How Does Social Media Affect The Bottom Line?

A popular phrase in marketing is “Return On Investment” or ROI.  Executives always want to know the ROI of the marketing tactics used by their staff and sometimes this is easy to determine.  Where it gets murky is when it comes to social media.  There isn’t a way to monitor social media impact at present because social media is not meant to be a marketing or sales channel.  Social media is the opportunity to build relationships with present and future customers, build your brand and create a positive reputation.  Most of the affects of this can’t be quantified.

In my opinion the best practices in social media include:

1.  Build relationships.  Tweeting a couple of times a week or posting to your Facebook profile or Fan Page once in a while isn’t going to build relationships.  You need to monitor your accounts for visitor response at least twice a week if you’re just starting out and more often when you become more experienced.  Answer questions, “like” responses and thank people for commenting.  If you have the time check out the profile of your most vocal fans and follow them as well.

2.  Don’t start a flame war.  Build your reputation by responding positively and constructively to criticism.  Show enthusiasm for suggestions even if they aren’t spot on.  Move potentially destructive conversations off social media and on to e-mail or telephone.   Do feel free to remove comments that are spammy or inappropriate and report people who continuously spam you.  Building your reputation doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat and you have the right to protect your brand.

3.  Monitor conversations about you or your company.  People may be talking about you in a positive or negative manner on their own social media accounts so it’s important that you search for mentions of your company or management staff names and respond appropriately.  You can setup Google Alerts to monitor some of this but you must also manually search social media sites proactively.  You’ll be surprised at what you learn and much of it will be positive.

4.  Use social media to promote but not sell.  No one wants to follow someone on Twitter just to hear over and over again “Buy my book. Buy my book.  Buy my book.” It is permissible, however, to mention a product discreetly.  If you have a book, for example, and you provide an excerpt you certainly may link to the page where more information about the book is available.  Just be discreet and only do this infrequently or you may find yourself talking to yourself.

If your boss asks you for the ROI for the time you spend on social media tell him or her that you are building relationships and no one can put a price on that!

Case Study: Brandon Mendelson – Mediocrity? I don’t think so!

mediocreBrandon Mendelson is a social media success story and guru.  Not what anyone expected from him…not at all.  As Brandon puts it, “I was functionally retarded until college.”  What Brandon did have was a lot of energy, great ideas and passion.  Plus, he saw something that others didn’t.

What he saw was a new way to communicate.  While he was a student at SUNY Potsdam, he started with what he calls “socail publishing”.  During his time there he created TV, radio and other online media.  He is also the architect of the High Five Tour. While piloting the High Five Tour concept, Brandon and his wife traveled America to promote the early detection and prevention of cancer, using social media to communicate and gather a following to promote their cause.  The result got Brandon listed as on Twitter’s Suggested User List (February 2009 to August 2009).  He was the first non-celebrity to gain over 1/2 million followers.

This is the point when Brandon realized his brand was worth something and that he could use it to do good.  “When we crossed 500,000 people following me on Twitter, I realized at that point that there was no going back and that, while I’m sure there’s a lot of spam and junk accounts in there, people were following us because we were helpful and trustworthy.”

Wow – being helpful and trustworthy?  What a terrific concept – novel, clever and so…unexpected.

“For our company, Earth’s Temporary Solution, it’s trust and usefulness. Our goal is to empower others to help those in need. In the not-for-profit world there’s a lot of mistrust and people looking to make a quick buck on willing, happy people, so as a for-profit, we want people to trust us and know we are providing them with the right tools to do the greatest good.”

With the success of A Million High Fives, Brandon expanded his focus and is now a columnist for The Huffington Post, the Albany Times Union, and  Not exactly what I call mediocre.

Is it worth it? The ROI of Social Media

MarketingSherpa - May 2010 (

The age old question – Is it worth it?  This question gets asked of all marketing program, each quarter, each year.  All companies do it – an annual budget plan.   Everyone wants to know which activities have earned a positive return on their investment (ROI).  Of course they do – you don’t want to continue throwing money into something that isn’t delivering results.

Social media is one of the newer additions to the marketing arsenal.  And as such, the jury is still out on the overal ROI of social media activities.  However, in a recent study conducted by MarketingSherpa (May 2010) perceptions of social media are trending positively when it comes to budget allocation.

