Why the Social Media Party Needs to Come to a Close in 2014

by Marcus Sheridan

2014Recently, my friend Nick Westergaard asked me (along w 20 other marketing folks) to contribute to an article he wrote about the trends we foresaw in social media for 2014. After a little bit of thought, here was my response:

2014 will be the year of “Social Media Reality.” The era of fun, games, and rainbows is over. Companies will finally accept that “likes” and “shares” aren’t true KPIs (key performance indicators) of success (in most cases) and will now shift their focus on the platforms that truly work vs the ones that have little returns, and then put the majority of their energies and efforts in said platforms.

Over the last 5 years or so, I think just about every single one of us has gone on a unique ride called “Social Media is Fun.” In a nutshell, it has looked a little like this:

“This Facebook thing is pretty neat… I think I’ll share some stuff here…I just got a “like” on my stuff…I feel happy now!”

Or

“This Facebook thing is pretty neat…I think I’ll share some stuff here…No one “liked” my stuff…I feel sad now!”

You may be thinking that I’m over-stereotyping or simplifying the process, but it’s true, especially if we’re being honest with ourselves here.

On a personal level, I’ve experienced the above many, many times to some degree or another, with a multiplicity of platforms, not just Facebook.

And I’m sure you’re right there along with me, aren’t you?

It’s just the world in which we live.

It is what it is

My thoughts with this post aren’t one of, “Social Media is Evil.”

It is what it is. It has helped me build a career, and I’m grateful for that. It can also changes lives and businesses for the better, without question.

But over these last 4 years, after having taught thousands through speaking and writing, and hundreds more on a direct level through consulting, I truly do believe we’re now ready to enter into a new phase of social media as we look ahead to 2014.

Instead of saying, “Wow, this Facebook thing is pretty neat” we’ll now start saying “We all agree that Facebook is neat, but is it the best way to use our time, money, and resources? Should our focus be elsewhere?”

The answer will change with every industry and business, but hopefully you get my point here.

It’s a process of natural maturation in a nascent arena of marketing and media.

The Difference Between a KPI and a PI

Now don’t get me wrong, I truly believe that just about any social media platform, with enough effort and creativity, can generate leads and revenue in just about any industry.

But even if this is true, this doesn’t mean that every business should embrace, nor worry about, every single social media platform. Such would be an impossible task.

As I look back on my most successful clients over the past few years, almost none uses Facebook Likes, Twitter Shares, or Google +s as a KPI of success.

Now before you try to argue my point, let me state two things very clearly:

1. KPI means *KEY* performance indicator. There is a very big difference between a “performance indicator” and a “KEY performance indicator.” With every client I’ve ever had, social shares have all been performance indicators, but not KEY performance indicators.

2. There are some industries and business models that rightfully use social shares as KPIs. But this article isn’t discussing those minorities of businesses. We’re here to talk about the majority.

The bottom line is this: As businesses, whether it be in 2014 or 2044, we need to make money.

In order to make money, we’ve got to generate sales.

In order to generate sales, we need leads.

In order to get leads, we need to be marketing in the areas and platforms that bring the greatest results.

As always, Pareto’s Law wins.

So as you look to 2014 with your business, I’d challenge you, if you haven’t already done so, to get more serious than ever about your marketing by defining what works, what doesn’t work, and where you need to focus all your efforts and energies.

For some, this may mean a lot of social media.

For others, it may mean a little.

Either way, it’s time for the party to come to a close and get down to business.

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