We are in a hyper-engaged world surrounded by information in every direction. We listen to the radio while getting ready for work in the morning, check the news on our mobile devices on the way to work, are bombarded by advertisements on the tube, spend all day on the computer at work while checking the internet intermittently, again we absorb information on our mobile devices on the way home and most likely veg in front of the telly while looking at our laptops at the same time in the evening. Never before in history has anyone (especially the average person) had access to so much information at any time of the day wherever they are. If you don’t know what something is, you can Google it or Wikipedia it and be an expert on the subject in 30mins. This has led to the death of the pub debate, when people used to spend hours discussing an issue and solving it without knowing the actual answer. Now, one quick Google and you have the answer. These debates are now discussed across many platforms online instead. Yet many marketers are still reluctant to utilise social media as part of their marketing mix…
The principal question that is frequently asked about social media when it comes to allocating money, resources and time is ‘What is the ROI?’. Which begs the question ‘Is social media about engagement or selling?’. Personally I would say it is the former, the first word gives it away really. It is about engaging first, if this is done well, marketing your product or service will be easy. This is habitually difficult for CEOs or CFOs to get their heads around as they need hard facts and figures before they can commit to the resources. There are several online social media metric analytics that can help, the big three being Klout, PeerIndex and Kred. The idea of these metrics is to measure your influence on your followers. This is calculated by tracking all of your engagement across all of the social media platforms used. In the case of Klout, you are given a score out of 100 of how influential you are, 40 being the average. When thinking about social media ROI, it should not be thought of as financial. This does not do social media justice, as often there is not any financial outlay. In most cases it is purely down to resources and time spent. The way to gauge the success of social media is through mentions, comments and ‘likes’. This can be benchmarked against your competitors using Klout.
The once linear and broadcast-centric marketing communication of brands and companies has changed, it is now mutli-directional and profoundly influenced by opinion and facts collected by consumers and clients. By leveraging the consumer’s natural penchant to engage with media across multiple platforms, we can construct a synergy effect that is non-linear, therefore driving deeper engagement. I believe that a big part of the reluctance is due to companies not understanding the workings of social media and what it can offer their business. Many businesses have simply gone online without any thought or guidance due to either their competitors having done so or because they feel that they should. Many companies believe that by setting up social media accounts, all of their marketing problems will be solved. However, social media is like any other marketing tool, the outcome of social media will depend on how businesses employ the tool. Merely assuming a one size fits all tactic can only lead to catastrophic consequences. According to a recent study published by Hiscox; only 57% of small businesses are currently using social media for work purposes, with only 13% having a company blog. In addition to this, 67% of small businesses allocate less than 5% of their marketing budget to social media, although this is expected to reduce to 13% allocating less than 5% of their budget to social media in 3 years time. What is it about social media that businesses find difficult? The report also showed that 4 in 5 active internet users visit social networks and blogs and these platforms also now account for a quarter of total time spent on the internet. These are figures that both companies and marketers cannot ignore.
In summary, it is not necessarily about being on every social media platform or blindly sending out multiple status updates a day. It is about relevance and quality of content. By sending out content that your target clients are interested in, you are more likely to engage with them and gain their trust as an expert in their field. Lastly, don’t be ashamed to ask for help from a social media specialist. It is best to be shown the right way once, by the right person, rather than stubbornly sending out irrelevant content to the wrong audience on a daily basis.