Social Media for Business: Why Know, Like and Trust Is Not Enough
Being active on social media for business for several years, I can legitimately say that I've found it to be wonderful, wasteful, profitable and pointless... all at the same time. I'm one of the few that can honestly say I've gained new clients and business from my social networking.
One of the reasons marketers have gravitated toward social media marketing is that it can help build long-term rapport with potential customers in a non-sales, non-threatening way. (Not to mention the fact that getting a presence on the social networks is usually "free"... well, in terms of hard dollars at least.) The goal is that when these followers need the product or service offered, the marketer has top of mind awareness. Prospects and customers come to know, like and trust the marketer, creating warm sales leads. That is the true purpose of social media and it has done very well for me.
But here's the problem: Know, like and trust doesn't automatically lead to sales leads. There's one essential element that needs to be added to that mix.
No Need, No Sales, No Problem?
I am so honored to have thousands of followers on Twitter, as well as hundreds of followers and readers around the world. Many of them know, like and trust me enough to the point where we've been able to establish relationships offline in real life. Many have also become clients, dear friends and mutual beneficial resources.
But at the end of the day, I've realized that most of my followers will never, ever buy my standard product and service offerings. Primarily, this is because they often don't have the need or authority to buy, even if they're interested in the topics I discuss. They may not even have friends they can refer to me. Some are even friendly competitors.
And that's okay... really it is.
I'm very, VERY appreciative of the support and friendship my followers provide. Many have changed my life forever.
But when it comes to using social media for business, I definitely have some sales objectives. And I'm very mindful of the difference between the friendship and financial paths these efforts can take.
So how do I separate the two paths and prevent myself from mistaking friendship as productivity? Trust me, it's not easy.
The Social Media Black Hole
Some years back, social media was really turning the marketing arena upside down. And I wanted to make a name for myself in that emerging space. To some extent I did. But what did it cost?
Starting back around 2009, I was spending a large amount of time on the social networks, somewhere on the order of three to four hours a day, even on the weekends. Blogging a blue streak, too, which took additional hours. I was gaining new followers and was having a LOT of conversation.
Finally, in late 2010, I was getting exasperated and exhausted. (The recession didn't help either.) Luckily, I was smart enough to recognize that my small business needed some outside professional help. I told my new business strategy consultant about my social media exploits and achievements and how I felt pretty proud of my thousands of fans and such. Know what his response was?
So what? Really? Doesn't he know how hard I worked to achieve this? Basically, my consultant pointed out how I really had little to show for spending nearly half a standard workday every day on the social networks. But here's why this is a problem:
Conversation does NOT equal Conversion!
Have I ditched social media as a result? Of course not! It's still bringing traffic and opportunities my way, though I'm no longer falling into a rabbit hole of low productivity and high stress. But it does take a strategy.
How much time do you spend on social media each day on average?
Managing and Monitoring Social Media for Business
One of the first things my consultant emphasized is that a business needs to be run by the numbers. Not just any numbers. The right numbers. Those right numbers include such things as profit margins, website traffic and conversion rates, but NOT follower counts on social media. So I did a thorough analysis of my website traffic. What an enlightening exercise!
I found that very little of my blog traffic was being generated by social media, except for traffic from Twitter. Then traffic from my blog to one of my shopsites was significant. But the problem was that this particular shopsite was not the one generating sales leads. What did this mean? Well, possibly a lot of tire kickers or those simply curious, not serious, were coming from the blog.
The biggest traffic driver on most of my shopsites was coming from organic search (SEO). That's good. But it also meant that my social media frenzy might not be driving sales. When I ask new customers how they found me, they usually respond "through search." Case closed.
Here are some things that I've done to manage and monitor my business' social media presence:
- Monitor Social Media Traffic to Web Properties. Set up Google Analytics (or other web traffic monitoring system) for each website owned. Don't guess how much traffic is being generated by social media. Know! Today I watch traffic numbers to all my sites every week, with more detailed analysis quarterly and annually. Monitoring frequency necessary will be determined by the nature of the website and business being promoted.
- Don't Worry About Follower Counts. While certainly one needs to encourage people to join a business' "tribe" on social networks, obsessing over follower counts is counterproductive.
- Limit, Schedule and Organize Time on Social Media. Set a time limit that will be spent on social media and schedule when that time will be. For example, I set 30 minutes aside on weekday mornings (no weekends!) to check and post to primary social media feeds. Consider it a standing sales call. Using a social media management system such as HootSuite.com (non-affiliate link) can assist in pre-scheduling posts and tweets, as well as organizing incoming feeds to save time on reading.
- Know What You're "Selling." In some cases, non-sales traffic can still be profitable. For example, if a blog or other site generates advertising revenue, then driving traffic to it from social media is a good thing, regardless of whether the visitors actually buy the company's traditional offerings or not. But know that what's being "sold" is advertising, not invitations to buy products and services.
- Understand the Social Media Time Cost. While setting up accounts on social media is typically free, the cost in terms of time and effort can be HUGE. Try this exercise. Multiply the hourly rate you earn by the amount of time you spend on social media per day. Go ahead try it. Even if you earned only $10 an hour, spending 30 minutes a day only on weekdays would cost you $1,300 per year in labor. Shocked? Small business owners and entrepreneurs need to do this, too! Owners would prorate their annual revenue to get an hourly cost. And if employees are also doing this, imagine how much this can cost an organization!
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© 2014 Heidi Thorne