Commentary on Social Media

I feel that social media can strike different emotions from everyone. For business it’s a hot topic, for consumers it’s like an overplayed song. One thing that I am sure of though is that the changes you see happening to our culture and consumerism is not a trend. Not a fad. It’s not going to go away. Sorry to the older folks who I hear saying this, frequently. What you are witnessing here in this technological age is not a trend, it’s an evolution. A growth. Change in the way we do things. A LOT of things. Are you keeping up?

Be careful that you aren’t in the same boat as those who thought television was a fad, or that chairs with higher tables would never catch on.

I watched 2 free webinars this morning, both about social media, but each with a different take. I thought it would be a perfect time for me to blog with it being fresh in my mind (and the notes still on my phone). The first was from Social Media Today about Social Media ROI – I’m so glad they did this one. The second was from Windmill Networking about what they call SoMoLo – which is the combination of social, mobile, and local. I’m always trying to tune into webinars like these so that I can stay up to date with the latest technology, trends, and statistics. It’s useful for me in my business as a consultant who offers social media services, and it’s nice to be able to share with those of you who tune into my content.

Although the webinar didn’t surprise me with a magical formula that I could use to measure the ROI (Return on Investment) of social media engagement, (dang it!) it did make me feel better by initially saying exactly what we are all thinking. There is no formula. So much of what social media can do is very intangible, and when it comes to length of time, very new. So even though we can see so many metrics from social media and do a ton of analytics, that doesn’t mean we’ll always be getting more than we put in. From my perspective though, if you do it right, you are always guaranteed to see positive ROI. Social media can bring benefits in two ways: brand recognition and marketing. The marketing aspect is what you can measure; your conversion rates, how many clicks you obtained, how many of those converted into sales, etc. But the brand recognition aspect – that’s the priceless counterpart.

It reminds me of the non-profit I volunteer for. Sometimes they do fundraisers and they know the main objective is to earn revenue for the organization. Other times, they do a fundraiser with the mentality that it’s getting their name out there in the community – it’s marketing – so if they at least break even they will call it a success. Social media is kind of like that. If you put in work – engage your audience, make yourself available to consumers, have a responsive dialogue with them, you are guaranteed to get something. That something might primarily be brand recognition, which doesn’t bring in the immediate cash, which makes selling social media so tough right now. Everyone is looking for that return.

I’ll promise you one thing – when you make a Facebook page to jump on the bandwagon and don’t use it – you won’t get a darn thing. You get what you put in. This can’t be an extra add on. It needs to be a priority, a job function, a primary duty. With great social impact comes great social responsibility.

I’ll share with you an example of how social media does pay off – I think it’s a great one. I got it from the webinar, and will definitely be sharing stories like this one with my clients, should we be having the social conversation. When you have a customer base online that’s interacting with your brand socially, you should be paying attention to their feedback. A lot of times it will be given without asked – someone will write a post about something they love or they might write in a complaint to see if someone is paying attention. To draw out this kind of feedback from your customers, you can post content such as a new commercial video or post a poll or survey. Then you end up getting a wide range of feedback – not just from anyone – these are your loyal customers who like you so much they are engaging with you – EI, these guys matter! And hey now, you got that information all for free. But where you get the ROI – is when you USE the information you’ve been given. You use it to improve on a product or service, or launch a new product or service, that is catered to your customers needs. That saves you SO much money on research and development, as well as marketing, and THAT you can measure. If you save money each year, isn’t it kind of like making it?

Another small anecdote I really like – a perfect example of a company that has embraced social – Nike. They used to spend a majority of their marketing budget on the Super Bowl. Because that’s got the highest rating and it’s all about sports. Perfect for them. However – they’ve discovered that they can tap into a market that large (or bigger!) on any given day! And they have, and continue to do, through a variety of apps and products that have a social aspect to them. Plus, you know you love those funny videos they post. The one with the chubby kid? I can personally attest – that video was shared with me by a friend. It works.

The ROI I just mentioned isn’t a rare commodity either, one of the webinar presenters interviewed over 30 companies and found this pattern when using social. The customer base becomes part of the process, instead of just the target. That’s doing social right.

The SoMoLo webinar touched on a different aspect of social and local marketing – mainly about how many of us are using smartphones and have an endless amount of choices at our fingertips. I’m amazed that the numbers keep growing like they do – especially in the age range of 55+. They saw a high activation number at Christmas time, so smartphone usage is up another 6% since May of 2012.

Every time I use my iPhone and explaining to people how much I use it I am thinking about the very things this webinar brought up. I’m comparing prices, I’m shopping, I’m reading reviews of local restaurants, all from my phone. I’m a regular “showroomer” as they put it – I go into physical stores, see something I like, then use my phone to see if I can find it cheaper online. Most of the time I do this right from the physical location so if it turns out that the better deal is in the store, I can grab it. One company that has done a nice strategic move when it comes to shopping is Safeway – they have an app for your phone that connects to your Safeway card, so when you are in the store shopping you can see special coupons on the app and send them right to your card and get a better deal on that very trip.

I no longer need to get directions before I go to a new destination, because Siri gives me directions from my car. A lot of the time I ask her for a certain kind of food near me and she shows them to me, all with ratings and distance from me. She can’t see specific store hours though – which I hope they can integrate soon. For example, I wanted to see what bars near me would be open at 10AM for the recent Seahawks playoff game. This change in the way we do so many things in our lives just hammers in the fact that you must get in the game. You need to be where your customers are. Make it easy for them to find you.

The major takeaway – Get your listing on every local site you can: Google, Bing, Yahoo, Mapquest, Yelp, everything! Google and even Amazon are very invested right now in the local experience. I have a client who is a physical therapy provider and this is one thing I’m going to be doing for them – because when people search online via the web or their phone, for “[location] physical therapy” I want them to show up, and first if possible! If they don’t, they’ve got about 60 competing offices in their area (yes, that’s a real stat, I’ve checked them out) that their customers are going to go to instead merely because they were more accessible. They showed up.  They had the nice review, etc.

As the webinar said, there is a “land of opportunity” when you look at the Venn style diagram at the intersections of social, local, and mobile. Being active on social networks helps to build your brand recognition and build trust, being optimized for local and social searches can help them find you once they’ve seen or heard that you are worthy of their business.

When you’ve found the perfect combination of these aspects – that’s when you’ll truly start to see the ROI being social in marketing and embracing this new technology can bring you. Don’t be weary of the time it takes to invest in it to get there. You’re building up a masterpiece of quality and quantity.

Best of luck to you in finding that perfect combination of what works well for your business; if you want help in finding it, feel free to contact me.

By: Kelly Rates