Almost half of the respondents (mostly mid-large sized companies) viewed social media as a promising tactic and are planning to moderately increase budget allocation – good news!   A full 7% can measure a positive ROI resulting in a significant increase in spending – great news!  So when all is said and done, less than 1/3 are still questioning the value of social media – even better news for those of you looking for budget.

Normally, when there is a new technology or new approach to marketing, it takes the the money folks a long time to warm to the idea of actually spending money on something they believe is “unproven”.  However in these economic times, when a little money spent on social media can go a long way, it appears that those same money folks have finally come to grips with the fact that this stuff does work. Especially now that we have some measurable results to report.

Like other marketing activities, social media will only be effective and deliver the required results, when part of an overall strategy.  As I have often written in this blog, all good marketing starts with understanding your objectives.  What do you want to accomplish with social media?  What role does it play in your marketing mix?  How will you measure that success?  If you don’t have a target to shoot for – how do you know if you’ve hit the bulls-eye.

The next, and probably most important thing to understand, when investing in social media is your audience.  What type of social media do they use?  Where to they hang out? Who do they read?  Who do they go to for recommendations? Armed with this information you can develop an effective social media strategy and target the appropriate platforms.  You don’t want to put all your focus on LinkedIn, if you audience is really into FaceBook.

Now you are set up for success. You know what you want to accomplish, who you are targeting and which platforms are a god strategic fit.  Now it’s time to engage and get going.  social media is, well, inherently social.  A good presence is defined (according to me) as active, timely and authentic.  I can see that real people are behind the presence of the company – there is a name to go with the brand.  I see posts, updates and information on a regular basis and it is relevant to what is going on in the industry, my business, and the world. Plus, what is coming through has a voice, tone and intention that “feels” real (not like the PR agency is writing all the Tweets, or posting on the FanPage).

With you newly found social media busget, make sure to take sometime and think about what you want to accomplish, and how you’re going to measure it so that come next years busdget cycle you are armed with an ROI that will earn you a budget increase – probably the best news of all.

There is still time

red clockIt’s November. Usually at this time of the year, a lot of businesses have already given up on meeting goals or projections, and those who have hit their numbers are ready to enjoy some well earned “down time”.  Not so fast…

There are still two full months left – that’s 57 days.  Many people think it is too late to start a new campaign.  Not true.  They figure ramp-up time would take too long.  Also, not true.  Plus, they think it’s too hard to get their message through all the holiday hoopla.  Wrong again.

Let’s just break it down.  With 8 weeks left, here is an example of a marketing campaign that you can put to work right away.

Week 1 – Research: What’s going on in your industry?  What’s the “hot topic”?  What are people worried about?  Be specific and get details.  This is the key to a great campaign – focusing on what your audience cares about.  Figure out how your company, products or services can address their concerns.  Create some messages that tie directly to this issue.

Week 2 – PR: Target the top 5-10 trade publications in your industry.  Find the contact info for their editors (usually on their webpage or check out the articles they’ve written and Google them).  These folks are always looking for real news over the holidays.  That’s exactly what you’re going to give them.  Based on the research you did last week, you are going to email all of the editors at these top publications with your story idea.  Keep it short, on point and make sure you explain how it is relevant to their audience.  Remember this is a news piece featuring you, not a promotional piece pushing your stuff.

Week 3 – Content: Based on the story ideas you came up with for the media, build a few deliverables you can use in all your marketing.  Create a video and post it to YouTube. Keep it under 3 minutes, watch the lighting and background, and make it about your customers.  Host a webcast where you present information and take online questions.  Again, short is good. A 30-minute webcast with Q&A is a great way to respect people’s time and give them great info.  With the content of your webcast, you can create a white paper.  Turn it into a .pdf and you have a valuable resource to share.

Week 4 – Email outreach: Armed with all your newly created content, create a series of weekly emails to go out to all your existing customers.  These folks know and love you so they are going to be interested in what you have to say, especially since it is dealing with one of their biggest issues at the moment.  Write and schedule the emails to go out on Tuesdays mornings (data shows that is one of the best times).  Post the content of the email on your blog.  Make sure that the email and the blog have a specific call to action…call me, download the white paper, watch the webcast.

