing act it just focusing on your kids when you are around them
    Allan

  • Anonymous

    Great post Greg. I have an 18 month old daughter, and I am a remote worker for a multinational organisation. I find being able to work from home being great, from the perspective of being able to spend time with my daughter and also help out around the house. So I’m able to help with changing nappies and dressing our daughter, putting her to bed, emptying and loading the dishwasher, cutting the grass, doing the hoovering etc.

    My wife stays at home Mon to Wed, and looks after our daughter full time, on Thursday and Friday she is in the office, and our daughter goes to a child minder. Our arrangement is that she gets up at in the middle of night (if there is a need) on Sunday through Tuesday nights. We then take it turn about for the rest of the week and the weekend. In terms of bedtime routine, we simply take it turn about each night. Sounds complicated, but we just sit down each Sunday night and do a quick Mindmap of who is doing what each week, and take into account exceptions to our normal routine e.g. maybe I have to travel for a few days, or maybe if we’re lucky we get a night out together.

    Having this arrangement means that I keep my work strictly 9 to 5.30. I guess I’m fortunate in that many people who run their own business don’t have this luxury, but I also have a good boss who stresses the importance of not working in the evenings. In fact the odd time that I do send an email in the evenings, I’ll get a bollocking the next day.

    So while all this is great, unfortunately the times are changing. My wife is on a 2 day week, not by choice, and while she is getting job seekers allowance at the moment, she will no longer get this in 11 months from now. This suddenly makes salary my base motivator, and unfortunately my employer is not very forthcoming in this area. Consequently I might have to consider looking elsewhere to meet our financial needs in the next year. I’m hoping it does not come to this and that my employer steps up to the plate, as moving elsewhere would probably mean spending less time with my family.

  • http://www.cgonlinemarketing.com/ Christina Giliberti

    Greg – I’m impressed!

    I have no children to work around and still do the juggling act….so high praise indeed for all the jugglers with a few extra balls in the air than me.an al
    You seem to be organised and well-scheduled, and I think thats a must for anyone. A clear plan and time management are skills we can all master, especially with additional commitments ; 0 )
    Tina

  • Anonymous

    Greg,

    This is an important post One thing I do wonder is how same/different is the experience of a mother versus the experience of a father. Social expectations can be quite different for each parent even as family roles have changed over the years. As a mother and business owner,I have this juggling act. I’m not sure I have it straight entirely yet. (My extra challenge is that one of my children has a medical condition.)

    When I first started my business, I felt like I was wrong somehow because I wasn’t working tons of hours but it dawned on me that it might be an entrepreneurial myth that one must work 50-60 hours if one was “really in business.” Since my time is split by my responsibilities, it seems to make more sense of letting go of some other person’s idea of what really being in business means and use my time wisely.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing your routine with us Frank. If your excellent posts on Bloggertone are anything to go by – I am hopeful that your boss will step up to the plate and hold on to one of the company’s prize assets!

  • Anonymous

    Great comment Elli. Over the years we have been taught that employment should be structured in a certain way. That can be a hard routine to unlearn. Very often employees and business owners feel guilty not working “traditional” hours.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comments and kind words,
    I am naturally a very disorganized person, so without structure I would be lost at sea!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your comments Allan. What a great and true point you make – “There is no balancing act it just focusing on your kids when you are around them.”

  • Anonymous

    I should take a break more often. Thanks for the kind words:)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comments Paul. I too enjoy pre meeting tapping in the car on my netbook. Great point re “exercise is vital for energy”. I have only fireguard this out over recent years and it is amazing how much more energy I have in the tank because of it.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment. Ahh yes back on the Bloggertone blogging road again.

  • http://www.seefincoaching.com/blog Elaine Rogers

    Greg,
    Congratulations and welcome back :)
    Thanks for sharing your routine with us mortals, I feel this could spark the ole “juggling debate”.
    Risking damnation, I think you get from your day what you put in, and if people feel they have to work 50 hours a week on their business then they will – it’s a decision.
    It comes back to the old adage – “work smarter, not harder” easier said than done, kids or no kids! But it has some truth I think. Allan makes an excellent point below – “There is no balancing act it just focusing on your kids when you are around them”. If we did that, it would be straight forward.
    When at work – work
    When minding kids – mind the kids (and have fun)
    When taking time out – really take time out
    When playing – play fully
    When spending quality time with loved ones, turn off the phone etc – give them your full attention

    I cannot give you advice, as I do not have children, but understand the juggling act.
    I think you have it sussed though – structure, planning, reviewing and focus – not a bad start ;)

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the kind comments Greg. Unfortunately my boss has tried everything he can for me, and then some, however his hands are being tied by corporate policies. One of the problems of working in a large organisation. It’s increasingly looking like I will have to go outside to meet my financial needs. If you hear about anything going that might suit me, I’d appreciate if you’d keep me in mind.

