There is no denying that social media is a huge phenomenon. At least 16 of the top 20 biggest websites in the world (according to Alexa) have some kind of a social media component. And of course Facebook, the granddaddy of all social media sites, claims over a half a billion users!
Numbers like that get people’s attention. And well they should.
Social media is revolutionizing business communication on a scale not seen since Gutenberg invented his movable type press back in the 1400’s. Businesses need to be tapping into it using sound strategies and tools to simplify and streamline things like building Facebook pages.
Even so there is one huge mistake that I see businesses make time and time again regarding social media. They neglect the most powerful piece of their media strategy.
Building an Audience
The true power of social media is in building an audience. As your audience grows you have a larger pool of people to market your goods and services to.
Business get enamored with the millions upon millions of people that are flocking to social media sites. To often the thinking goes something like, “Here’s a built in audience. All I have to do is get in front of them and I’ll have all the business I can stand.”
It is true that there are tons of folks on social media sites. And it is an excellent idea to get your business in front of as many people there as you can.
The trouble is audiences on social media sites can be a bit fickle. Raw numbers of followers, fans or people who “Like” your Facebook page are usually not a great way to measure your success with social media. (The one thing those numbers are good for is stroking the ego of the person managing those accounts for you.)
While harder to quantify, user engagement is a much more significant measure of success with social media. Because here’s the thing. Simply being in front of people does not turn them into your audience.
Just look at how the word audience is defined.
- the group of spectators at a public event; listeners or viewers collectively, as in attendance at a theater or concert: The audience was respectful of the speaker’s opinion.
- the persons reached by a book, radio or television broadcast, etc.; public: Some works of music have a wide and varied audience.
- a regular public that manifests interest, support, enthusiasm, or the like; a following: Every art form has its audience.
- opportunity to be heard; chance to speak to or before a person or group; a hearing.
- a formal interview with a sovereign, high officer of government, or other high-ranking person: an audience with the pope.
- the act of hearing, or attending to, words or sounds.
Notice that in order to call a group your audience they need to be “hearing or attending to words or sounds.”
So much of what businesses do on social media today is simply noise that no one is listening to.
That’s why I see web publishing as the single most critical piece of any social media presence. More specifically I’m talking about content (i.e. articles, videos, photos, etc.) that is published on your own website, on your own domain, on a web hosting account that you pay for and control.
Don’t get me wrong. Social media is a fantastic tool to make initial contact with people you might never reach any other way and connect them to your business. Social media can be the widest part of your marketing fulling that brings potential customers into your business. But there has to be something that you are connecting them to which is more compelling than a “me too” Facebook page.
That something should be your main website.
With the powerful web publishing tools out there today like WordPress, there is no reason any organization can’t build a powerfully engaging web presence at their main website that keeps people coming back over and over again.
Besides, if your primary web marketing presence is a Facebook page then you are putting your organization’s online activity at the mercy of a monolithic company that is notorious for changing their rules on a whim, with no notice and no recourse. That’s a risky approach, to say the least!
Website First, Social Media After
Your first priority should be to build up your own website so that it becomes a strong healthy hive of activity on the web that’s centered around your organization.
Once you have your website in place and starting to build an actual audience, you know the “attending to your words” kind, then when you start engaging social media sites like Facebook and Twitter you will see much more success. People will see that you have something worthwhile to say and will pay much closer attention.
Not only that, but this approach will completely set your organization apart from the overwhelming majority of your competitors. But nearly all of them are still making the huge mistake of ignoring the power of web publishing. They go straight for big social media numbers with no plan to engage those passers-by and funnel them ever closer to paying customers.
Be forewarned. This approach is one that starts off more slowly. In the end, though, it is far more effective and worth it.