I’ve been reading a lot lately about predictions for the coming year. Many of those predictions have to do with social media — whether or not it will stay relevant, whether or not anyone will figure out how to really measure its return on investment (ROI), how many social media “agencies” will survive, etc.
These are interesting questions and remind me of days past when similar questions surfaced and when there were as many answers and opinions — mine among them with this writing! — as there were people brave enough to venture them.
How do you measure the impact of social media expenditures on your bottom line? Do you have real numbers in terms of dollars spent vs. dollars gained or in terms of debits and credits or do you just know that social media is working for you?
Social media has created the biggest self-employment boom in recent history. Virtually anyone can lay claim to being a social media “expert,” as they did with website search engine optimization until Google foiled them and created the current content craze. I have personal and business/company/fan pages on Facebook, Linkedin, Google+, XeeMe, Biznik and several others. I know how to use promotions and advertisements on most of these platforms. My website has all the requisite social media buttons and even uses a WordPress Facebook plug-in for you to leave comments — which I hope you will, by the way — on articles such as this one.
So am I a social media expert? I certainly don’t pass myself off as one, even though I think I know more than enough to be a little dangerous! But what I most certainly don’t know is how I would measure my effectiveness as a social media expert were I to take someone’s money to do social media implementation and optimization work. So I don’t do it. I do higher level strategy work and farm out the implementation to people who have actually helped my business increase its revenues through their improvements to my social media efforts.
Most of my clients are small companies — one to a dozen or so people who have had no formal marketing strategy training r whose marketing manager got the job because he or she knew how to use Facebook and Linkedin a few years ago. I help them figure out who their real target markets are, what messages will resonate with them and what media is most likely to be most effective in delivering those messages to those markets. It may sound simple, but it isn’t. And I normally do recommend that they invest in social media to at least some extent simply because they “have to have a social media presence” in this day and age to be considered a real company.
But am I giving them good advice? I think back to why we attended trade shows when I was in the electronics and software businesses. We had to be there because our competition was there. Until we became successful enough that we could afford not to be there and to let our customers and prospects know that it wasn’t due to lack of money or customers that we were foregoing our future trade show appearances. We were going to use the money for something that would benefit them more than our fancy exhibit booth and lavish hospitality suite. And they respected that.
Trade shows didn’t die, of course. They still have their niches and their purposes. But they have changed dramatically. And I think our fascination or even obsession with social media may become subject to similar pressures in the future. Because if you can’t measure the ROI for an activity, the bean counters are going to make sure that it is severely curtailed if not completely eliminated.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic and will share them with the “gurus” of social media to whom I am connected. Thanks for reading. I hope you found this content useful.