Here's a killer question from business owners: how can I get a return on investment from social media? The answer is not very straight-forward, it very much depends on what you are looking to achieve from it and indeed your business goals.
As I get asked the aforementioned question frequently, I thought I'd put together a summary that I can point people to. Here are some of the main benefits that you can expect from creating and implementing a social media strategy.
1. Marketing and brand awareness
Your successful social media strategy will lead to more online conversations about your business. If you are able to reach out to your target audience with social media, your customers will spread your message more effectively than traditional methods.
You will raise both awareness and image with social media, whether you are blogging or tweeting about new services or products - your message will reach out to more people faster than ever. Once you have connected with your target audience, they will become your brand ambassadors.
It's a fact that people rather buy from companies that have been recommended to them. Word-of-mouth marketing is more powerful than ever with social media. Therefore it's vital you get social media influencers and authority figures on your side to spread the word about your company.
By creating an online community that gets people talking and helps your business create positive, user-generated content for your brand. The more objective opinions and reviews out there, the more confidence potential customers will have in your product or service.
2. Driving Sales
The simple fact is that social media and online communities grow sales. Instead of relying on banner advertising, pay-per-click and search engine optimization, it's possible to create sales from customer conversations in social media communities.
By identifying where your target audience is spending time online, you will be able to mirror their behavior. By actively encouraging current and prospective customers to connect via social media, you are asking for their permission to market your business directly to them.
Once you have connected to potential customers, you can send them updates regarding new products, special offers or events that will drive interest. The aim is put prospects in your sales funnel and it starts with the connection point which is social media and carries on until you receive payment either online or offline.
3. Listening to your customers and market
To be able to grow your business, it's crucial that you understand your customers completely. Social media monitoring will help you learn more about your target audience by tracking customers and seeing what they are saying, where they are saying it and why they are saying it.
By using social media monitoring tools you will also be able to track how your competition is faring, how you compare against your peers and what influencers are saying about your business.
No reason to commission any expensive research that will only be outdated once presented to you, online communities are where you can access real-time information about your customers any time you need it.
4. Boosting Your Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a vital component of most companies' direct marketing and lead generation strategies. Social media has proven its ability to significantly complement SEO initiatives.
A great deal of social media techniques, including frequent use of common jargon and keywords, title tags, ticker symbols, and links to blogs and other relevant Web content - can drastically improve search engine rankings.
Additionally, while SEO relies on just a handful of popular search engines such as Google and Bing to drive target prospects to a site; social media expands the potential audience by creating alternate channels.
For example, when content is published to a site, and that content is then linked to from a social bookmarking site, it can generate large amounts of back links and serve up a boost in online traffic. Many companies also find it much easier to generate compelling content that is likely to be picked up by bloggers, than it is to keep up with the ever changing rules required to rank high in today's popular search engines.
5. Cost Effective Part of Your Marketing Mix
A comprehensive social media strategy could act as a partial replacement of traditional advertising and marketing at a fraction of the costs. Social media works best when it's integrated and coordinated with the rest of your marketing activities.
If you get it right, you'll be able to reduce the overall marketing spending as social media is free bar your time and effort.
So there you have it, some of the main benefits to build a business case for social media. There are of course lots more advantages and uses of social media, some will be more relevant to your business than others.
My question to you is, with the opportunity cost in mind can you afford not to use social media for your business?