Last week, we explained why social media Return on Investment (ROI) is a gray area.
Again, social media is not a magic bullet. It takes time, energy, and creativity. Key ingredients to success include building new relationships and effectively integrating social media into your current marketing efforts.
Other ways to achieve ROI include having audience/content balance, establishing clear goals, listening, finding a unique voice, producing compelling content, and evaluating performance regularly.
Having audience/content balance
If you're just starting out, we suggest establishing goals that will build your audience. This means increasing your number of fans and followers. We're not saying this alone will increase your social media ROI. But this is foundational. Too many times we see people get hung up on the number of fans they have and miss the big picture of consistently providing compelling and engaging content. At the same time, we often see people who spend hours writing compelling content when they only have five Facebook fans. It's important to strike a balance with this, but as general rule, building your audience must be considered when starting out.
Establishing clear goals
You may want track the number of hits to your website from social media sites, foot traffic to your location, your number of fans and followers, and audience interaction. For those who have a foundational following, you may want to forecast what you would like to see happen in six months or a year, and work backward with specific steps toward achieving these goals.
This is part of the relationship-building mindset. It's important to be studying your audience, listening to your customers, and monitoring your prospects' needs and wants. The more you listen, the better equipped you'll be to both communicate and provide solutions to their challenges.
Finding a unique voice
Each business should have a point of differentiation. What makes your product or service stand out from the competition? Each business should also be able to communicate this in a way that's relevant to their customers and prospects - this is 'voice.' Simply answer the question, "what makes your business rock?"
Producing compelling content
Content takes many forms - writing, audio, video, etc. Even a photo is worth a 1,000 words. Be sure the content you're communicating does two things: 1) provides answers/solutions/responses to the needs of your audience and potential customers and 2) is compelling enough to attract new followers and prospects.
We recently had a meeting in which a client actually scratched out "evaluation" from our list of suggested maintenance. He said it wasn't a 'necessary' task. What? If you aren't evaluating, how do you know how well you're doing? It's true that not every aspect of social media is measurable, especially as the line is blurred by marketing integration. However, to remove evaluation from list is like going to college for four years and never earning a degree. It's all pointless if you aren't going to track and measure your progress.
I'm sure you're probably wondering what we've experienced with our clients. Overall, those who got the most return on their investment:
- identified their ideal client
- established themselves on networks that include their ideal clients
- listened, communicated value, and offered solutions
- took the time to do these things consistently
- evaluated their progress and made adjustments when necessary
- accepted up front that, even with contracting outside help, success would be more likely if they invested time, energy, and creativity.
Here are two specific examples. We provided consulting services for the first client and provided management services for the second.
We recently developed a strategy for a woman who is a medical billing specialist. She said she was spending two to three hours a day on social media and 'not really getting anywhere.'
First, let me share with you some of her goals:
1) Sign one ideal client per quarter due to social media marketing plan
2) Compile social media data into one reporting tool
3) Use social media to communicate product/services and focus less on cold calling
4) Develop a social media campaign
5) Target ideal client
These goals are specific, measurable, and attainable. Too many times, people tell me their business goals are: get more clients and get more money. Well, join the club. What we need to know is: What are your specific marketing and communication goals especially as they relate to social media?
We developed a plan for this client that included a few different forms of media, but primarily a blog and targeted LinkedIn strategy.
Here's an excerpt from an email she sent about two weeks after we discussed her strategy:
This morning, a doctor (actually a chiropractor) commented on my blog. He saw it posted in one the LinkedIn groups that I joined. I reached out to him and we now have a conference call scheduled for tomorrow.
This is proof that leads are entirely possible if you have a targeted audience, dedicated time, and a value-based offering.
About 18 months ago, we started working with a client in the event décor business. She wanted to be better positioned to compete against the larger chain companies. She knew she didn't have time to create a consistent social media presence, but she did want to drive more traffic to her website.
Our strategy included multiple forms of media including a blog, a monthly e-newsletter and a Facebook business page.
At the time, her website included a blog, but the blog was under the umbrella of a templated website. We recommend switching the blog to a Wordpress platform in order to customize the look and enhance search engine rankings. We developed an editorial calendar and started blogging weekly about the services she offered to brides. We were sure to include keyword groupings and her geographic location in the headlines, body of the blogs, and in tags. In Google searches, she's now showing up among the top competitors in her area. Moreover, her content is providing value, not just sales pitches.
We used the Facebook business page and monthly e-newsletter to stay in front of brides with timely information. As she attended wedding shows, we secured opt-ins for her newsletter. We used QR codes on handouts and postcards to drive traffic to her Facebook fan page. We used the fan page and the e-newsletter to drive traffic to her website.
We tracked her web traffic for one year and managed to nearly double the number of hits it received during that time.
All of her marketing and communication goals were met because they were specific. We integrated communications and tracked progress. Moreover, she knew she did not have the time to manage her social media, but our company was able to solve the problem by providing social media management for her.
Ready to Achieve Social Media ROI?
If all this seems like a lot of work, it is. Like we've said, it's not magic. It takes time, energy, and creativity. But, with specific goals, a measurable strategy, marketing integration, and value-added content, social media ROI is attainable.
As we said when we opened this series a week ago, "When we consult with clients for the first time, many of them ask, 'What's going to be my ROI with social media?'"
The answer is: In order to get a return, you must first make the right investment.