For years, we have been told that social marketing is the way forward - but is there a limit?
I have always had a love/hate business relationship with social media. I adore the fact I can use it to add a hugely personal element to my business communications. The modern day barstool, giving me the opportunity to engage in casual conversation with people from all over the world. However, there is a darker side to social media. No… I don’t mean that side. I’m talking about the struggles that businesses have with integrating their social communities with their website.
Working in digital, I often hear: “We get a lot of social media engagement. We need to take this and make it the focal point of our website”. It always makes me shudder. Although I am a huge advocate of using social media to achieve business goals, I am adamantly against using it for large portions of homepage content. We all know social media is a vital component of a successful digital strategy, but can making it your websites focal point actually be counter-productive?
The Social Condition
My ‘Marmite-esque’ relationship with social media has left me a bit torn. On the one hand I see it constantly being tacked-on to many websites as an afterthought. On the other, I see businesses using it as a way to connect personally with their customer base and engage them in both their brand and company opinions. My ‘hate-side’ actually seems to have stemmed from the buzz-word mentality that social media has accrued in the last few years.
For years, we have been told that social is the way forward. “Social media is the key to modern marketing”, “Social can generate (x) amount of leads”, “Social media can solve world hunger”. For this reason alone, I think we have a social expectation epidemic on our hands. People have been told that utilising Social media can miraculously solve business problems, and now people want it everywhere.
Distribution, Distribution, Distribution
I read countless amounts of social marketing blogs, each with their own little twist on how social media should be used to improve your business. Some focus more on engagement, others look at integration and lead gen strategies. However, there is one thing that they all have in common. Using social as a method of distribution. What seems to be the overwhelming consensus is the strength in using social as a method to distribute not just your content, but also your branded conversations.
This leads me back to my original point. If you are using social media as a distribution method, engaging in meaningful conversations with your customers, why would you then make social media the focus of your homepage content? It seems contradictory. Drawing people into your online ecosystem, only to swiftly redirect them back to their social media of choice - and don’t kid yourself into thinking they will be looking at your social content. There are plenty of pictures of kittens to draw their eye and reel them into perpetuate procrastination.
The other side of this coin is also just as sour. Knowing that your twitter feed is going to appear as a heavy part of your homepage content will completely change the way you communicate on that platform. Thinking “Oh, shit… this will appear on our homepage” every single time you message someone on a social media is going to harm your overall business communication. Social media has that magical quality of letting you be opinionated. Homepage copy cannot afford such a luxury.
A homepage generally needs to appeal to the reader, who doesn’t really care who you are until they understand what you can do for them. If you are bombarding them with social engagement content you will just end up with a confused brand message. Of course, its nice to show that people care enough about your brand to engage, but this can be done tastefully, allowing people to glance at activity rather than be the focal point.
Contrary to popular belief, social media marketing alone is never going to draw in a horde of customers out of thin air. Most of your social engagement will come from super-fans, who are already heavily invested in your brand. Using it to retain that loyalty is a far greater marketing strategy than to ask for heavy engagement from new prospects. Having a large social presence on your homepage will inevitably set you up for the worst case scenario: Your homepage, plastered with negative comments by new users, who are confused about what your value proposition actually is.
At the end of the day, social media is a fantastic way to keep engaged with your customer base. It lets you communicate with speed and personality, helping to break through corporate facades and letting your customers get to know you as a business. However, with peoples minimal attention span and shrinking screen sizes (mobile device popularity), I really cannot justify its place as the centrepiece of a homepage.