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.

LinkedIn Answers Rock!

The feature I find the most beneficial to business people looking to expand their network or build their credibility is the “Answers”linkedin-logo feature of LinkedIn. The objective of Answers is to share your expertise and establish yourself as an expert.  Answers is a great way to interact with people…to give and get information.  It’s also a great way to make your business stand out – by providing valuable information to your network.  A huge warning….This is not a lead generation forum, and using it like one will seriously hurt your credibility.  I am going to repeat myself on this one….this is not a lead generation forum.  You will only damage your reputation if you use it incorrectly.  Provide useful, relevant answers and you will do just fine.

To get to Answers, go to the top navigation bar on your LinkedIn profile, hover over “More” and click on “Answers”.

You can ASK and ANSWER questions here.  When asking questions, keep them short and specific. You are more likely to get response if your questions are clear and on point.  For example “How have you successfully used Advisory Boards in your business?”  OR “What are your best practices for hiring a virtual assistant?”  When answering questions, remember that these folks are honestly looking for information – they don’t want to hear your sales pitch.  So if you have something to share, do…if you’re just looking for a way to get visibility…believe me this is not the kind of visibility you want as you will quickly be identified as a spammer.  Probably not what you want :-)