This article, "Entrepreneurs Question Value of Social Media," from the Wall Street Journal caught my eye (and I'm sure several other readers' eyes) with it's clever headline and additionally provocative phrases:
* "Marketing Via Facebook, Twitter Yields Results for Some, Others Say It's Overrated" and "Hype Right Now Exceeds the Reality"
The WSJ article quotes findings from 2,000 small business owners surveyed by the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business and Network Solutions LLC. Among the survey's findings included:
* Most users of social media – 58% – find the medium "just met expectations for success. For the remainder, twice as many feel the medium fell short of expectations (26%) than exceeded expectations (12%) for success.
* 50% of small business users of social media have found that it has taken up more time than they expected.
So does this mean social media really doesn't work? Is all that blogging, tweeting, friending, videoing, and updating of statuses to engage a specific target audience or buyer persona a complete waste of time?
Of course not. But, I think these findings should "recalibrate" our expectations about how quickly social media and inbound marketing can impact overall business success. Here are some thoughts in putting the achievement of business success via social media into perspective:
1. Social Media Success Stories Like Chris Brogan and HubSpot Didn't Happen Overnight
In my opinion, two of the most successful social media success stories demonstrating the time, dedication, and commitment required are Chris Brogan and HubSpot. Both have invested years and countless hours to build their brands and business success via social media and inbound marketing.
And their level of commitment continues …
Chris Brogan. Brogan has been an online practitioner and social media evangelist for more than a decade, and in the last few years he's finally receiving more mainstream recognition and credit. His book, Trust Agents, about how organizations can use social media to personally engage consumers, is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller.
But, this success and recognition did not occur overnight. In fact, Brogan says it took him eight years (8) to acquire 100 subscribers when he started his blog. Check out his video series called "Overnight Success" so you can see first-hand how social media success is hard-earned.
HubSpot. This organization literally created and proliferated the phrase "inbound marketing." They've published a best-selling book called Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs describing the online strategies and tactics driving their current business success (along with the success of other small to medium-sized businesses).
And yes, they've also been diligently implementing and practicing those social media and inbound marketing strategies from their book for years. As a point of reference, I looked at two data points regarding their popular Internet Marketing Blog. These numbers illustrate the significant time and dedication required (and blogging is just one important channel of their multi-channel social media strategy):
(A) Years Invested in Blogging: ~3.5 years; Their first blog post was written in August 2006. During a HubSpot webinar I attended this week, Brian Halligan (one of HubSpot's co-founders) said they initially started blogging once per week. Now, they publish almost 3 blog posts daily.
(B) Number of Blog Posts Published by HubSpot: ~1000+ as of March 31, 2010. This is my "back-of-the-envelope" analysis based on the number of posts I found on the HubSpot Website.
2. Long Term Commitment, Patience, and Flexibility: Social Media and Inbound Marketing are No Exception
This post by John McTigue of Kuno Creative, "Disappointed By Your Inbound Marketing Results," provides realistic and practical advice when managing expectations about social media and inbound marketing. He emphasizes four (4) points (which I've paraphrased here). Read John's entire post because it's great:
(A) You shouldn't expect instant success. Time and effort are required to reach people and convert them to customers.
(B) You must build relationships, not numbers. Create interesting content, engage people directly, and reach them with great offers and service.
(C) You must be a chameleon. Remain flexible and tweak your strategy daily by monitoring your metrics to keep improving.
(D) Be patient. Invest at least a year before deciding to end the program.
From personal experience, I've only been blogging for 6 months and I can speak to the time and effort required to publish this blog. For me, John's advice is readily applicable and timely.
Patience, Perseverance, Effort. Last time I checked, those traits applied to "traditional marketing success" also. I fail to see why accomplishing social media and inbound marketing success would be any different …
Photo Credit: From Flickr by Tony the Misfit