Monday, May 19, 2014

Just Stop [Social Media Isn't for Every Business]

social media doesn't work everywhere

Here comes the backlash. But I'm prepared. 

I was recently corresponding with a graphic designer on LinkedIn. Because he saw that I consult on social media and spend quite a bit of my time working on improving companies' social media endeavors, he was cautious about telling me his thoughts about social media. But, he eventually wrote this:
"As for social media being a great tool and one that makes some businesses a lot of money, I've never seen it. I'd welcome any education on that subject because, frankly, I get kind of tired being the only person on the planet who feels otherwise. I've just never seen social media used in a way that was even effective, let alone a money generator. Mostly I've seen company Facebook pages that post pics of employees at BBQs, playing ping pong and things like that. I've only seen once a company that posted relevant articles about things that could help educate their clients. But even then, I couldn't imagine how that would translate into making anyone money."

I have to agree to a certain extent. As someone submerged in social media every day, I can honestly say social media ISN'T for every business, and the gentleman above was right - a lot of small businesses do social media poorly. Fortune 500 companies aside, with their entire social media teams working 24/7, for most small to medium businesses it is incredibly tough to use social media properly and even tougher to measure ROI. 

The Time Investment
Social media takes time. It takes tons of time to do it right - and most businesses fail because they don't put in the time. I have actually talked to a company that received a phone call asking if they were still in business, because the person calling had found a Facebook page that hadn't been updated in six months.

Many traditional avenues in marketing, like billboards, magazine ads, commercials and more are "set it and forget it" marketing tools. Social media though, is a living, breathing, ever-changing medium. 

To do social media right, a company has to have eyes on their social channels daily. They have to be willing to put in the time to learn how to post, discover what niche they can fill, to monitor what is being said, and to provide a new venue for customer service. 

When companies cannot commit to that kind of timely investment from someone who knows the entire company [not just a high school intern that doesn't have the maturity to respond to customer complaints], I actually believe the company is better off staying away from social media. 

Doing social media poorly reflects on your brand as much as a marker-written, typo-filled sign in your window does. Why tarnish your brand more?

Soft Results
When time is put in to make business' social media channels social [fun, personable, informative, etc. Insert best practices here that are better left for another post] though, there are a few things that grow: 
  1. Branding. Like billboards that often don't have a direct ROI correlation and are just for branding purposes, a lot of social media work is to build a good brand, positive reviews, and position the company as an "industry expert" in whatever market that company competes.
  2. Driving business to the company's website. Again, without expensive marketing software, it is hard to measure concrete ROI from the social media channel to the website to final sale. Setting up tracking cookies, and definitively tracking leads to sales can help, but it is an extensive task. If a company values their website, and upper management is behind the concept that the website traffic does influence sales, then it is a bit simpler to show how much of that traffic comes from social media. I can tell you a large portion of my main company's website views come directly from social media. So, if you look at the top of the sales funnel [leads coming in], you can grow the top of the lead funnel and land more business on your website from social media.
  3. Providing customer service. We are starting to see a TON of this at my current company. People are out on social sites all day. To them, it's easier to message/tweet/post a question than to pick up the phone and call. Being "out there" on these channels gives a lower barrier of entry for people to ask questions. This means customers will ask more, engage more, and you will give a better experience. 
    @Delta [Twitter] does a great job of this. Last year, I had a typo on a plane ticket that my company set up for me. I tweeted privately with @Delta and got it worked out in under 15 minutes, without having to sit on hold on the phone, or talking to someone that I had a hard time understanding. Their great customer service there has actually prompted me to personally start using them whenever I can [vs. my normal airline choice of the past]. 
These are the "softer" results of social media. I believe too many companies look for the direct ROI, and because that is an enormous task that isn't clear cut, they abandon their social media efforts in favor of other marketing tactics that measure easier. They forget that the "softer" results, in the long run, can provide stronger relationships, which do lead to more sales.

Enter ROI
You can get direct ROI from social media, but it has to be little more targeted/specific and within the greater campaign of above. Will posting on social channels with company BBQ pictures drive more business? Probably not. If you directly publish to sell, without a larger campaign, will it work? Maybe in the short term, but not as a long-term social media strategy.

As many successful social media campaigns have found, the bright side is with the right mix, there are opportunities for direct ROI and ROI tracking. 

For example, my current company builds and sells residential homes. We started running Facebook ads this year for open houses. It took us a few tries to dial in the perfect ad, but on the last open house we did, I spent $50 targeting ads to the right people in the right locations. We got 6 highly qualified/interested families through the door specifically from Facebook [there were others that said they found us "on the internet"...which I presume to be Facebook ads, but we can't say with certainty]. So, for about $8 a lead, we got some awesome traction. If just 1 of those 6 buys a home [which our statistics/odds are higher], we would be getting 900% return on our ad. Yes, that's nine hundred percent, calculated at pure profits divided by $50 for the total ad cost. That, to me, makes social media 100% worth our time!

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Photo Credit: fcl1971 on freeimages

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