Is social media a worthwhile time investment, or is it vacuous busyness that creates an illusion of building your business? Yes. Which is it for your business? That depends, here are some things to consider.
Everybody Does Not Need To Be On Every Social Media Platform
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ Oh My! I can barely keep up with my email inbox and now you want me to deal with all those as well? If you’ve been to any of those business presentations on social media you’ve probably come away with one of two worries. The presentations that cram covering multiple social media platforms into just one hour probably left you feeling overwhelmed at the thought of learning & managing all those profiles. If you attended an in depth presentation by a specialist in a particular platform you probably felt a panic that the train to wild success has left the station and you’re left behind & will never catch up.
Social media is important. It is the cocktail party of the 21st century. It is where people go to discuss the events of the day, chat and engage with one another. If you are not online, you are not at the party. And you do not need to be on every social media site. Different people tend to use different social media tools in different ways. The key is to discover where your peers and customers hang out online.
Social media can be a great way to keep up with the trends in your field. Find out where the other experts in your field tend to engage online. Follow and contribute to the conversation. And where do your customers engage online? For example, I was working with a company in the kiteboarding industry. Kiteboarding consumers (i.e. potential customers) tended to be very engaged on Facebook. Twitter tended to be better resource for industry news. There tended to be very little interaction on Google+.
I still highly recommend checking out those presentations on social media to gather information to make an informed decision on if and how include a platform in your social media strategy.
What’s In Your Feed?
Repeat after me: “I am responsible for the quality of my social media feed.” An objection to social media I often here is “It’s a complete waste of time, there’s nothing but garbage.” To which I ask, “Who are you following?” Yes, there many, many people talking about a whole lotta nuthing. There are also many people sharing interesting & important information, profound insights and very clever wit. I use Twitter to keep up innovation, entrepreneurship, analysis of trends & news stories and I follow a few people that just crack me up. What’s in your feed? That depends on who you follow.
What’s the real ROI of Social Media?
Some people think social media is a complete waste of time because there is rarely a direct correlation to a business’ bottom line. (With the exception now of Pinterest for businesses with online shopping carts). There are 3 basic ways investment in social media adds value to your business.
1. Brand Recognition In service industries it takes 8-10 “touches” to turn a looky lou into a customer. That can be anything from meeting in person, to connecting on different online venues. For example, when I spoke at the September 2012 Surf Expo I was cruising the convention floor prior to my presentation inviting people to attend. As I was chatting with one person he said, “I know you!” He didn’t look at all familiar to me, I was wracking my brain trying to figure out where I’d met him. Then he followed up, “I saw your article in Action Outdoor & Bike Retailer, and I’ve seen your posts in the Kiteboarding Business Group on LinkedIn.” Not only did he come to my presentation, but he brought others as well.
2. Be the Expert Remember, social media is the big online cocktail party. It’s one big ongoing conversation. Engage. Just like in real life, your passion and expertise will naturally shine through. Just like in real life, people will start to know that you’re the person who knows about nutrition or building websites or non profits or (insert your expertise here). Soon people will be coming to you. Just this morning someone messaged me on Facebook wanting my insights on a kiteboarding business venture. Do be careful to treat online conversations just like real life conversations. You don’t want to be that person shoving your business card in everyone’s face. Just engage in the conversation. Be aware it does take time, just like in real life.
3. Creates Pathways Back to Your Website
Brand recognition and reputation as an expert are pretty ethereal and hard to track. One measurable return on social media investments is traffic back to your website. If you do not have analytics on your site get them installed yesterday. If you don’t know how people are finding your website you don’t know which of your marketing tools and posts are working. With Google Analytics you can see how visitors move through your site and which pages tend to draw them in and which cause them to leave.
Think of social media as creating lots of yellow brick roads leading people who need your expertise, services or product back to you, The Great Oz. One of the best ways to establish yourself as an expert in your field is to share all that expertise locked in your head. What seems obvious to you is amazingly brilliant to someone who hasn’t invested the thousands of hours in your field that you have. Share it! Always, always, always post first to your website then share out that link on your carefully selected social media platforms. Now you are contributing to the conversation and building your brand recognition as an expert.
When you share out a post be sure to check in on your website analytics to see which social media platforms generated the most visitors. Also, note what kinds of posts tend to generate the most visits.