This Is Why Social Media Doesn’t Work For Your Business Ross Kimbarovsky | May 21st, 2013


If you have invested considerable time and resources on social media marketing over the past year and feel frustrated, you are not alone.

About 61% of small businesses don’t see any return on investment on their social-media activities … Yet, almost 50% say they’ve increased their time spent on social media, and only 7% have decreased their time.

The above conclusions are from a survey released by Manta, a social network for small businesses.

It’s not surprising that many businesses fail to properly leverage social media. After all, the success of any marketing initiative requires careful planning, a strategy, appropriate tactics, and a way to measure results. Many business owners ignore most of these factors and simply dive-in head first. That’s a certain recipe for failure.

Yet there are many good examples of businesses that leverage social media remarkably well.

If other businesses are successfully leveraging social media, why isn’t social media working for your business?

What’s the most important difference in the way that successful companies use social media, and the millions of other companies that fail? Are you setting your expectations too high? Are you not creating enough content or not enough good content? Are you not spending enough money on social media? Are you not generating enough followers or fans?

The answer is really pretty simple but it’s not because of poor content, lack of money, or not enough followers. Are you ready for it?

Social media doesn’t work for your business because you’re not setting clear, measurable goals.

A small business that doesn’t set clear, measurable goals is doomed to fail.

Most small businesses – even successful small businesses – fail to grow because the owners don’t take the time to set meaningful goals. I’ve talked to thousands of small business owners. Most want to work for themselves and operate a business that will provide them and their families a good standard of living. But those aren’t the goals I’m talking about. Most small business owners fail to set quarterly or yearly goals for their businesses. They simply operate the business, focusing on day to day activities, without establishing what they hope to accomplish within a certain amount of time. While your overall goal can be to make a ton of money and find enough free time to enjoy other activities, you should establish operating goals for your business.

To be fair, you probably are setting broad, long-term goals. For example, you might have a broad goal to increase your revenue or profits over the next six to twelve months leveraging Twitter and Facebook. Broad, long-term goals are important, but they rarely help you to evaluate the success or failure of focused strategies and tactics.

It’s easy to see why so many businesses don’t see any return on investment on their social media activities. According to Manta’s survey results, most businesses set very broad goals:

What businesses are trying to get out of social media: 36% said their goal was to acquire and engage new customers, 19% said to gain leads and referrals, and 17% said to boost awareness.

But what do those goals mean? How do you measure acquisition and engagement of new customers? How do you measure awareness? Over what period of time? Perhaps the answers to these questions seem pretty simple to you – but they are not.

Many small business owners are sold snake oil by self-professed “social media experts” who claim that simply setting up a Twitter account, a LinkedIn company page and a Facebook fan page will open the floodgates to unlimited sales leads. Most of these “experts” offer to maintain those accounts for a monthly fee. This “maintenance” usually means a few generic posts that will not bring you any leads or business. Snake oil indeed.

There’s a good reason why most business owners don’t set relevant goals for their marketing strategies. Few people are comfortable with incremental success. After all, we love and celebrate huge wins. But we rarely celebrate small, incremental success. That’s a mistake. We should celebrate incremental success because it becomes a stepping-stone for more success. More importantly, incremental success is easily measurable.

You can make social media work for you, but you have to put in the effort and most importantly, set clear, measurable goals. For example, your goals could be to:

  • drive online traffic to your business
  • drive offline traffic to your business
  • promote your products and services
  • increase your visibility in search results
  • influence potential customers
  • build brand visibility and thought leadership
  • build a community


Each of these is a broad, long-term goal. To make such goals meaningful to your social media strategy, you have to break them down into smaller, bite-size pieces.

Let’s take a quick look at how a small business can set a clear, measurable goal for driving online traffic to the business from social media activities.

Let’s assume the business sells gift baskets, and wants to experiment with Facebook (by participating and sharing interesting, engaging content, and separately, by spending $50 per week on advertising). The small business could set the following goals for the first ninety days of its Facebook marketing efforts:

  • drive 25 new potential customers per day to the business’s website
  • get 3 new customers per day from these efforts

Over 90 days, those are very strong numbers. If the business meets its goals, it would drive at least 2,250 new prospective customers to its site, and would have 270 new customers.

Before starting its social media efforts, the business should assess how many prospective customers are already coming from Facebook on a daily basis. After all, it’s impossible to tell whether you’re driving 25 new customers every day unless you know the baseline. Analytics should provide a clear answer.

At the conclusion of the 90 day period, the business can evaluate the success or failure of that effort by looking at the analytics and the results. Did the effort drive at least 2,250 prospective new customers from Facebook? Did the business acquire 270 new customers from its efforts on Facebook?

As you can see, the answer to each question is either a YES or NO. You either drove at least 2,250 new prospective customers from Facebook over that period of time, or you did not. You either found 270 new customers through the Facebook campaign or you did not.

Now look at your own business and the social media marketing strategies and tactics that you’re executing. Have you set clear, measurable goals for those strategies? If not, set aside some time today to do so – specifying exactly what you hope to accomplish, in what time-frame, and how you will measure progress.

Social media doesn’t work for your business because you’re not setting clear goals. But you can fix that.

image credit: sybrenstuvel

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  • Nice article. As a social media agency implementing programs Iike your focus on conversion and customer acquisition. I also like the focus on smaller, more achieveable goals that add up over time. Many companies are focused on traffic versus the quality of the traffic and one-on-one engagement which is where the opportunities lie.

  • Ross Kimbarovsky

    Many thanks for your thoughts Melissa. You’re absolutely right about quality of traffic being very important. As addictive as absolute traffic numbers are, only the right kind of traffic provides meaningful results.

  • LocalSearchHQ

    Nice Points. But, I personally feel that social media is considered an effective medium to advertise your business. Due to the change in the trend, customers can easily be targeted through social media. However, to some extent I do agree that Social media has hampered the traditional school of marketing.

  • Stop blaming the ones lied to

    I stopped reading this article halfway when you blamed ME for supposedly not setting goals. Social media is broken as long as post REACH does not AT LEAST reach the people who are connected/LIKE my page. My setting goals has othing to do with THAT. For crying out loud, 2% reach – REALLY???? Or, I make a post, then only 1% of MY OWN CONNECTIONS see the post (who are my FIRST priority of audience), and when ONE person clicks LIKE, I then reach several of THEIR connections! I want to reach my own conections FIRST before I worry about reaching beyond them. When I cannot eve rfeach THEM, nothing else matters. Hence, social media is BROKEN. Until THAT is fixed on sites like Failbook and LinkedIn, the act of setting goals is IRRELEVANT. Stop blaming the victims for the promise-breakers of what is SUPPOSED to be the promise of “social networking/marketing.”

  • Ross Kimbarovsky

    You’re right, but knowing that, how can a business participate without setting any goals? If Facebook offers marginal reach (as you’ve correctly written), aren’t other networks potentially more suitable and relevant? For example, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and others handle reach very differently from Facebook. Or are you suggesting that a business owner should just give up until all the social networks “fix” the problem?

  • james

    “until all the social networks “fix” the problem”

    I think that is exactly what he was saying!

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