A Case Against Social Media Marketing



August 12, 2013 (Updated: May 4, 2023)


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So many marketing options are available today. There’s print media, radio, television, direct mail, directory listings, content marketing, pay-per-click advertising, and so much more.  All of these are proven, or at least track-able, methods for advertising your small business. Meanwhile, social media gets a lot of attention, and it’s easy to see why.  There’s a sense that it has a low price tag, but there’s a hidden cost in the amount of time needed to launch a proper social media campaign and risks that are involved.

Why does social media marketing get a lot of attention?

So many people use it. Every week there seems to be new core social platforms and complimentary social “apps” (games, sharing sites that sync with social networks, and more). Social features are popping up in traditionally non-social areas.

The real reason though, is because many companies are selling products that claim to improve social media results.  There’s nothing wrong with selling a service that adds value by making your social media campaigns more effective. Social media can have value, it can be effective.

Why am I against social media marketing for most businesses?

Social media has all the negative elements of mass, public relations, and direct marketing. Similar to television or radio, you don’t have a lot of control or knowledge of who gets your message, and unqualified social media audience members start wasting your time.  Social media is similar to public relations because of its nuanced nature. As with direct marketing, if you’re targeting the wrong people, you’re wasting money and time.

For many small businesses, the world of public relations can be a dangerous place for amateurs. The problem is that social media marketing is proving to be very time consuming and carries a heavy cost for small businesses. Additionally, social media can often do more harm than good when it’s done wrong or, more commonly, can’t be done the right way.  The business engaging in social media needs be flexible, thick-skinned, and honest.  Lies and fluff get exposed quickly and a faux pas can turn into a crippling embarrassment.

Social media will yield you many unqualified contacts.  You are either hidden among the things people actually want to see – like twitter – or annoyingly forced fed to users – as with Facebook paid ads.  Very few people are going to care about what you have to say, and when they do, it’s going to be for shared content, information, or images that have little or nothing to do with your business.  You will see a return, but not enough to justify the investment (your valuable time).

That’s not to say social media should be ignored.

If successful social media techniques fit your business, then it may be worth looking into.  Some companies fit social better than others. However, trying to wedge a company that serves niche or discrete market segment into social media may pose extreme challenges. It’s worth weighing the benefits against the obvious and hidden costs and risks of social media marketing.  Turn off the hype, and try to consider it objectively. Some very niche products have a place, because the community will be glad to share their interest in that small sub-community.

Major brands can afford to divert several million dollars to social media. A small business on the other hand has to consider all costs and projects carefully. Set up a page on a handful of major social sites, and post when you find it convenient but no more than once per day (or scheduling a few posts at once). Include one or two social icons on your direct communications and marketing pieces. Use social media as an excuse to “touch” leads, but don’t make social media marketing itself a goal.

Social media should be approached consciously, but don’t stress out over it.

I think a lot of small start-ups fall into this trap. Instead of social branding, you should be writing personalized letters and making sales calls… especially making sales calls and servicing the customer base better.  Invest more money into advertising to your targeted demographic for direct sales, not to get a like, retweet, or +1.  At a certain point, you need to stop developing your brand and start selling your product. That takes hard work, real personalized networking, and direct advertising.

When you grow to the point where you couldn’t possibly do any more direct marketing (internet, remarketing, postcards, etc.) then go out and do more social and mass marketing. In the meantime, focus on direct sales, proven direct marketing for your industry, SEO, content, improving your core service, finding added value and creating your unique selling propositions.

Steven Lacks is the Marketing Manager for SonicPrint.com.  Sonic Print offers direct mail marketing services and is especially known for their services dealing with Every Door Direct Mail. Want to learn more about how direct mail marketing can help you? Make sure to “like” Sonic Print on Facebook to find the most recent blog posts published.

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