Social Media Marketing Reality Check

It’s time for a little “social media marketing reality check” where we break through the fantasies surrounding social media marketing and introduce “reality” into the hype that surrounds social media marketing.


The reality of any kind of marketing success is that it doesn’t happen overnight.  Whether it’s print, radio, television or even the internet, it takes TIME to make an impression on consumers.  Traditional marketing wisdom says you need 8 “touches” with an individual before they will be open to your marketing message.  The same is true of your business blog.  Typically blogs take YEARS to “mature”.  Not days – not weeks – not months – YEARS!!!!

Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of visitors for a business blog to be an EFFECTIVE marketing tool.  I recently was helping a client with an email issue and got an inside “peek” at all the inquiries about her services.  The thing is – this client gets about 400 visitors a month to her blog – and she had 3 client requests for more information about her services.  So much for the “lots of traffic = lots of prospective client inquiries” bullshit advice.

You wouldn’t plant an apple seed and expect to harvest apples the next morning – yet many business owners expect to do just that not only through business blogging – but also through various forms of social media marketing.

With that said, social media marketing is ideal for those who:

  • understand their customers GDP (Goals, Desires, Problems)
  • are articulate in expressing how their business  helps customers to achieve goals, satisfy desires and solve problems
  • are naturally social
  • are technically savvy.

For those who possess the first three qualities in abundance and have time to spare- social media marketing can be surprisingly easy on the business checkbook.

The hardest obstacles to overcome in a successful social media marketing campaign are the first two elements.  Interestingly enough, those are the same two elements which are essential in the promotion of ANY business – online or offline.

This is the “reality” of social media marketing.  However, the “fantasy” is quite different.

The fantasy is that a business blog will bring you instant recognition and fame – that the more Twitter followers you have the more successful you’ll be – and that a Facebook or LinkedIn account qualifies as a complete social media marketing campaign.

The fantasy also paints all of this as easy, effortless and providing quick results with almost no investment of time, energy or capital (money).

There really isn’t any “mystery” or “magic” behind social media marketing and it’s not hard to understand the REALITY the governs the actual MECHANICS at work behind social media marketing.

Social Media means that conversations between customers and potential customers can now take center stage – especially if you’ve done nothing to put YOUR CAREFULLY PLANNED BUSINESS MARKETING MESSAGE CENTER STAGE!!!

Social media marketing has taken the casual communication between your current customers and your potential customers and moved them online. Those conversations are now being recorded, indexed and may be the first thing someone sees when they search for you or your business.

THAT my friend is what all the fuss is about when it comes to social media marketing.

Suddenly – the conversation about a business isn’t limited to JUST what the owner or employees have to say… thanks to social media – suddenly, the customers can jump in and have a voice in the marketing message as well.

If you’re a business owner and you’re not actively participating in social media – then it won’t be long before your customers and clients will be creating your social media marketing message for you.

This could be good news if it weren’t for human nature.  I suspect that it’s every business owner’s secret fantasy that a social media savvy customer would be so thrilled with a product or service that he would take it upon himself to actively proclaim the superiority of XZY’s company on an ongoing basis.  Day and after, week after week, he would blog about how WONDERFUL XZY is and would use his PR 5 blog to sing XZY’s praises.

It would be like having Oprah gush about your product during her show – instant business boost!

Ah – but that’s  a fantasy and there is nothing quite as painful as when fantasy meets reality.

In the real world, people expect good service.  People EXPECT products to do what they say they will do and they rarely “gush” when a product or service meets expectations.  In the real world, most people get motivated to action by the pain of fantasy crashing into reality.    That’s why a satisfied customer will tell – on average- three other people while a dissatisfied customer will tell 16.

That business maxim is why it’s a REALLY bad idea to allow your customers to define your social media marketing for you.

The reality is that the customers who are MOST motivated to engage in spreading the word about you are more than likely not your brand’s biggest fans.

See the Cash4Gold social media meltdown post for a chilling example of what happens when your social media marketing is left up to your customers.

There’s a lot of fear out there amongst business owners who are not actively involved in managing their online reputations – with good reason!

Sometimes, the marketing message need to be “managed”.   When that’s the case, social media marketing is neither “cheap” nor “easy”.


  1. I inevitably have this conversation with my clients. Often they see social media work for them and then they expect to be able to control it. This is similar to the ‘guarantee’ requests for SEO clients. Best practices apply for both.

    Tim Andrens last blog post..Adapt or perish

  2. Thanks for writing this article. Social media is actually one of the things I find hardest of all – there is so little control over it in terms of other people. It requires a conversation. It requires an enormous amount of time too. But I guess the fact that its a relatively new concept, means that us, the first users will make all the mistakes that future generations will learn from.

  3. Tim –

    Old habits die hard. What I try to get clients to understand is that the only difference between THEN and NOW is that now you KNOW what people are saying – and you can “respond” where before you didn’t KNOW how the message was being received.


    All of us out here on the “bleeding edge” are pioneers. I love the thought of telling my grandchildren som day about the wild, wild web 2.0 (when the web they’re dealing with is web 251.0). I’m sure we’ll be saying, “I remember the days when we used a keyboard and a mouse to get our thoughts onto the web….” 😉

  4. wow, this was just what I needed to read today! Thank you! I am attempting to write my 1 year anniversary of blogging piece and when I look at my plan from this time last year – it looks like I am not moving or doing the right things, but I have 400 readers drop by every week, and look at 1.4 pages and a 54% bounce rate….and am technically – extremely challenged…

    It looks like there is still hope for me!

    Patricias last blog post..Mending Fences

  5. Patricia,

    Keep on keeping on. It’s a marathon – not a sprint! It sounds like you’re on the right track! Keep on keeping on!