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Is social media important? Even though there are still some who believe it isn't, today few dispute that it has at least some value.

Instead, the debate has largely shifted to another question: how is social media best applied to deliver meaningful results for businesses?

When it comes to that question, there is no shortage of consultants and firms offering to help companies find the answer.

As revealed in SEMPO and Econsultancy's recently-released State of Search Marketing Report 2011, companies are increasingly outsourcing their online marketing functions to third parties.

In the social media sphere, 62% of companies were keeping social media in-house last year, but that has dropped to just 55% today. Clearly, providing services around social media is a growth industry, even if the days are numbered for the worst of the social media 'gurus'.

But a recent conversation I had with an old friend who runs a digital consulting firm in Brazil provided an interesting perspective on the market. When I asked how his business was doing, he was pleased to report that it was doing very well, and that he had picked up a number of big clients this year.

I asked him how he was doing that and he replied, quite bluntly, "I am not offering any services related to social media." The reason? During a meeting with a prospective client last year, the subject of social media came up, and the prospective client's president spoke very bluntly: "If another person tells me we need to be on Facebook and Twitter, I'm going to jump out of the window".

It wasn't that the president of this company thought Facebook and Twitter were useless, my friend explained; rather, it was the fact that every individual and firm pitching him on improving his digital presence was selling Facebook and Twitter, and few were actually asking about his company's biggest digital pain points.

By focusing exclusively on client pain points -- something most of his competitors aren't doing -- my friend's business is booming.

This experience highlights something that consultants and firms alike may want to keep in mind: social media is big, but the non-social media world is even bigger.

From analytics to technology platforms, companies of all shapes and sizes face a lot of challenges. Many look to outside partners to help them address these challenges, but in many places the market has been flooded by providers selling little more than the idea that social media is the end-all and be-all of a successful online presence.

That isn't the case, because even where social media is desirable or required, there are a lot of other things companies need to get right to succeed on the internet.

From this perspective, the greatest opportunity to cash in on the rise of social media may be to ignore social media altogether.

Patricio Robles

Published 5 May, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2390 more posts from this author

Comments (14)

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Claire stokoe

Is it just me, or does this post not make any sense? Surely if it's not social media then its SEO, pr, technical build, analytics or e commerce. Are you saying that social media experts should sell themselves as seo's or website designers.. Or just that they pay more attention to what the client actually needs.

Confused SMM

over 5 years ago

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Richard Jesus

A really confuse article huh?

Ps: Curious about your brazilian old friend :)

over 5 years ago

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Jenni

From your post it seems that it's not ignoring social media which is helping your friend, it's focusing on the issues and areas that the clients are interested in...which is pretty obvious. Nice title though.

over 5 years ago

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Craig Kelley

I think the point was that there is much more to a marketing campaign than just social media. Although, in my opinion, you can't ignore social media but embrace it.

over 5 years ago

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Nate

The point is, there are a lot of firms that project the idea that by plugging a company into social media they will solve all their online problems, or that it was the main thing they were missing. Many firms rush to socialize their clients before looking at the bigger picture. Stakeholders have been hearing this for years, and there is no doubt about its relevancy in the current landscape, but social is nothing remotely close to being a golden arrow - just another tool. Some business demographics in the B2B flatly ignore it, they don't consume/engage this way.

So, social is the not-so-new shiny toy, and rather than trying to push social because of its media status, make sure you're looking at their real pain points and problems a client is facing. Maybe they could benefit from it, maybe it would just prove to be a time and money resource drain. There are no silver bullets.

over 5 years ago

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Sean Duffy

Great article Patricio.

I also hear what the man in Brazil has time and time again - "You have to be on Facebook/Twitter etc etc because its massive".

I'm not anti-social in any way but all I keep reading in articles promoting social media are articles full of lazy buzzwords or straw polls of one about social media.

Where are those case studies with amazing tangible results that put forward the business case for investing in social media?

over 5 years ago

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iGoByDoc

Interesting take, but not sure I agree with your final assessment at all.

Granted, there may be a certain type of business that may not gain a lot of benefit from Twitter and Facebook, and why are those two platforms the only thing mentioned here regarding social media?

While it may or may not make sense to be on the platforms, ignoring the data you can get by monitoring sentiment on Twitter, running reputation management campaigns etc can help many businesses deliver a better product or service and that data is GOLD!

One thing you did not mention is what type of business your old friend sold to that had these other pain points... possibly they had a model that was not a perfect fit for social.. and if so, that is OK... but not worthy of slamming this medium as a whole.

