4 unrealistic expectations most businesses believe about social media

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Many busi­ness own­ers and social media “experts” have it all wrong. They want to see suc­cess on social media pro­duce big results for their busi­ness. While this isn’t impos­si­ble, it is a lit­tle unre­al­is­tic. Here’s why…

My story: Help me make my book SELL

I recent­ly worked with a client who fin­ished her print-on-demand (POD) book. She asked me to work with her social media pro­file to get the word out. I was THRILLED. Social media is a great way to round up your “tribe” and find peo­ple who are tru­ly inter­est­ed in your work. I began to think about how a pres­ence on social media could iden­ti­fy poten­tial read­ers and con­nect with more peo­ple.

We emailed back and fourth a few times and talked about the best plat­form to pur­sue. My client wasn’t going to have time to engage in the com­ments or cre­ate sta­tus updates—she sim­ply want­ed more sales.

I probably should have stopped right there.

If you’re an author not able to active­ly engage AT ALL on social, it’s going to be a tough road for­ward. Most pub­lish­ers are look­ing for authors with an estab­lished platform—and if you’re self-pub­lish­ing, the strength of your sales depends on the loy­al­ty of your fans—who are usu­al­ly on social!

. . . But we agreed to run a few tar­get­ed Face­book Ads any­way. It was insane­ly suc­cess­ful. The cam­paign got thou­sands of shares, hun­dreds of com­ments, and lots of pos­i­tive engage­ment. Exact­ly what you’d hope to see. I was proud of my work. (still am!) A few com­menters even expressed inter­est in buy­ing the book. (We post­ed a link to Ama­zon.)

But no one purchased the book.

Yup, it was seen by over 300,000 high­ly tar­get­ed peo­ple, and not ONE per­son pressed BUY.

You can have lots of “engagement”—but that doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean peo­ple will pur­chase.

[share­able cite=“Josh Mitchell”]You can have lots of “engagement”—but that doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean peo­ple will purchase.[/shareable]

What I learned

Because of this expe­ri­ence, I real­ized many have unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions of what social can do for them. Espe­cial­ly when it comes to results. They want to see their dol­lars invest­ed, equal cold, hard cash for their busi­ness. They want to see true ROI—return on invest­ment.

4 Unrealistic Expectations

From my expe­ri­ence as a social media con­sul­tant work­ing with clients of bud­gets large and small, I’ve iden­ti­fied 5 unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions peo­ple have when jump­ing into social media.

1. SPEED: I want to see stuff happen quick

For the past 4 years, I have argued—and still explain—that social media is a marathon, not a sprint. This means that some­times you might not get the results you’re look­ing for…right away. It could take 3–6 months to notice a trend, and anoth­er 3–6 months of tar­get­ing to get what you’re look­ing for.

While it might be true that we live in an age where peo­ple respond quick­ly and speed is val­ued—sub­stan­tial results take time to test, ana­lyze, and learn from.

[share­able cite=“Josh Mitchell/Mark Thayer”]Social media is a marathon, not a sprint.[/shareable]

2. SALES: I need increased sales!

If you want to see an increase in sales, social can play a piece, but shouldn’t be the only strat­e­gy.

Sales as a direct result of social media is pos­si­ble—but it will take hard work, mon­ey, time, and the right per­spec­tive.

If you’re run­ning a tar­get­ed ad and spend­ing over $1,000 in ads, you might see some purchases—but it depends. $1,000 toward a tar­get­ed ad will help you get the word out and pro­vide some results on what to do next, but might not direct­ly “con­vert” to real sales. You must be will­ing to accept this. You have to be will­ing to have a “let’s try this” attitude—and be OK if no one buys.

Sales can even­tu­al­ly come because of social media, but it’s hard to direct­ly track. Here’s why:

Some­one might see your tar­get­ed cam­paign this month, but then decide to buy a few months lat­er. So did the social media cam­paign lead to the sale? Kind of. The take­away here is that it’s unre­al­is­tic to believe each dol­lar spent on social will lead to more busi­ness.

3. TRAFFIC: I want more website traffic

Dri­ve traf­fic to our web­site” is often a phrase I hear in mar­ket­ing. But is the gen­er­al pub­lic hon­est­ly look­ing for more web­sites to “dri­ve to”??

No. Peo­ple are not look­ing for “websites”—they’re look­ing for some­thing DEEP, per­son­al, and REAL. They want sto­ries that cap­ture their atten­tion, res­onate with their iden­ti­ty, and pro­vide social cur­ren­cy. If that means tex­ting on their iPhone, great. If it’s a pho­to on Twit­ter, awe­some. If it’s a web­site, cool. The plat­form isn’t as impor­tant as what’s being con­veyed and how it’s con­veyed.

