Is social media more hype than helpful?

For a number of years now, it has been almost a foregone conclusion that social media is a wonderful thing. It helps people connect with each other; it helps companies gain higher profits. It can even fix your marriage if it’s on the rocks. Okay, that last one is probably not true. But it seems the media and the Internet is all about touting the coolness and power of social media.

Is it all hype?

I have been in the Internet marketing “game” for a while now, and I have to say that for the most part, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest can be of use to our daily lives. I am sure many of you enjoy the interactions contained in Facebook. Although I have had a friend share the pain of his impending divorce… which was way too personal. These sites can be wonderful  ways to keep in contact with others and see what interests them. There is a sneaky feeling I am getting however. A feeling that social media as a business tool is more hype than helpful.

So why do I say that? The key to using social media in business is for audience engagement. If you build up a strong following of people who like your social media sites and post regularly, then you gain their trust and they are more likely to buy from you. This all seems well and good on the surface But does it really pan out? After a few years of watching this process in the industry, I am certain that in a small way, such engagement is helpful to a company or organization. But let’s be honest. If you have a local restaurant and you are doing awesome social media engagement, but last year another restaurant opens up in town and they offer as good food as you do, then will your social media keep people from grabbing their lunch at that place and not yours? I say no. I may be the biggest fan of a certain local cheese steam, place (I come from Philly, as you can guess), but if one of my friends told me about a cool new place that has terrific steak sandwiches, man, I can tell you, I would check it out, and if they were as good as he said, then I would jump ship from the old place. I just don’t feel people have any sort of allegiance with commercial/business entities. You find a coupon to a competitor, you use it. If you find a better cell phone plan at the place across town, you dump your existing one and save some cash each month.

So I now tell my clients that social media is just one part of your whole marketing plan. It will not bring in gobs of clients nor will it create a tide of enthusiastic cheerleaders for your products and services. But if you use it strategically and focus on helping your clients and not spouting about how great your company is, then it can be an essential ingredient in your overall outreach and marketing strategy.

Great, now I’m hungry for a cheese steak.

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