Social Media are for Socializing, not Selling

The beauty of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace is the ability to connect with people who are significant in our lives. I have been fortunate to connect with many high school classmates on Facebook, most of whom I have not seen since our graduation 27 years ago (I wish that were a typo but it's not). Now, I can see pictures, exchange messages, and send birthday greetings. I do not share that excitement about the prospect of interacting with businesses on social networking sites. Apparently, most other social media consumers feel the same way.

A study of 13-54 year-old social media users conducted by Knowledge Networks indicates less than 5% of those persons surveyed rely on the medium for guidance on making purchase decisions. Furthermore, only 16% indicated an intent to buy products from brands that advertise on social networking sites. Despite all of the promise and hype of social networking sites, marketers should take these statistics as a dose of reality. People who participate in social networks online typically do so for personal, not commercial, reasons.

Does this mean marketers should jump off the social networking train altogether? Absolutely not. It means that we must re-think the objectives of a brand presence in social media. It is all about engagement and building customer communities. A fan page on Facebook for a brand is a way for customers to show affinity or extend their relationship. Those desires usually outweigh accessing branded content on a social networking site to assist in making a buying decision.

Every communication medium is not conducive to making a sale. It would be unthinkable that a marketer would intrude on a gathering of friends at the neighborhood tavern or restaurant to try to sell products. Why would we expect virtual gatherings of friends to react differently?

Link: Brandweek - "Social Media Rarely Used to Guide Purchases"