Also, if this company hates social so much, and wants to jump out the window... is that because he is being sold by the "guru" you mentioned, is the customer not educated on the platforms and the benefits, or is the customer old school and stuck in the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" routine? Hell if my family business was still around, I would have a hell of a time convincing the family to pull out of radio, TV and Newspapers because it "worked", but I would have a much easier time integrating all of them together with social to create a campaign that worked.

Personally and professionally, I think any business that purposely ignores social media (whatever sites you want to include) is making a grave mistake.

Sure, the are a lot more people outside of social that you can market to, but ignoring the audience you can engage day to day online is not the way to go either.

I say fish where the fish are.. online, offline wherever it may be.

However, if you have a product or service that blows... going social may cause more pain than it is worth... but at least you will have the opportunity to listen and improve... or just close your doors. =)

over 5 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Claire,

For clarification: my friend runs a small digital strategy shop (eg. he gets paid to look at the big picture and help his clients figure out how to improve their ROI from digital).

The key suggestion here is there's a great opportunity for consultants and firms that actually assess needs instead of selling the same round peg to every client.

Even if you're a social media marketer, your pitch doesn't always have to be "You need to be on Facebook and Twitter or you're missing out." Lots of business owners are tired of it.

One thought on this point: I'm always amazed at how many social media marketers focus on helping brands connect with consumers, even though there are tons of B2B businesses. There are some great opportunities to apply social technologies to communication that takes place *within* companies, yet to be honest, I haven't met a single social media 'guru' with that angle in his or her toolbox. Food for thought....

Nate,

Bingo!

over 5 years ago

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Peter Birganza

Hi,
I don`t think so that social media is a field that you ignore. On other hand if i am not wrong than you are trying to say that social media and seo are one of the same thing? You can take social media under the head of seo expert? I am little bit confuse about it that what you want to explain in your article clearly about seo and social media emergence?

over 5 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

Social media is not the magic bullet answer to all your online marketing problems. I think that's where a lot of companies run afoul. It's just another tool to be included in the marketing arsenal. You can't ignore it, but you shouldn't forgo everything else in favor of it.

over 5 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

The area where I see the biggest client need currently is 'CRO' (conversion rate optimisation). That doesn't get talked about nearly so much as 'social media' but most site owners I talk to actually aren't that worried any more about the amount of traffic they're getting to their site (social or otherwise) but rather how they can better convert that traffic to something valuable.

over 5 years ago

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Terry Hogan

Ashley you are spot on. We have very few Facebook followers (350 ish) I could go and buy a few thousand- but we have 580,000 or so registered users and we like to socialise with them direct!
If I had a few million pounds spare, yes I would grow a large social commmunity not centred around our own site , but out there in the wild.
You can be social anywhere as long as you have a community to talk to, something interesting to say and you keep feeding it.
Simply put ,just do what works for you, do it well, do it regularly.

over 5 years ago

Michael Stewart

Michael Stewart, Freelance Digital and Ecommerce Consultant at 52art Ltd

Marketing. It's always been the same and just because we have new channels and opportunities doesn't mean that the challenge changes.

1. retain and grow sales from your existing customer base as the best opportunity

2. acquire new customers by exploring a range off channels and being aware of the relative performance and inter-relationships of them

3. Improve metrics all along the funnel to conversion and actually beyond to lifetime value

None of the above discussed specifc channels. You need a plan that focuses not on channel but on marketing objectives. With a view on what you need to do then you can explore which channels make the most sense ... including social media.

You don't need a social media plan and an email plan and etc etc. You need a marketing plan that encompasses everything in a joined up way ... and that includes social media.

Econsultancy ran JUMP last year about joined up marketing ... of course that's the right way to go. But marketers have known that for years.

Social media ... massive opportunity but not the only opportunity

over 5 years ago

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Tara Clark

Hi Patricio,

I think that it's important to understand where YOUR customers network and look for information for their business prior to advancing into social media practices. If you see that they are not using social media and you are able to narrow down your clients pain points successfully, power to you!

Social media isn't for everyone, but it's always good to have some sort of presence in this realm of online communications and networking. In your case, perhaps your clients are talking positively about you on their social media networks and since you are not following these outlets, you are missing out on free publicity? It helps to have a way of tracking social media comments from client or prospective clients for your business to ensure that the correct message is being distributed about your business.

about 5 years ago

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