Social Media Cafe

Image by Cristiano Betta via Flickr

As a social media marketer who serves small businesses (My current employer is @EveryMerchant ) a recent headline caught my eye: “Search engines beat social media for local business info!” I have a friendly rivalry with our SEO / PPC department. They pay premiums for keywords and spend hours tweaking websites to get the “google edge” and front page placement for our clients. My approach is to use social networks and on-site conversion tactics to drive hits through conversation and understanding customer habits, not just search terms.

But did that headline really just say they are *beating* me? Well, according to the MSNBC article linked above (which references a Pew Research Center Poll) only 3% of users check social media for information on local businesses. Ouch. That makes it look a lot like I’m wasting my time in social media, right?

Well, me and my peers have accidentally, in order to sell our services,  created something of a myth about social media. Our clients believe social media is somehow different than your average marketing. And on some mechanical levels it is! A tweet is definitely not a magazine ad, digg? However, in the end, the only difference between social media and regular marketing is the ability to listen to your audience. The marketing aspect of it can only boil down to getting a sales message to a customer.

So when I see that only 3% of people are going to social networks to *get* information on small business and local business I have to wonder if maybe its because:

A: Social Media brings the message to the customer, not the reverse (like in Google) and…

B: Most local business have terrible social media campaigns.

Yesterday, and I’ll leave names out, I came across a lead and looked into his social networks. His store’s official facebook page was actually the owner’s private profile. With his picture. And pictures of his family. And sometimes pictures of his store’s product.

Compare that to the tactic-du-jour of incentivized facebook landing pages with reveal tabs that provide instant gratification and conversion for clients who are interested in a brand.

My nameless lead was not marketing with social media. He was *on* a social network. They are not the same. And many small business owners, god bless ’em, simply don’t know the difference. So in the end- its the message, not the medium.

And reports and polls will continue to downplay the value of social media until guys like me educate people one by one. Or you can help educate people by sharing this article.

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