Week 5 – Social Media: It wouldn’t be a marketing campaign these days without leveraging your social media networks.  Take everything you have created and push it all to your social networks (actually, you should be doing this at every stage of this process :-) ) FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter – use it all.  Be sure to tailor the info for the network.  For example, LinkedIn is more polished and professional than FaceBook, so make sure your message and tone is too.  Answer questions on LinkedIn. Join Groups on LinkedIn and FaceBook.  Follow chats in your industry on Twitter.  This is how you find new people and they find you.

Week 6 – Send Greeting Card: Yep, thats right, an old fashioned greeting card.  It can be a “thanks for your business” or maybe a “happy holiday” or even a “looking forward to 2011″ card.  The idea is to connect personally with people.  Everyone is used to getting cards this time of year. Make yours special, hand write a note, wish them the best of luck in 2011.  With all the electronic stuff we get each day, this is a nice touch and will set you apart.

Week 7 – Follow-up: At this point you should be getting responses from your videos, emails, social media, etc.  Now is the time to follow-up.  If possible do this directly, one-on-one.  This is the whole purpose of this exercise, to get prospects contacting you either via phone, email, Twitter, whatever.  Respond to FaceBook messages.  DM to all the folks who RT your message.  This is your top priority.

Week 8 – Relax: Now is the time to put your feet up and enjoy the results of your efforts.

Book Excerpt: You don’t need a million friends

social_media_3dThe following is an excerpt from 42 Rules of Social Media for Small Business by Jennifer Jacobson.

Defining your goals is an important part of any business campaign, whether online or offline. It is important to define your social media goals and ask yourself if you want millions of online followers, or a select group of online friends who will gladly do business with you. While having millions of friends on your Facebook page or millions of followers on Twitter may sound appealing, it’s not always a realistic goal, and it may even be counterproductive to your business’s social media efforts.

Imagine you won the lottery and you could have any amount of cash you desired. How much money would you ask for? Chances are you’d want millions, possibly billions, of dollars. Considering the government bailouts that have recently been circulated, you might even ask for trillions. In reality, what we claim to want and what we would be comfortable with can be two very different things.

Let’s take a look at what can happen when we get what we wish for. An individual given millions of dollars suddenly has a new set of concerns and questions. Who will inherit the money when they die? How will they spend their money? Will they donate any of it to charity? How will they keep their money safe? Do people like them because they are rich or do they like them because of who they are? Sometimes, as many good stories teach, getting what you wish for isn’t
really in your best interest.

Social media is very much the same; while many people say they want
a million friends, it wouldn’t meet their business needs or goals. First of
all, if all of these friends decided to visit your company’s website, could
your servers handle a million hits? Second, real friendships are more
than a shout out. People who are the most valuable to your business’s
social media efforts are actively communicating, commenting, posting
pictures, and videos, and learning about your product with the intent of
doing business with you either now or in the future. Do you have the
capacity to communicate with a million people like this?

Take, for example, these thoughts on the importance of strategically
socializing, as opposed to the spray and pray spam method. Susan
Gunelis, President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc. says, “Social
media is the key to brand-building these days. People are online and
it’s the perfect place to connect with them. More people are influenced
by blogs and online relationships than by traditional media.”
“My favorite social media story comes from Universal Studios in
Orlando, Florida,” Susan says. “In 2007, with a virtually limitless
budget, the marketing exec at Universal was tasked with announcing
and promoting the new Harry Potter theme park that would open in the
coming years. To spread the word, she didn’t turn to traditional advertising.

At the risk of being fired for her out-of-the-box approach, she
announced a webcast to just seven people who were also popular
Harry Potter bloggers. The webcast required a password that only
those seven people had. During the webcast, she revealed the news
of the upcoming Harry Potter theme park and, within twenty-four hours,
there were hundreds of thousands of Web searches for the Harry
Potter theme park. From zero to nearly one million people within !
twenty-four hours. Now that’s the power of social media!”

Your social media efforts will be much more effective if you set goals.
Unless you’re selling ad space on your social media page, it doesn’t
matter if you have a million friends. It just matters that you have the
right friends; friends who will promote your brand, and do business with
you. For most small businesses, it is better and more realistic to
maintain the friends they have and look for qualified potential social
media friends. Try to connect with businesses and companies that you
have done business with and let your network grow from there.