Social Media Marketing – The failure for the rest of us

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I’ve always hated Social media, No, really hated it. I avoided it completely for the longest time. I think I may have been the last person to ever sign up for Facebook in the world. But after urging by others and the fact that I read so many articles on “You HAVE to be on social media!” I acquiesced and started signing up. I started with Twitter, cuz it was different and I liked it. I still like it to this day as my favorite. I REALLY didn’t want to be on Facebook at all but I knew once again, “I HAD to” so I settled on at first just having a Business Page and a few years later I gave in to having a personal page. I did Google + during its heyday and gave up that when it was clear it was going downhill and I migrated to Instagram when it was clear it was on an uphill march.

But I did this all for one reason, Business. I’m a severe introvert so my actual socializing is hiding in any corner or cave I can. So, the social aspect of Social Media did not interest me much. Though I do have to say I met a good number of my “in Real Life” friends there or from a now defunct online forum. But my true reason for being on social media was to promote my business(s). I’m a photographer, so I want to promote that in itself and a big part of that is the sale of my prints. I also have a photography related blog and that is supported by Affiliate Marketing of software and photography related products. This is all I do, my only means of income so of course I want it to be as successful as possible. I’ve been at it for 10 or so years now and I don’t think it’s ever gotten to the point of success I wanted or needed.

Surely, it must be in “Social Media Marketing” cuz every article said so (insert sarcasm emoji here)

There is no doubt that Social Media has great power. Heck it’s easy to say it dominates our lives. I mean how long can you go without peaking at Facebook. C’mon, admit it, you checked it while you were reading this and this is just the 4th paragraph. So, if social media is so powerful and part of our everyday life. It MUST be a great place to market our small (micro, nano) businesses.

But then, it’s just not. Why not? Because like everything else in marketing/advertising…It’s a numbers game.

How it all works

Yes, Social Media Marketing works just great…for some. Some Small, Medium to Large corporations have found the best ways to use it to promote their brands. It augments their TV and the mostly gone, Radio and Print advertising. Individuals/Single proprietors have used it and found success too. In two ways, either they’ve used it to promote themselves (and hence their brand) or other brands seeing the follower numbers piggyback on that and now by just mentioning that individual they now have 10,000, 30,000, 60,000…100,000 new possible followers from a single mention. But notice something, they don’t do the same thing for you and your 225 followers. Why? Because it a numbers game,

Now I don’t want to get into how to get those big numbers of followers, I’m sure you can find TONS of articles that will tell you how, saying things like, “Have great Content” “Interact with your followers” …. ehem…#bullfuckingshit. While there are people that did well organically, they also did other things like being an early adopter, mentions by larger blogs or even the Huffington Post. Articles like “10 Instagramers you NEED to be following NOW” on the Huffington post I guarantee gets you more new followers than “Great content” as important as that may be, It doesn’t get you the instant eyes on. Anyway, like I said, I don’t want to get into HOW to do that, but that it is far from the obvious that is posted daily on blogs of the How To.

But what I do want to talk about is well, what does that mean for the rest of us?

I have; 144 Facebook Friends, 255 Facebook Page Likers, 649 Instagram Followers and 441 Twitter followers. Fairly dismal numbers cuz I have made some serious mistakes doing SM, but honestly, it’s fairly typical. In a survey I did of other photographers in group I am in. a couple were less than me, then a lot were similar to me and some had numbers in the 2,000’s (I still don’t get how you have 2,000 friends but I am the introvert right?) I do have one photographer friend that has numbers above 10,000 and she really worked for that and knew what she was doing. But, as I said having 200 – 2000 friends/ followers/likes is the norm.

2,000 sounds like a pretty nice number, surely that should bring you some business. It doesn’t, but let me interrupt this thought for a moment

There are some types of small businesses that do well with Facebook. Facebook has become more than just Social Media, they’ve become a news outlet and something it actually does better than anything is small, micro local news. If something is happening locally, in your town, your neighborhood or even your street…most likely you’ll hear it on Facebook. So, if you have a business that revolves around Word of Mouth; Portrait Photography, Wedding photography even an Auto Mechanic. Facebook may work great for you of done correctly. If you post well and then it is shared correctly to others that may be in the same need, it will work even with small Follower numbers because you have the “They told two friends” math to it. Take Weddings. You photograph a couple and share their Photos, they in turn share it to their friends. So just think. Most of their friends are the same demographic, same age, same martial/relationship status. They are your clientele, your market. The share has built-in target audience marketing. And then those people share again to the same demographic. So, as you can see, small numbers can quickly become large numbers.You get an advertisement, a referral and hopefully and positive review all in one postIn this case, the numbers work for us.

