The Social Media world has been scratching its head about Return on Investment for almost as long a social media has existed as an entity. Not only have influencers in the space been unsure as to how the actual platforms were going to make any money, it has remained an enigma as to how any business person could possibly make money, trackable sales, or any other non-fluffy stuff using social media platforms.
This puzzle has puzzled me. You’re spending money. You should make sure you are making money. It’s not a social media problem, it’s a business basic. If you’re spending money and not making that much money on the other side of the coin, you’re not going to do too well. But thanks to the conversation on the post I wrote here about communities and cliques I think I have finally understood why ROI in the world of social media is so tricky. Are you ready?
It’s because so many people in the online world don’t believe in SELLING.
The Myth of Social Media Serendipity
Here is how I understood social media when I first started tweeting. You go online, you mention in your Twitter bio that you work for xyz company. After you get that settled, you start talking to EVERYONE. You accrue followers, you get subscribers to your blog, you do people favors, you support people, and you create an ever-growing community. You post pictures of kitties, write poems about unicorns, and do other things to keep these people happy. It may seem like it’s not working, but then one day, one of those people commenting on your kitty picture says, “You know, I happen to need a car, and I know you sell cars. Can we talk?”
Because you’ve been talking to this person for such a long time, you know exactly what kind of car they REALLY want. They trust you because they’ve been talking to you. You sell them a car. You’ve made money for your business. While you might have mentioned along the way things about being a car salesman, you never actually promoted your business, mentioned specifically what kinds of cars you sell, and you never said anything directly tied to your job. You just wafted the idea out there, it stuck in peoples’ heads, and lo, when they needed a car, they thought of, well, you.
Your Investment is What?
OK, I should not have used the word “Myth.” This kind of thing really does happen. But here’s the problem. If you use that kind of approach to social media, your investment will far, far, far exceed your return. You might get an opportunity like that once a year. Even if it’s once a month or once a week, that’s still a lot of nurturing, tweeting, chatting, blogging, sharing, and networking. The time can really add up, and though we don’t like to say it out loud, in the business world, time is money. This of course does not mention the computer you’re using, the electricity you’re using to keep that computer running, the time you’re NOT spending on other stuff. You get the point. It’s no wonder that tracking social media ROI seems impossible. How can you track your investment when you’re sending 7,000 tweets a day? How can you realize a return on a regular basis if you never remind people what it is you’re trying to sell?
Don’t go to the other end of the spectrum
Some companies realize that the fuzzy version of social business doesn’t really pay the bills, but they go too far the other way. They do nothing but sell. Their Facebook pages are nothing but pictures of their products (yawn). Their “blog” is nothing but news releases (yawn). Their tweets are just shares of their Facebook and blog posts (yawn). That won’t bring you a good return because people will run for the hills.
How can ROI seem less confusing and more achievable? You need to do a special social media dance. You need to learn how to work in mentions of your company while also conversing genuinely with people. You need to be willing to talk about your company but also about things that have nothing to do with your company. You need to jump on opportunities to offer your service or product without being pushy. You need to be honest about why you’re using social media from the start. And you need to respect the people around you. That means not sending out a sniper shot direct message with a sudden “Buy now” starburst inside.
It’s not surprising that so many are having a hard time measuring the ROI of their social media efforts if you think about the kind of advice that gets tossed around. “Be non-transactional.” “Support other peoples’ business ventures first.” In an ideal world that would work all of the time. This is the real world, sadly. You’re not tweeting with psychics who know what you’re selling. You need to get it out there without being pushy or offensive. Once you learn that dance, you’ll have a far easier time cracking the ROI nut.
Of Course ROI is Tricky. You’re Not Selling.
Don’t you think?
Image of Herb Tarlek courtesy of MTM Enterprises.