The Great Social Media Waste

Allison Howen
by Allison Howen 02 Sep, 2013

Coca-Cola has 61.5 million-plus fans on Facebook, but despite winning the social media popularity contest, the brand found that the online chatter it receives produces no measurable impact on short-term sales. What makes your company any different?

Many companies are increasing the amount of time and resources they spend engaging with fans and followers via their social channels. The problem, however, is that their efforts typically fall short in meeting performance expectations, as fan numbers and post-engagement metrics don't necessarily correlate to website traffic and sales.

In fact, a recent Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly report reveals that email and search still drive far more conversions and referrals than social media. It would be irresponsible, however, to simply let all of your social planning and efforts go to waste. After all, there are still a few things that social networks are still good for, including:

1. Marketplace Insights Many of the social tools that brands are already using can actually reveal a lot about the wants and needs of the audiences that they are targeting. Listening platforms like Visible Intelligence, for example, analyze hundreds of thousands of online conversations in order to deliver unique insights to the brands leveraging their services. These insights can be used for a variety of business purposes, including competitive analysis, market research, crisis identification and marketing measurement.

"Our solution is about business impact," said Visible Technologies CEO Rich Pasewark. "It's wonderful to know where things are trending on Twitter, but it's more important to know what those trends signify for a brand and what decisions can be made about spending, marketing or communications to support business goals."

For instance, if a pet store merchant discovers that most pet-related social conversations revolve around the topics "puppies", "training" and "dog parks", the merchant can leverage this information to shape his or her advertising and content strategies. One example could be a merchant who decides to run a special on training classes and invest more resources into a marketing campaign to promote this initiative. Likewise, the merchant could focus more blog content on puppies, which will not only resonate better with the audience, but also help SEO initiatives.

2. Brand Awareness It's a good idea to closely monitor the time you put into social, but that doesn't mean you should neglect having a presence on these sites altogether. According to Andy Price, founder of, social posts can still increase your brand's visibility, despite their lack of impact on immediate conversions.

"Companies are spending time in social media because it's a way to generate awareness with your clients," said Price. "It's probably not the best way to convert potential clients to actual paying customers; nevertheless, there are always a number of followers that are interested in what you have to say."

Think about it this way, it is ideal for merchants to place their brick-and-mortar stores in high-traffic locations. You can't expect the majority of cars that drive by to stop into the store, but most of the cars will at least see the store as they pass by, and therefore know a little bit about it - such as its name, industry and location. Thus, having a presence in a high-trafficked digital area (like Facebook) increases brand awareness, too.

3. Customer Service The greatest aspect of social media is that it provides brands with a direct connection to their audiences. That said, many brands don't take advantage of this benefit. In fact, Socialbakers reports that companies on Facebook are ignoring 70 percent of their fans. According to Charles Meadows, assistant professor of public relations at St. Andrews University, the fact that social media provides a symmetric (two-way) channel for brands to communicate with their audiences on, is what sets it apart from marketing channels like email and search.

"One of the top reasons companies engage in social media is that it provides a unique opportunity to establish dialogic communication between company representatives and various publics," said Meadows. "Unlike other forms of marketing, social media provides a great platform for connecting with consumers, maintaining positive relationships and strengthening brand loyalty."

Minimizing the Waste Looking at the big picture, the only way to minimize the waste of social media is to redefine the role it plays in your business. While it is still okay to nurture your leads through this channel, it will likely better suit your company not to make social your sole marketing focus. After all, optimizing channels that are proven to provide a better ROI is surely a better use of your enterprise's valuable resources.