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Social networks are overrated

Emili Alsina, Director, Ediciones Just

  • Key4Communications

Social networks are a useful communication tool for businesses, especially as they allow us to interact directly with consumers. But they are mainly complementary tools, and they should not replace other communication actions (advertising, press releases, events...) as they have a much more limited scope than it might appear from the constant attention they receive.

For starters, the impact of our publications in social networks is comparatively slight. First, because of the architecture of many of these networks. For example, last week we mentioned that updates on Facebook only reach between 10% and 20% of the company’s followers.

Second, social networks are closed communities, as exemplified by the fact that only 1.6% of the followers of a brand on Twitter will click on a link. This means that conversations often do not move from the social network itself and the traffic we generate to our website or our online store will be low compared to other actions.

Furthermore, the obsession with the number of followers can be harmful. Obviously it is better to have 10,000 followers than 100. But the important thing is that these fans are really customers and partners, actual or potential, and are therefore able to contribute in some way to our company. Moreover, too large communities do not allow adequate management of conversations, so the advantage of direct communication with consumers is lost.

This obsession with numbers comes from the difficulty of measuring results in social networks. It is very difficult to know if it’s worth the time we devote to publish content and add new followers: how can we measure brand loyalty? How much of the 3% sales increase in the last quarter is attributable to having reached 5,000 followers on Facebook? What is the equivalent between retweets and advertising investment? These are impossible to answer questions that lead us to confuse social media impact with the profitability of these actions.

Also, we should keep in mind that consumers use networks, but primarily as a means of entertainment. We access Facebook to keep in touch with former college colleagues, for example, and Instagram to post a picture from a sunset. Purchases are secondary in these media and are also typically linked to discounts and promotions.

There is no need to put aside social networks. On the contrary. For example, they are very useful when it comes to strengthen customer service. Or to broaden the impact of a marketing campaign. But they must not be the core of our communication strategy.

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