When Social Media Marketing Sucks

A lot of advisers tell me that social media marketing sucks for financial services. They know, because they have been trying to market themselves using social media and the results are not good for them.

If it isn’t working it must suck, right?  “Working” generally means “getting new prospects or enquiries for our services “.  According to many advisers social media marketing isn’t doing that for them; therefore it sucks.

Usually when I hear this I go and have a quiet little look at what they are doing on social media, and it seems pretty obvious pretty quickly why social as a marketing strategy sucks for them.  It usually for one (or more) of the following reasons:

  1. Social media sucks when there is no clear strategy.  Random content and posts are just…random…
  2. Social media sucks when it is used in isolation.  A social platform unsupported by a website, good content, other online positioning…and so forth…is no different to a 14 year old Tik-Tokker.
  3. Social media sucks when you aren’t making an effort to connect with people.  One way communcations always suck…no matter the medium.
  4. Social media marketing REALLY sucks when it is constant blatant promotion of you, or your business, or your ego…

Social media marketing sucks just as much as any other form of marketing when it is done poorly in other words.  We could just as easily replace the term “social media” with “print advertising”….as that would suck just as much in terms of “working” if it was launched thoughtlessly and executed poorly.

The problem isn’t the medium; the problem is the business (or person) using the medium.  That is what sucks at marketing.

When there is no clear idea about what it is that the business is trying to achieve with its marketing there is typically a mis-match between expectations and actual behaviour.  For example:  when a business says “we must use social because everyone says it is the right way forward” (or words to that effect), there is an inherent expectation that this will help drive new business opportunities to the practice simply because it is something that everyone else is doing.  It must work simply because we hear it works for others, right?

But the use of the medium is inconsistent with the actual objectives.

Often a new user spends all of its efforts on the social media channels doing brand positioning and brand promotion.  The marketing behaviour of the business in this situation is not consistent with their own expectations – they are not doing things with social media that will create short term opportunities but are instead engaging in activities which may create greater familiarity and confidence in their brand over the longer term and help retention of existing clients, but not generating any significant volume of new engagements.

In that example the execution of the strategy sucks.

Alternatively, a business sets up social media channels and perhaps even puts some really good engaging stuff on them.  But then doesn’t promote those channels and let the world know that they exist.  Forget that nonsense about building a better mousetrap and the world beating a path to your door.  Prospects do not spend their evenings trawling around the Facebook pages of as many accounting practices as they can, or reading LinkedIn profiles of as many financial planners as they can, simply with a view to trying to find the perfect one.

In that example the tactics suck.

You have to do some things to drive people towards these marketing channels.  Sound strategy needs to be supported with tactical execution. Just putting social media posts out there as a isolated tactic will lead to disappointing results.  But if a firm put as much effort into getting their landing pages and SEO right as they did in getting their social media right, then there is a very good chance of increasing market engagement.

Another major reason for social media marketing flat-lining for a firm is that it is all one way communication.  The firm is putting out stuff for people to read maybe, but that is about it.   Too much generic one-size-fits-all bland content that is delivered one way….”read what we have to say“….but no actual interaction with the other human beings that the firm is trying to appeal to as prospective clients.  It is the digital version of yelling at passers-by with your megaphone, and wondering why they don’t stop to chat.

The final general observation of why social media sucks for many professionals is a pet peeve of mine if I am honest:  way too much stuff from way too many firms on social media which could be put into the category of “look how  wonderful I am”.  They treat it as an ego trip.

Honestly…who really thinks that prospects want to see a never ending stream of pictures and statements about buying bigger boats and cars or holidaying in exotic locations?   Perhaps putting a post up about the civic duty award received is interesting…once.  Not every day for 3 weeks though.  Worse though is constant and blatant product or service plugs – and even worse still is when it is precisely the same wording and same plug day after day after day after day…the only people who actually like that sort of thing are not on social media. They are busy watching the infomercials on TV…they are hooked on shopping channel already.

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with using social media for a bit of a plug here or there for the business – you are trying to market the business after all and prospects get that and are largely ok with it – it is about balancing the content mix.  It really is a fairly small proportion of the population who tune into the infomercial channels every day for their entertainment or education….the overwhelming majority of the population do not consider constant advertising  to be either entertaining or informative.  So maybe stop that.

In today’s digital world social media can be a fabulous marketing tactic – or it can suck.  The difference between the two is remembering the various elements that are needed to make it work, and then giving them all the right amount of attention because for social media to really work it has to be considered as just one tactical element in a well executed marketing strategy.

SEO is how they find you.  Social media is how prospects & clients decide whether to listen to you.  Content is why they engage with you and remember you.  There needs to be mthods for reaching out and personalising connections once people begin to engage…You need all of the elements to be given the proper attention if you do want social media marketing to work for you business, because “social” cannot work in isolation.   Not in any sense of the word can “social” be something which is done alone, can it?  A social network where it was just me sharing my thoughts about me,with me wouldn’t be very social would it?

Actually, it would suck.

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