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Does Investing in Social Media Create Business Value?

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Does Investing in Social Media Create Business Value?

Unless you are heading up a start-up company or new digital presence company, chances are you are a seasoned and experienced CEO or C-suite executive who has been around the block a few times. To be in the position you are in means that you’ve hired the right people, delegated the right tasks to the right experts, and have been at the forefront of trends in the market within your industry so you stay a step ahead of your competition.

Congratulations. But now the real work begins. This is the work that is far more visible now than ever before. You see, in the digital and online age, staying ahead of the competition may involve less of the behind-the-scenes machinations of the company operation and more about the front window of the company and how it is dressed for success.

It is all about your digital and social media presence. But if you are a C-suiter, why should you care about this? This is why you have digital marketing and social-media specialists on the payroll. They take care of the digital branding of the company.

Here I intend to give you some thoughts about why it’s important for you, an executive, to be involved in your company’s (and your own, for that matter) online branding and reputation management for the sake of your brand and its continued growth.

The Marketing Power of Social Media
 

 Back in the old brick-and-mortar days, many of our businesses only had a single front window to our shop in which we put our shiny new products or promoted special sales only to those potential customers who walked or drove by our stores. Our marketing was generally pretty limited, and the onus was often on us and our staff to go out and shake hands with people in the community, hand out business cards and encourage them to “keep us in mind whenever you need that widget.”

With the Internet and social media having a worldwide reach, our shop window is much larger, so it becomes very important for us to send the right message into the world. Every Facebook post, blog entry, tweet, pin, subreddit that we put out there is our outreach to a potential audience. Everything we do online is a “contact” with potential customers, and a single tweet could be a “contact” with hundreds or thousands of people at once, rather than a window display “touching” only a handful of people, or shaking a hand and giving a business card is only a single contact at a time.

With exponential growth of contacts and thus prospects in the worldwide digital marketplace, the message you send on your blog or social media account is exponentially more important than 20 years ago. And that is because of the power of word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing.

Social Media Immersion
 

It can be hard to comprehend the number of contacts your brand may make with a couple of tweets each day. But when you realize that much of your digital contact will be with millennials and younger (basically the majority of people online regularly are under age 35), and that is often the “wheelhouse” of many companies’ success in the long-term, you can learn to understand the value of social media in marketing.

The key to that is to learn. It isn’t just about delegating to your social-media specialists and trusting them. It’s about learning and grasping what social media are, their power to impact many people, and to know their value and risk in order to better frame your offline brand and make sure it’s represented online. It is a new way of thinking, and it can be complex to engage with your legacy market and still achieve a balance in marketing to the millennial market, which is the age demographic you usually want to win even with a quickly evolving dynamic.

Here are some quick tips, as mentioned in a recent video I posted


click to view

  • Get educated. Don’t just hand off social media to your “specialists.” Learn about the various channels and how they work, and find out what your competitors are doing in the various spaces. Utilize the advice given by your younger social media-savvy employees and ask questions about how and why they use social platforms to learn about the value and impact of the various channels, as each one is different in their deployment.
  • Have hip conversations. Talk to your younger staffers who use social media themselves as well as manage your company’s channels. Do a lot of listening and asking about their approaches to social media, their tactics, what they look for personally when they browse their channels, and find out what messages seem to resonate best with these audiences and why. Learn about the value of social media in customer service, which is another point I made in one of my older ClickZ articles on Social Media.
     

What is Social Investing?
 

Once you have a sense of social media with your company, their reach, impact and influence in the market and the various ways that each channel is used, you can start to consider your marketing efforts in social media.

Marketing is done through several channels, and social media are placed in a single categorized channel and have several subchannels which are the various social-media platforms you use. The key to effective social media use is by doing what is called social investing, which is the investment of time and resources into social media that can maximize the return on investment (ROI) most effectively.

The term social investing implies that your company will get a return that is generally positive, as opposed to an expense, where it’s something that you spend money on in your marketing because you think you have to to remain competitive in the current market.

It is vital to invest in social media, but it makes sense to be practical. Get a consumer survey together and send it to your followers on social media and to some of your clients, customers and vendors who do not follow you on social media, and find out what channels they are more likely to use or the ones they use more often and determine where your best penetration is, and where your biggest potential might be.

You may find you don’t have to invest in every social-media channel, but perhaps just the most popular few (especially if there are overlaps, where audience members use two or more platforms). There likely will be diminishing returns on the time you spend with certain platforms, so for efficiency’s sake it might be best to focus on the platforms where you can reach the largest percentage of your audience with the least amount of time and effort. That is good social investment.

Develop a Social Media Roadmap
 

The key to any investment is knowing the long-term goal of that in which you are investing – whether it’s human capital, machinery, or marketing tools. Social media are the same way – you should always go in with a plan, a goal and a timeline with an overarching strategy and deploy your social-media and digital marketing specialists to lay out the tactics along the way that will meet the long-term goals and maximize ROI.

Here are some steps you can take to make your social-media roadmap, once you are educated about the platforms and you understand your desired investment levels:

  • Know your persona(s). By this I mean, know your target consumer – look at your data to know the people who are most likely to engage with your brand and find out the social platforms they are most likely to use and thus make contact with you. And know how they engage – do they comment on a tweet or YouTube video, subscribe/follow you, or do they click on links, or type your website URL directly and avoid social-media contact altogether? Knowing how and to what level they engage can improve your investment in social media so you develop a more specific targeting that will be most effective.
  • Analyze data. Work with your team to understand the various ways that your engagement is measured, and find the measurement that seems to most closely correlate to revenue and sales. Do sales increase as you increase daily tweets? Or do they fall with more frequent social-media contact, and it’s more the quality of the contact that makes the difference? Do you notice more home-page visitors in the first 24-48 hours after a blog post or off-site authority article is published? Knowing how and what manner you improve contacts and get more leads will also help develop a very specific path to success. After all, a good road map gives the best route, not all the possible routes.
  • Set a goal, not a resolution. Why do New Year’s resolutions fail so often? Because we rarely are specific. Specifics in what you want to achieve and in what time frame turns a resolution into a goal. Your business works best with goals, so set them for your social-media plan. As you find your most-effective contact points, set a goal for the next 12 months (doubling the number of followers on Twitter, for example) and break it out into quarterly or monthly bites (develop an initiative to increase Twitter followers by 25 percent in the next 60 days).
  • Follow up. Never leave your goals to your social-media or marketing team and only get reports when milestones are met. Have regular meetings with the team (in other words, “look at the map”) to make sure you are going in the right direction, ask questions to discuss different approaches and understand why the current approach was chosen, and monitor progress before a 60- or 90-day timetable is reached. If needed, offer your own personal brand (which I discuss in other blog posts about your personal brand working in harmony with your company brand) on executive channels such as LinkedIn in order to boost your brand awareness and expedite those measures that you want.
     

Learning about social media and their impact on your brand and the market can go a long way toward seeing social media as an investment and not an expense, and understanding how social media interactions with your target audience will help create efficient initiatives that will maximize reach with a minimum of effort – increasing sales, revenue and profit.

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