It’s been one of my biggest angsts I’ve had to deal with ever since I started diving into social media – that new media has yet to prove itself.
For any one company to spend the time to learn about social media they need to understand the underlying benefits, in particular, “What is social media going to do for my business?”
If I spend $X doing social, what do I get back in return? Ahh, the dreaded and seemingly yet-to-be-answered question: What is the ROI of Social Media?
While social media is a channel, it doesn’t have the same traits as the traditional advertising mediums. You have to build a framework and strategy for social media before you can see some tangible results.
If you’re serious about incorporating social media into your business, it’s important to see it for the medium it really is.
Understanding Social Media
Social media is unique in its benefits and provides more sustainability than most channels out there. In some cases, social media has been put on a pedestal because of the after effects we’ve seen in dozens of case studies citing “viral” activity.
But to be clear, social media does NOT equal VIRAL. Viral activity is a circumstance. It cannot be planned. People who find value and interest in a piece of content will define the extent to which it gets shared. Creating that value and interest is not a formula.
In short, it’s dictated by those that consume it…. the customer!
So, therein lies the rub! Social media is not any ordinary media channel because it can’t be controlled at the corporate level…. but it can be manoeuvred and led down an intended path if it is managed correctly.
Let’s start debunking some of these myths:
- Social Media is NOT another advertising channel: You may decide to invest money on a TV advertising campaign. Once that campaign ends, so does the money. If you decide to invest in social media, you’re investing in relationship building. You can’t turn off social media the way you turn off a campaign. Once you start down this path, you need a commitment to nurture it. Remember, once a campaign ends, the relationships you started do not go away. This image says it all: Would you rather spend thousands of advertising dollars to eventually get to the potential 2% of the population who would buy your product? Unlike Mass Marketing, Social Media has the unique benefit of targeting consumers already talk about your brand. The immediate relevance has the ability to spread through word of mouth recommendations
- Social Media is NOT the magic bullet: Social media is not the answer to all your business problems. It is a way to build more lasting relationships with your customers. Used effectively, Social media is a catalyst that can help optimize functions across your organization. Expect to stumble and make mistakes. You need to learn it, embrace it, and make it as common place as brushing your teeth.
- Social Media is NOT immediate: Social Media takes time. If I were to parallel advertising channels to a cocktail party, Direct Mail would be equivalent to the annoying guy who introduces himself to you and starts talking about himself: “This is what I do? This is why I’m great.” You will find any excuse to exit this seemingly one-way conversation. Social Media is like that guy at the party that concentrates the conversation on you. He may introduce himself but listens primarily about what you have to say. He manages the conversation so there is a clear two-way discussion that provides value for each participant.
- Social Media is NOT free: It takes a lot of time and effort to build relationships with your customers. It starts with the cocktail party, the conversation and the eventual exchange of business cards. Trust needs to be built before you are given permission to start talking about purchase. Time and effort do not come free. The cost of maintaining the relationship should be equivalent to the cost of an employee’s salary and the hours spent developing this. These days, dedicated community management, content development and deployment all have costs associated with them. The real cost: human capital.
- Social Media is NOT about the number of followers: Take this first scenario: Twitter Account X has 8000 followers, follows 10,000 people and has only 200 tweets. What this tells me: This person used some bot to game the follower base, unless there was pretty significant tweets that garnered them incredible followship…most likely NOT. Second Scenario: I have 2700 followers; I follow 2400 people; I have 11,400 tweets. So, while I don’t have as many followers, the number of tweets I do reveals my level of engagement. The rule of thumb: the more you tweet, the more engaged you are in your community, the more your followers will grow.
- On the positive side, Social Media is sustainable: if you are committed, if you engage with your audience consistently and add value you will begin to see significant impact on your business. Consider the traditional campaign model: There is a direct correlation with media spend and traffic and/or sales. The image below reveals the ebbs and flows that result from paid media activity. The more media effort, the more campaign impact. The minute the campaign ends, so does the activity.
Now imagine what would happen if you decide to continue to engage with the customer (via social media) between campaigns? The effect below reveals a continuous stream of activity even after the media dollars have been expended. Paying attention to your audience and not letting the ball drop reaps tremendous rewards over time. It goes beyond a campaign. It now provides a stepping stone to true social engagement and relationship management.
And when that happens, you’ll not only see your numbers soar, you’ll see your spend become more efficient!