I agree that web­site vis­i­tors are a valid met­ric to con­sid­er, but it can be mis­lead­ing. Peo­ple may vis­it your site, but not DO any­thing. That could be a usabil­i­ty issue (lay­out, mobile-friend­ly, page speed), a flaw in design, or mis­lead­ing copy (writ­ing). There are MANY vari­ables to con­sid­er once a per­son “lands” on a web­site. Track­ing their behav­ior is expen­sive!

So rather than get­ting caught up in advanced track­ing and user behav­ior research, take a step back first to under­stand what peo­ple real­ly want. They want some­thing REAL—something that shows you’re human. What can you do to find that in your busi­ness? Spend­ing the time and mon­ey to answer this is more valu­able and longer last­ing than vague web­site traf­fic.

4. PAGE LIKES: I want to see more likes

There are still a few peo­ple on the hunt for likes. They believe that the more likes they get, the bet­ter. While likes are a form of engage­ment, they don’t mean much except…someone clicked like. Good for you!

More likes increase your appear­ance (1,000 pages likes looks more legit than 100), but if those peo­ple aren’t high­ly tar­get­ed, it’s just a num­ber.

Fur­ther­more, any quan­ti­ty of likes on a page or post doesn’t do much for you unless you do some seri­ous and con­sis­tent tar­get­ing to those peo­ple. Social media algo­rithms fil­ter con­tent for each user, which means un-boost­ed posts aren’t guar­an­teed to be seen. (Yes, that means you have to pay $$$ to be seen and heard.)

Learning to manage social media expectations

If you’re still with me, let’s tran­si­tion and talk about some real­is­tic expec­ta­tions.

4 Realistic Expectations

1. BUILD A TRIBE: I want to provide a place to share content that “our kind of people” might like.

Seth Godin’s book, Tribes pop­u­lar­ized the term:

“A tribe is a group of peo­ple con­nect­ed to one anoth­er, con­nect­ed to a leader, and con­nect­ed to an idea. For mil­lions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or anoth­er. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared inter­est and a way to com­mu­ni­cate.” ― Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.

If you’re using social to ral­ly human beings togeth­er and to lead them, you will be more suc­cess­ful than try­ing to pound them on the head with offers to buy your thing. Com­mu­ni­ty trumps cur­ren­cy.
[share­able cite=“Josh Mitchell”]Community trumps currency.[/shareable]

2. STORIES: I want to create a place for people to share their stories—both good & bad.

If your goal is to pro­vide a place for peo­ple to share sto­ries, you’re on the right track. Social plat­forms are not the ori­gin of stories—but they’re an insane­ly effec­tive medi­um for them to be shared. Rather than focus­ing on the mechan­ics of the technology—focus on sto­ry.
[share­able cite=“Josh Mitchell”]Focus on story.[/shareable]
Cus­tomers will share their stories—both good and bad—whether you want them to or not. If the gen­er­al pub­lic is hand­ed a mega­phone, it’s hard not for them not to test it out every once and a while, espe­cial­ly when some­thing has their atten­tion.

Use this to your advan­tage and cre­ate the sto­ry you want your cus­tomers to share. Change up your scenery. Make a pho­to-opt area. Go above and beyond to impress. If you don’t, peo­ple will share sto­ries any­way.

3. CONSISTENCY: I want to consistently share a message over time to a group of people.

If you prop­er­ly view social media as a marathon, you can start to deliv­er your brand’s mes­sage on a con­sis­tent sched­ule. This top-of-mind aware­ness and name recog­ni­tion is VALUABLE for your com­pa­ny.

Use tar­get­ed ads to con­sis­tent­ly deliv­er a clear mes­sage and to earn people’s atten­tion. They might even­tu­al­ly SEEK you out, rather than you beg­ging at their feet for a sale.

4. SMALL GROUP, HIGHLY ENGAGED: I want a smaller group of people who is highly engaged.

Instead of shoot­ing for a few hun­dred or thou­sand face­less people—why not aim to make a dif­fer­ence in 10 people’s life?

Start small. Pur­pose to get real peo­ple engaged and to “win” them as a life-long fan, not just a pass­er by. If you do this—they will pro­mote you when they’re with their friends. They’ll talk about you and text about you. And that’s WAY more valu­able than 100 ran­dos who are just num­bers.

Be spe­cif­ic. Be per­son­al. Win hearts—not num­bers.

What’s the point, then?

Social media is a lot like social gath­er­ings in real life. There are con­ver­sa­tions, opin­ions, sto­ries, and REAL HUMANS.

The more real and human-like you are on social media, the more real humans will iden­ti­fy your busi­ness as some­thing worth read­ing, watch­ing, and even­tu­al­ly buy­ing from. Good luck.

[reminder]Which of these expec­ta­tions do you have?[/reminder]

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