Social media marketing is perhaps the single most important form of online marketing today, at least for smaller businesses.
Social media marketing offers an affordable way to reach a huge audience. In fact, you can succeed at social media marketing even if you are doing it on a shoestring budget.
The same cannot be said for paid search or pay-per-click. However, while there are many good things about social media, a lot of beginner marketers overlook the disadvantages of social media marketing and rush into the world of fans, likes, and pins without truly understanding the industry.
The biggest disadvantages of social media marketing are also, in some respects, the biggest positives. Social media marketing allows you to reach a huge potential audience.
Content that you post has a fairly good chance of spreading far beyond the small group that you share it with – even if you are a novice in the world of online marketing and have a relatively small group to market to, there is a good chance that your posts will be shared by those members, and then their friends will see and share your posts, and so on.
When this happens, it is called having content “go viral”. Many marketers aim to have their content go viral, because this is essentially free advertising, however, you have no control over what will and will not be that popular.
PR Disasters in Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing can easily backfire. If you, or the person who is handling your social media profile, has a bad day and posts something that they should not, then that message will be seen by all of your fans. An off-hand comment or a tweet meant for a personal account but posted to a corporate account by mistake could turn into a huge problem for your brand.
Even positive messages can sometimes turn bad. The high-end UK supermarket chain Waitrose ran a campaign on Twitter in 2013, asking users to tweet reasons that they shop at Waitrose. The hashtag that Waitrose nominated for the campaign was quickly over-run by people who dislike the Waitrose brand.
The negative users posted satirical messages joking about how only incredibly well-off people, or “snobs,” shop at the store. These messages received far more media attention than the original Waitrose campaign.
To Waitrose’s credit, they took the backlash in good humour, and simply ignored most of the messages, rather than making what would have been a vain attempt to stop the use of the hashtag. Where other brand owners have exposed their lack of understanding of social media, Waitrose came out of this potential disaster unscathed.
More Reach = More Demands – Other Disadvantages of Social Media Marketing
One of the other downsides of social media is that if you have an account on a service, consumers expect that you will be available through it. Having a neglected account is, in many ways, more negative than having no account at all.
If you open an account on a social media service you should accept that you will have people trying to contact you on it for product information, customer service requests, suggestions, complaints, and more. You will need to pro-actively manage your social media accounts and look for brand mentions so that you can do reputation management.
You can use free online tools such as HootSuite to take care of a lot of this, but it will still be time consuming and if you or the person who is managing your social media accounts responds to some brand mentions but ignores others this could backfire and lead to accusations of favoritism.
While these disadvantages of social media marketing are undeniably serious, they do not mean that you should ignore social media completely. If you have a good social media management policy then you can turn your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other accounts into a valuable tool for online marketing and MLM.
You must be proactive in your marketing efforts, and if you allow your employees to post to your social media accounts, train them in the best ways to engage with the online community. The hard work will pay off in the long term as you gain a loyal and engaged following of customers.