  • Anonymous

    I will keep my eyes open!

  • Anonymous

    Appreciate the comments – despite your alleged lack of knowledge…your comments could be compared to a “rock of sense”!

  • http://www.seefincoaching.com/blog Elaine Rogers

    I could be between there and a hard place alright!

    I did write I couldn’t give advice, not knowledge ;)
    I am learned, I am knowledgeable, I am wise – just a few affirmations to keep me going :)
    Have a great week!

  • http://www.practical-management-skills.com Ann Halloran

    Hi Greg
    I started my training consultancy business 20 odd years ago, when my first child came along. I had a great job in a start up multinational (just one level down from the top, and now they employ over 2000!). I have never regretted leaving, as I wanted to spend more time with my child and the others that came along.
    My husband was a farmer and we lived in a pretty remote spot. I started off working in a back bedroom, but then built an office with more space onto the farmhouse. Then my business seemed to take off.
    I used to have the babies in the office with me when they were small, but as they got older, I hired a childminder. It was great to focus the mind, as I decided that I had better get the work done if I wanted to pay her wages! So I worked office hours, and came out for breaks to spend time with the children. If I was very busy I used to go back into the office after they went to bed at night.
    Not having to rent an office space and pay travel costs was a big bonus for me, from a financial point of view, but also I was near the children. In the early years I was designing and producing training material and had some large contracts. It was a bit like writing a novel. I didn’t need too much interface with clients, and I had an admin person with me in the office who kept me company. I was able to take long holidays in the summer when my work was quiet and the kids were off school. We did lots of travelling and I have many fond memories.They are all teenagers now and doing fine T.G. My work is still home based, but now my focus is on the internet. I plan to do some training webinars before the end of the year .
    So good luck with your business..
    All the best
    Ann

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Hi Helen, this is a great post and you make some very valuable points that definitely require further consideration. While I agree that having a presence on social media is far from a strategy in itself, I would advise that all businesses need to consider social media, in the context of and as an extension of how the internet has and is continuing to impact on how, what and where we buy. I include B2B. 

    My point is that the world that we live in, and how we do now do business is changing and this change is accelerating. While technology is facilitating this change, it is ultimately been driven by people (our buyers). We live in a constant state of flux, where speed and the ability to adapt are becoming the key drivers of our success. Some industries have experienced this in an almost brutal way and we are all now experienced this to a greater or lesser extent. 

    This change is continuing to create massive and multiple opportunities for those that have embraced it and the consequences of fighting it have so far proven detrimental to those who decided to do so. So do businesses have a choice as to whether or not they engage with social media? Perhaps! Do businesses have a choice as to whether or not they engage with the people that reside in those social media? That answer I’m a little more convinced of.

    You asked “what are social media?” and stated the answer is partly in the question. But for me the real reason why social media are not a strategy lies in how we define social media. In my opinion the social media phenomimum has much less to do with the media or the networks and much more to do with the
    millions of people who now inhabit the technologies. Rightly or wrongly, social media are impacting more and more on people’s lives and it’s in this context that businesses need to ask themselves, should we be using social media?

  • http://twitter.com/xcelbusiness Helen Cousins

    Hi there Niall,
    My concern is that the markets have changed utterly for some businesses and they will have to go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate what they are doing. They will have to review every area of the business, from the products or services that they offer, to their margins, to their staffing, and in some cases their production and delivery. There is a business cycle and social media cannot prevent or cure obsolescence. Social media can’t fix broken business models. But social media are being sold by some “gurus” as a panacea to businesses which are desperate to survive. There is also a need to target stakeholders. Some media are better for a particular business than others. And, of course opening, for example, a twitter account and then neglecting it is much worse that not having a twitter account at all. Not all business owners will “get” social media, and this can also be damaging.
     I think that businesses that get back to basics and integrate social media into a viable business and marketing plan will survive and thrive. Social Media cannot fix a broken business model, any more than a plaster cast can fix a headache.
    Thanks Niall, for a great addition to my post. I actually agree with all you say! I think we are both right :)

  • http://twitter.com/xcelbusiness Helen Cousins

    Hi Lorna,
    Thanks for your extra comments. Yes, interaction is the name of the game, they are social, not sales, media after all.
    I threw in another analogy, (just for you), in my reply to Niall above :)~Helen

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Best line I read it ages. 

    “Followers are vanity but profit is sanity.”

  • http://twitter.com/xcelbusiness Helen Cousins

    Cheers, thanks Ivan :)

  • http://www.tweakyourbiz.com Niall Devitt

    Well said, Helen!

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