But say, it’s another product, something that is harder to target to your followers. What if you had something that most likely none of your followers would buy? Oh, people out there do want what you have. But do your followers? This is where it all falls flat and the numbers tell us why.

The Numbers Game

So just what is this numbers game I speak of? In marketing, especially online marketing there is something known as “Conversion Rate” This is the rate at which you will convert Visitors to Customers. Now this is something argued about daily in those circles but 2 – 3 % Conversion is a generally accepted percentage. Some say it’s 10%, if we really look at visitors that are not qualified, it’s easily .01% or worse. The 2 – 3% takes into account that everything was done right. You were targeted, you actually WANTED to buy something, but still only 2% actually will and that is a number you should be happy with. Think of how many Hits/visits that Amazon gets every hour even. Getting 2% of that is pretty nice (Amazon gets 183 Million Visitors per month! And has a conversion rate of 13% for non-prime members. 74% for prime!!! Most people that go to Amazon already want to buy something)

OK, so now how does that work out for the rest of us. You’ve got 2,000 Likers of your Facebook Business page. So, 2% of that…oh no, wait. Does everyone that’s a follower even see your posts? Un-boosted No. Boosted …well let’s just say I’ll comment more on this later. But let’s be generous and say 10% SEE and also click on your website where you have Products services for sale. NOW assuming you’re good and people just HAVE to have what you have. 2% of those people will buy what you are selling. 200 x 2%That’s just 4 people that may buy what you have to offer and that could be your whole year unless you have something that is reoccurring that people need every month. Can you really build a business on 4 people? That’s assuming 2,000. What if you have 200 like me? What if you have a product not everyone likes, what if your conversion is actually .01%? Can you see how the numbers work?

So, with this in mind and the whole question of how does this all work for most people with small Businesses similar to mine. I wanted to do a little test. I wanted to do it for two reasons. I actually wanted to increase sales. I NEED to increase sales. But is Social Media the place to put that effort?

The Test

I set up a test to have a sale of my Fine Art Prints on all my social media. Facebook (Personal), Facebook Business (Page), Instagram and Twitter. To track sales attributed to each SM site I set up distinct Coupon Codes for each site. I wanted this to have as much impact as possible so I had a 30% off sale. I NEVER give 30% off. Most times I keep my sales to 10 -15% off. But I wanted to see just how much extra sales I could get and where, which Social Media Site was most effective.

I ran an ad (with an Image, always use an image for visibility) promoting the sale. I posted it and posted again 3 Times within the month of September. My Facebook Personal I posted it as public so that anyone and everyone could see it and that it also could be “shared” by my friends, which actually more than ever before, my friends came through and shared it (crying in other posts helps that). My Facebook business Page, I Boosted the Initial Post but did not boost the subsequent posts, to see if there was any difference there in additional sales. Instagram, while it’s technically against the rules to post a sale, it didn’t get caught or banned and I used a lot of Targeted Hashtags to get to my core market; people that decorate their homes, Interior Designers, Art brokers rather than my normal Photographer friends. Maybe I could have done more but I put an honest effort because if nothing else, heck I need the money,

So at the end of the Month which ended Saturday. I logged in to see which outlet generated the most sales by the unique coupon code. Here are the results:

I generated 0 sales, None, zip, ZERO. OK, to be honest One coupon code was used. But that was by a very close friend and honestly, I would have just given her the print if she asked. But she was very nice and did take advantage of the sale. She would have bought a print anyway.

Now, that’s not to say I didn’t have sales. I sold about my average for the month which is about 10 prints. But not one of those was because of social media, zero

It’s the numbers. In the first place, the wrong people in most cases are seeing the ads. Most of the Followers are photographers and they just don’t buy prints. Even myself, though I own about 4 prints from other artists. The photos on my walls are my own and if I was to buy art it would be abstract acrylics or metal art. Even “I” am not my customer. So, you take the numbers and reduce them to viable customers and then reduce that again by the 2 – 3% and you really see why the big boys see it as so important to have 30,000, 100,000 or 1 Million Followers. The rest of us, it simply won’t work.

Even my boosted Facebook Page post. Facebook said If I boosted that post by just $20 I would get 4,000 to 10,000 Targeted (which I chose carefully) views. So, what did I actually get? I got 376 Organic Views and Boosted views; Just 770. Of those roughly 1100 views how many actually clicked on the link to the sales site?  2, 2 friggen 2. So, 2% of 2…. yeah. That’s as close to zero as can be for converted customers.

Bottom line is, it’s numbers and the numbers just don’t work out for “The rest of us”. Either that should entice you to get those big numbers…if that is even possible. Or maybe look to other things that may work so much better

Speaking of which, I got 10 sales. So how did I get eyes on for those people to buy my prints. Simple…. Search(SEO). Think about that for a while.

Ciao, P