By Ana Ellington
A common question for businesses:
"How many employees can I afford to devote to managing my social media efforts?"
This is the classical ROI (Return on Investment) question, and much has been said and written about just how important social media strategies are to the success of any current business.
For the more skeptical organizations, MarketingSherpa reports that the chief concerns constraining more social media marketing spending is:
- Determining where the budget should come from/trade-offs with other marketing investments
- Inability to track the success of social media marketing campaigns
- Uncertainty about the ROI
- How to reallocate the required human resources to support social media marketing programs.
Being able to prove the ROI of social media marketing is vital in order to maintain credibility, and gather the needed financial support for this business critical investment.
But if you expect social media sites to provide you with instant results, you are using the wrong tool.
What social media is good at is:
-Conversation--this is a two way communication medium, not a one way message mechanism for free. You cannnot develop strong relationships and meaningful conversations in a week, or a month. Before you can influence active behavior using social media, you have to have a relationship.
-Community--whether you are building your own or participating in others, you should not use a community just to shill. It is an intrusion, an irritation, and no good results will come of it. To become part of an online community, you have to spend time there just as you would in offline life. You must make time to do it.
-Contribution--social media relationship building means contributing meaningfully to the relationship, just as in real life. You will get out of it what you put into it. Provide value (information, answer questions, be helpful) consistently and you will get the attention you need to convert people. Again, this happens over time.
What you need to implement social media strategies:
-Research--you have to mine the space for data to see which tools to use for your audience. It might be Facebook, but it might be a forum dedicated to hot topics in your markets. It is probably several sites, each with their own way of communicating effectively. Data mining takes time, patience, and energy. You’ll also want to find influencers to help. It takes research to find and evaluate those people.
* What is a social media influencer, you ask?
-Content, and plenty of it--yes, production stills, videos, director blogs are all content, but they are really boring if that is all you are talking about. You need a content calendar to plan out what the sites you own (your own pages) will run and at what frequency and what kind of material you will be commenting on at other sites. This is where your Google alerts and your social mention programs come in. What other kind of information can you share or comment on?
-More tools than just social platforms--distributors know this, in fact social media is often left too late because more focus is given to other tools like advertising and publicity. There is more work to maintaining a community than there is to buying ads and pitching media, so they often just treat it as a free way to advertise. The success of social media initiatives are tied together with an integrated plan using many different tools, not just social platforms.
-ROI or better yet VOI--probably the most contentious issue in social media marketing, how to measure ROI? A January 2011 eMarketer report cites that social media strategists’ biggest goal for 2011 is better measurement of ROI. Since social media is a conversation medium, it is difficult to measure the effect particular conversations have on sales or awareness. You can measure how much/far your message traveled, how many people potentially saw it or how many directly participated in a conversation and correlate that to sales. I think it is better to measure on the Value on Investment (VOI), how valuable is it to speak to your community? Is your community growing and active because people learn from you? Are you considered a expert source of information and a brand that is in the know? By using social media as a listening device, are you better able to learn what messages resonate and how you might make effective changes? These are all valid goals so don’t just measure in sales and revenue.
Social media strategy/marketing should be a way of doing business. The mindset you have to have is that your activities are geared toward the ongoing conversation and steady growth of a community around your brand, not the quick collection of numbers on your Facebook page or Twitter accounts. Plan for the long haul when using social tools.