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Is Social Media Marketing a Scam?

That’s an adaptation of a question I responded to the other day on LinkedIn.

The other answers included comments that the questioner had definitely been scammed, that social marketing was a fickle opportunity and that it was ‘a bottle of snake oil’.

Isn’t diversity great..?

But here’s the thing:

The more I study Social Media Marketing the more I realise that it’s thousands of years old.

It’s no different from being the best baker or best butcher in the village. The one that everyone trusts and goes to.

The difference is that the village is now a global village and the community is now several hundred million people and growing rapidly.

Instead of chatting to people, and passing on recommendations (and gossip) in the village square, we do it on Facebook.

The trigger for Social Media Marketing: the Internet became social

What makes it a buzzword now is that it’s coming off the back of an Internet that for a long time really only enabled one way communication.

That made marketing to people over the Internet no different from marketing on TV, radio or the press.

Basically you had to shout louder or more often than your competition to get people’s attention.

Once email became mainstream, marketers everywhere saw it as a super cheap alternative to the Direct Mail campaigns that used to clog up our mailboxes. Junk mail became junk email.

And we were pummelled with so much marketing that we tuned it out.

Then along came blogs and social networking, bookmarking and media sites. These enabled two-way communication on the Internet – just like in the real world.

Which gave social media marketing it’s opening.

Now, not only can we avoid people who shout too loudly or too often (social media spammers), but we can diss them to others. Not good for the traditional shout-louder-and-more-often marketing approach.

Word of mouth and recommendations now work on the Internet even more effectively than they do in the real world.

When something goes viral it does so at warp speed to hundreds of millions of people.

Create a warm market

The thing is, though, marketers have always known that marketing to a warm market was way more cost-effective than to a cold one. So a lot of Internet Marketers’ attentions got focused on building a list.

And here’s the thing: when you build and maintain an email list you’re doing Social Network Marketing.

You’re building trust and establishing credibility with a bunch of people, which makes them more likely to buy from you.

That’s all Social Network Marketing is.

So why all the fuss about Social Network Marketing on the Internet now?

Because the new technologies have provided people with an alternative way to develop a warm market.

In fact, I foresee email marketing declining as a means of building the relationship.

I think it will be used for specific jobs – such as delivering an eCourse – and that blogs and the social networking sites will replace email as the way marketers build their warm market.

So what are some of my experiences with social network marketing?

It takes time. It takes work (a lot at the outset). It doesn’t run on autopilot. It doesn’t cost money – well not much, anyway, and it’s certainly dirt-cheap compared to Adwords.

But I firmly believe that it’s the best way to build a sustainable long-term business online. One that will bring increasing returns in future years.

Update: 1 May, 2012:

In the article above I said that I thought email would decline as a means of building a warm market. I was wrong!

Social media marketing is an effective way of building a warm market, but email marketing is more personal if you use it correctly. In my experience it’s just as effective as it always was, and it will remain so.

Martin Malden.

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