Something big has happened to social media.

In case you hadn’t noticed, social media is big – and getting bigger all the time. What was once the domain of just a small number of people is now everyday currency in and outside of business. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc are now familiar channels for many of us. Now 23% of all the time we are online takes place on social networks and blogs. Internet users are now spending more time on Facebook than on any other web brand combined (Source: Nielsen).

Business is quickly catching on to the potential, with recent research showing that a third of companies in the UK now put up to 20% of their marketing budget into business social networking (Source: Regus).

Why many businesses still aren’t getting it

Social media’s growing profile can make it look like a relatively simple way to generate leads. Social media was the leading emerging channel for lead generation in 2010 (Source: Hubspot Marketing) and many companies already see it as the next step in attracting more customers. But the reality is a great deal less simple. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • More noise: As the business take up of social media increases, so does the marketing ‘noise’ – making it even more of a challenge to stand out.
  • Missing links: Many businesses have the drive, but lack the strategy. They see where they want to get to in terms of income or leads, but they’re missing the crucial links to make social media work truly effectively for them.
  • Minus the strategy: The returns of social media can be tempting. After all, the proportion of UK companies successfully winning new customers through social networking activity rose from 33% in 2010 – to 41% in 2011 (Source: Regus). But many businesses are still engaging in social media activity without a long-term strategy, often creating initial interest, but failing to convert it into sales.

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