By Nick Damoulakis
Is your company having a hard time finding value in the use of social media as part of its marketing strategy? Have you tried proving your social media investment is great for business, but are unable to show a convincing ROI?
You hear all the hype about social media, and have read case study after case study of brands that make hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales. But when it comes to your online presence, your brand only has a few hundred followers on Facebook, no conversations or leads from Twitter, and your YouTube video has less than a thousand views.
It’s no wonder why you wonder how you can continue to justify your investment.
You are not alone in your doubts about social media’s marketing effectiveness. Very few companies have a clear understanding of the requirements for a successful social media marketing approach, or simply do not allocate sufficient or adequate resources to really get the most bang for their buck. Keep in mind that social media methods take time and a concerted effort because you have to build trust and the awareness that you are truly knowledgeable in your industry. Potential clients need that confidence and expertise in order to feel comfortable taking the next step with your company. This trust must be nurtured over time, but once you have gained it, you will have found the secret to a great social media presence and strategy.
Here are the top five blunders that I have noticed will destroy any brand attempting to use social media in their marketing approach without fully considering the implications.
No. 1: No Conversations
Conversations with digital followers or friends are key to closing any sale online. Your firm must create a unique online persona that can accurately portray what your firm is about. Conversations are all about building online relationships with other firms, partners, and past and potential clients. Once you have established your presence as a great conversationalist throughout the various social media outlets, you will have succeeded at creating a powerful digital footprint for your firm. This footprint will enable you to be perceived as the subject matter expert, thus making your firm a trustworthy source for someone who needs what you are offering and stumbles across these online conversations. Just remember that every item your company posts and every conversation will be out there forever and for everyone. You cannot give this job to just anyone at your firm, though. Make sure your social media spokesperson will always keep your best interests in mind and will represent your firm in the best light possible.
No. 2: All About Me, Me, Me
On social media sites, nothing is more annoying than getting spammed with promotions, deals, buy now links, and blurbs telling people how great your business is. Every company has something for which it is legitimately great. The best way to share it, however, is to tell it like a story followed by a clear and effective call to action. Just like at cocktail parties, don’t just join a conversation and sell. Instead, take the time to learn about your audience and understand what they are seeking. If you can fulfill their needs, follow up with them directly over the medium you feel will help you best close the deal. If you cannot meet their needs, see if you can refer them to another firm you trust and help them get connected. You will find that making connections and conversations online will pay for itself over time — not just financially, but by creating a positive reputation about your brand and customer service.
No. 3: No Call to Action
Whenever a business has something worth promoting, make sure you have a great call to action that drives potential clients to the proper page. This page is usually called a landing page and is filled with content that is geared toward decision makers. The information on the page must be easy to understand, clean in its presentation, and provide a one-step process to enable visitors to make contact with your company instantaneously. This usually means a short form or phone number, making it very easy for your potential client to take the next step. Having a clear call to action and an equally efficient landing page is the secret to easily closing all your conversations with a sale and converting a recent follower into a long-term brand enthusiast.
No. 4: No Sales Process
Make sure you have a proper touch point and sales strategy that your social media users can easily follow. This should include a process for when a user fills out a form online; tweets back to your company requesting additional information; or asks on your Facebook wall to have someone follow up. Be certain that you respond with the proper information and that you track your results. Leads coming in through varied mediums should be responded to in the corresponding medium. That contact vehicle not only enables the conversation, it frames the user’s mindset. If a user tweets “I would like to learn more about your products,” don’t just call them out of the blue (this may actually scare off the potential prospect). Instead, send them a direct message and ask if it’s okay to follow up with them over the phone, and schedule a date and time.
[Valuable Tip — Keep in mind that in social media, timing is everything — the clock is ticking! We highly recommend that when a user fills out an online form or uses a tweet to request additional information, you make it a company policy to follow up with a social media lead within 15 minutes. You will be astonished at how well the conversation goes and how your quick response makes for a very positive first impression of your firm’s customer service.]
No. 5: Social Media Is All Free
One of the biggest misconceptions to which business owners fall prey is thinking that social media marketing is free. Because of this assumption, small or no budgets are set aside and efforts fail quickly when trying to execute campaigns loaded with potential. Let me assure everyone reading this that, in many cases, social media can easily cost your firm more than traditional marketing methods. How can this be when everything we read appears to indicate just the opposite? While many basic and personal tools are free, more advanced business tools involve a fee to implement. However, this is not where the costs are going to add up. The expense is accrued in asking your most knowledgeable and trusted employees to take the time to write blogs, send out constant tweets, have conversations with users, and follow up with Facebook posts. Mix this with the fact that social media takes months to build genuine trust, form ongoing relationships and present you as a subject matter expert on the Web, and you will see how social media marketing can become an expensive proposition to sustain.
Don’t let the above issues scare you. These factors can be avoided or corrected easily, and the benefits will far outweigh the time and effort this seemingly obscure marketing approach entails. Now that I’ve shed some light on what should be done differently to take advantage of social media’s far-reaching methods, you need to consider if social media is right for your firm’s marketing mix. Social media offers a unique avenue to reach out to potential clients and redefines direct marketing. If you have the time and resources, don’t let this growing marketing vehicle pass you by.
What social media ROI strategies have you found work best for your firm? Do you have additional tips or ideas you would like to share? Please leave your comments below.
Originally published: Aug 31, 2011