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.

Use Social Media

Social-Media-LogosSocial Media is a topic I blog about quite frequently. FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter are the top 3 social media platforms.  Social media isn’t for everyone.  It can take time to get started, but if your target audience uses social media, then you should too.  The great thing is that with social media you open yourself and your business up to new opportunities, new people and new possibilities.

Social media marketing covers everything from the top three, to YouTube, blogs, podcasts, webcasts.  Basically any online media where viewers can comment or share are really social media.  And that’s the whole point – that people can offer ideas, others can comment and a discussion can follow.
And that’s the biggest benefit to social media marketing.  It gives you the chance to have a conversation with your customers and prospective customers.

You can ask them questions, test new ideas, get feedback, learn from them and share your expertise with them.  Plus, it’s free.  How cool is that?  To learn more about the specifics of social media – I have created 3 webcasts – LinkedIn, FaceBook and Twitter.  I’ve also developed two e-books, one on FaceBook and one on Twitter, which you can get on my website.  All the links will be in my follow-up email.

FaceBook No-No’s

While you are building your credibility on FaceBook, there are certain things that you could do – easily – that will completely undo everything you’ve accomplished to date and prevent you from ever building credibility through this social networking site in the future.  Plus, it can happen in a matter of minutes.

Here are some things that you definitely want to avoid doing on FaceBook:

1.  Do not spam people’s inboxes or walls. This will not only cause you to lose credibility, it can also cause you to get banned from FaceBook. FaceBook is one of the best social networking sites in existence and it is important to keep it in it’s currently clean, spam free state, so that it remains a useful and valuable tool for everyone who uses it.

2.    Never post messages on other people’s walls with the sole intention of linking to your own website. It’s obvious and just makes you look desperate and greedy. Don’t link anywhere at all. Instead, post interesting comments and people will click your name to learn more about you from your profile, where you should obviously link to your websites.

3.    While you want to give yourself and your business a human face, you really don’t want to get overly personal – especially with photos and videos. You aren’t searching for a hot date – you are trying to build your brand and your business. Don’t forget that – ever.

4.    Don’t add an abundance of silly applications to your profile. It just clutters your profile, makes it load slow and really just takes the viewers attention away from that which you want their attention firmly glued to – information about you and your business.

5.    Never have ‘cyber wars’ with anyone on FaceBook. If someone is bothering you, simply block them. It isn’t hard to do – and it’s much more reasonable than throwing flames for the whole world to see.

Above all, use good common sense. Always think before you act – or before you hit a submit button. Consider your customers, your potential customers, business contacts, and potential business contacts – how will they view what you are about to do?

If you follow these no-no rules, you will almost always be just fine.

FaceBook Groups and Joint Ventures

EXAMPLE - FaceBook Groups
EXAMPLE - FaceBook Groups

One of the most important Internet Marketing related features on FaceBook is Groups. This goes far beyond joining groups to find new contacts. It also includes creating groups of your own for the purpose of joint venturing – even if that joint venturing won’t take place until a future date.

The process to create your own group is extremely easy. Simply log in to your account then click on ‘groups’ in the navigation panel on the left. At the top of the next page, you will see a button that says ‘Create a New Group’. Click that button, and fill out the form. It’s just that simple and can be done in a matter of minutes.

The hard part is determining what type of group that you want to start. What is the groups focus? All groups must have a focus otherwise, they are essentially worthless.

Let’s say that the focus of your group is to joint venture with other Internet Marketers, but you aren’t sure exactly what type of joint venturing you want to do at this point – or how you could work with the potential members in the group for the purpose of joint venturing. In this case, you may want to start a mastermind group for Internet Marketers. This is very broad and it leaves joint venture possibilities wide open.

Now, you must consider who you want to be in your mastermind group, so that you can send out invitations. Mastermind groups are typically small – usually just ten to twenty people, so this shouldn’t be very hard. However, you must remember that you will eventually want to joint venture with these people in your group. Therefore, you want to be very selective with your invitations.

Think about joint venturing – outside of social networking. You obviously need someone who has products or the necessary skills to create quality products. You need someone who is great at copywriting. You may need a web designer. You obviously want people who have large opt-in lists, and/or large networks of people, or complementary services to yours.

You definitely want people who are active on FaceBook. You will invite people from your own circle of friends in most cases, but you can invite people who have the interests and skills that you require, who are not currently your friends as well, simply by searching for them from within the group interface and inviting them to join.

The next step is to get your group active and to get the members participating. Ask questions that require input from members. Offer information that you know the members will find useful.  Start showing them what you are made of and what you have to offer so that when the opportunity or need for a joint venture comes up, they know what you can bring to the table. At the same time, pay attention so that you know what they can bring to the table as well.

Make sure that all content that is being provided to the group is useful, valuable information. Don’t advertise to your group and don’t allow other members to advertise either.  Let information flow naturally and freely without the advertising. You will find that you and other group members are easily able to work your products and services into the conversations or articles that are being published to the group – as those products and services relate to the information.

Finally, if you are a bit unsure about how to operate a group or how to make it a highly effective group, consider joining another small group that is already set up and being operated by someone else. You must really pay attention to how the members interact with each other and the content that is delivered through the group. This will definitely give you some great ideas for your own group on FaceBook.

Become a Fan!

FaceBook is fun, no doubt about it. You can find friends from high school, college, previous jobs…it’s a hoot to see what everyone is up to.  However, the biggest challenge business people have with FaceBook is how to draw the line between personal and facebookLogoprofessional.  I for one am a very open person – I pretty much say what comes to mind and will typically tell you more about myself than you really need to know.  However, there are some things that I don’t really want clients or colleagues or prospective clients to see – like the picture of me falling off a swing last Easter at our family easter egg hunt in the park…hysterically funny for my family, but definitely not flattering and not something I want out there in my professional life.

As an entrepreneur or business owner, branding yourself versus your business can be confusing.  FaceBook can help or hinder you in this area if you don’t use it appropriately.  You can use Fan Pages to distinguish between your personal and professional lives.  My personal profile I try to reserve for family and friends.  Professionally I try to use my Fan Page.

A Fan Page is a page that can be created by a business, a non-person who doesn’t require a profile.  This was done to allow businesses, bands, non-profits and others to have a place to gather just like with FaceBook profiles.  Individuals can become “Fans” of your page, which is completely separate from your personal profile.  The benefit for us entrepreneurs is that you can provide business related content to your fans without them seeing the picture of you falling off the swing at Easter.

To create a Fan Page, start on an existing Fan Page…you can use mine if you like (42 Rules Fan Page)  …and please be sure to remember to become a fan!  Scroll down to the bottom of the left hand navigation bar, there is a link that says “Create a Page for my business”. Click that and off you go.  You can classify your business as local or product specific.  Then you add your content:  your bio, in this case is going to be your business description, and your image will probably be your company logo and your links should go back to your company webpage.

Now you can begin telling people about your Fan Page and inviting them to “become a fan”.  You can advertise within FaceBook and target specific groups of people who would be interested in your stuff.  On your Fan Page, you want to give folks things to do, learn, try…you can create events recommended reading lists, discussion boards, videos, product reviews….almost anything you can think of.  And remember – this page is specifically for your business!  Use it to promote new services, seminars, events…offer value added information like white papers, discussions, question and answer discussions.  Whatever you find that your Fans like – remember back to our earlier comments – its always good to ask them what they might like to get from you, from other fans, etc.