While a number of years has passed since companies first began venturing out into the unexplored territory of social media, mixed messages continue to flourish, leaving business owners wondering where to focus marketing resources.
One end of the spectrum proclaims there is no return on investment for a business tapping into social media. The other extreme school of thought dictates your business has no future if it doesn’t have an engaging profile on every available social media network.
The result is that both over-inflating and underestimating social media’s potential impact on your business means you are not as likely to make a sound investment of resources to gain a reasonable return on your investment.
One message does appear to be clear: an estimated 35 percent of businesses use social media. If yours is not one of them—or, if you are not using social media to its optimal advantage—consider that an estimated one out of every three of your competitors is probably doing so. How can you afford to miss the marketing opportunities offered by a strong social media presence?
But sorting the social media marketing fact from fiction can seem an insurmountable task for small- and medium-sized business owners already over-tasked with leading their companies. If you are one of them, here are some of the most common myths about social media marketing—along with suggested strategies for turning these myths to your advantage.
Myth: Your customer demographic isn’t using social media.
This myth should be easy to bust, yet it persists. According to digital marketing resource Digital Marketing Ramblings, best statistical estimates as of November 2013 find Facebook with 1.19 billion active users, YouTube boasting its own 1 billion users, Twitter with 215 million active users, and Google+ garnering 300 million active users. In addition, Instagram has attracted about 150 million users while Pinterest claims 70 million.
Digital media research company eMarketer estimates that in total, social media reaches nearly one in four people around the globe. Maybe you could have made the argument back in 1993 that your customers weren’t on social media, but this is one easy myth to bust 20 years later.
Strategy: Social media marketing should be one out of several components of your company’s overall marketing plan. That means even if you are still concerned that your customers aren’t on social media, you can continue to reach them by phone, direct mail, print advertising or other means. Fretting that your targeted demographics are not tweeting, posting, or uploading is time and energy wasted. Remember, too, that your existing customer base should not be your only concern. If you are convinced your current clients are permanently offline, consider the opportunity to target a brand new demographic.
Myth: A staff member needs to be dedicated to social media to get results.
Sure, Katy Perry may make it seem like the only way to take advantage of a social media site like Twitter is to devote hour after hour to the task. All that devotion may generate a whole lot of conversation, but with so much time involved, you aren’t likely to get a reasonable return on your investment.
Strategy: Instead, use aggregators like Hootsuite to make posting simpler on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. Then, with the time you save, use Twitter as part of a more concerted marketing effort by hosting a tweet chat. A tweet chat is a kind of live Twitter event, moderated to focus on a number of aspects of one general topic. A hashtag is used to filter all the chatter. Hosting a tweet chat provides your company with the opportunity to build its brand in ways that can’t be accomplished through posts alone.
Myth: Social media can take the place of your website.
Because use of social media is a newer marketing tool than launching a website, there is some confusion over whether social media marketing can take the place of a company website. The answer is, no. The longer answer is, social media may be comparatively new, but email still remains a very powerful tool in your arsenal.
Strategy: Yes, you can capture email addresses via social media. However, a company website offers opportunity to use a simple form to do the same thing, likely with less effort or complexity.There are some things that your website does best for your company and other things you may be able to better accomplish with social media. Just as you didn’t do away with all your other marketing tools back when your company launched its first email campaign, you can’t expect social media to take the place of all your other marketing efforts. Put together a marketing plan that recognizes the right tools for the job and you’ll get the most out of your social media efforts.
Myth: There is no way to measure a social media campaign’s return on investment (ROI).
This is perhaps the myth that seems to outlive and outlast all others. Part of the problem is that there are a lot of social media experts and consultants who may be extremely knowledgeable about social media networks, but they know very little about marketing or measuring return on investment for businesses.
Strategy: In reality, there are a number of ways to track social media’s impact on your business. The metrics for your social media program are not much different from the metrics of other marketing efforts. There are quantitative metrics, which are the many data-driven measurements, such as page views, unique visits, demographics and the like. Then there are qualitative metrics. Unlike quantitative metrics, qualitative metrics have an emotional element. If you are serious about the impact, there are several companies competent in providing an in-depth analysis of these metrics.
But your most important metric should be your ROI metrics. You can arrive at this measurement by tracking the percentage of visitors from social media channels who follow a link to your site and are then converted from prospect to customer or client.
In doing so, you will need to create landing pages designed specifically around your company’s social media campaign, with Google Analytics or similar application installed so you can track traffic and conversions. All social media programs should drive visitors to this landing page of your site where you have the opportunity to convert them from prospects to paying clients or customers.
While your ROI metric is very useful, it still provides only a snapshot of social media’s true influence on your company’s bottom line. Even more important is your customer lifetime value or CLV. This is the amount of revenue a customer from your social media marketing program will bring to your business over the entire course of their time with your company’s brand. Typically, companies budget about 10 percent of CLV as the amount they are willing to invest to acquire their next customer. In this way, you can compare the CLV of your social media marketing efforts to other marketing efforts in validating your social media investment.
Engage, Drive, and Convert
When it comes to social media, the phrase “engage your customer” always seems to be at the forefront. However, just engaging prospective customers is only part of the story. It does not mean you have successfully driven them back to your site and converted them to paying customers. Treat your social media marketing efforts as you would other marketing programs. Plan carefully, budget adequately, and analyze your results.
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