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Proving your Social Media Worth

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Photo of Gini DietrichThe other day, I was standing in line at security in the Ft. Lauderdale airport. I was fascinated at the three and a half hour line (which I thankfully didn’t have to go through) and commented on it to the guy standing behind me.

We started to talk and he asked me what I was doing in Florida. I explained I had just given the opening keynote at the Retail Packaging Association trade show on using the web for business growth.

He asked if that included social media. I said it did and he relayed a story to me about how many cold calls he gets from social media experts wanting to start Facebook and Twitter accounts for his business.

I said, “Yeah. Well, anyone with a Twitter account and a keyboard is a social media expert.”

They are a dime a dozen.

Yet, there are few who know how to integrate their expertise with real business results.

I swear, if I hear one more time that you can’t measure the ROI of a bar of soap (or your mom or a bag of chips or whatever the cool phrase is at the time), I may actually go ballistic.

The fact of the matter is, you can (and should) measure your social media efforts. Sure, if you’re only tweeting or updating your Facebook page, there isn’t going to be a return-on-investment, other than an increase in fans or followers.

But if you integrate your efforts with the marketing and communication strategies, there are several metrics you can easily track.

  1. Leads. The number of qualified leads that come through your efforts are easily tracked with Google analytics, sites such as Clicky, and good old fashioned asking customers where they heard about you. If you set up your tracking correctly, you’ll be able to watch who comes from the blog, email marketing, and even your social networks.
  2. Converted leads. As you begin to watch your qualified leads, you can do things to nurture them along, keeping you top-of-mind. In some cases, that’s going to be “talking” to them, one-on-one, every day on the social networks. People buy from people they like and trust. And trust can be built through the social networks. But be sure you’re tracking those leads so you can show how your efforts help convert them to customers.
  3. Shortened sales cycle. This won’t necessarily apply to consumer-facing businesses, but if you work in B2B, you know how long it takes to close a new customer. For some, it’s three days and other it’s 12 months. By using social media to stay top-of-mind with your qualified leads, you are able to shorten the sales cycle. Track how long your leads take to become customers and compare that to the other methods of closing new business.
  4. Improved margins. Margins is another word for profit. It comes from the margin between your top line (revenue or sales) and your bottom line (profits after expenses such as payroll, benefits, and rent). Any time you can improve the number that’s left after expenses, the better the company does, in terms of growth. Perhaps there is a new product you can sell online to your social networks or you have created a premium eBook that you can sell. By thinking of new ways to sell, you’re increasing the margins for the company. Even if it’s only one percent, and you can demonstrate that came from your efforts, you’ll be hailed a hero.
  5. Increased fundraising. Not all of us work in for-profit businesses. If you work for a non-profit, the goal might be to increase fundraising. Create a Twitter chat or a program such as 12for12K to demonstrate your social media capabilities are raising money for the organization.

This certainly isn’t every metric you can track, but these are all good places to start. Once you learn how to measure your social media efforts, in real dollars and cents, you’ll get the attention of the executive team and create an opportunity for you to become an investment, instead of an expense.

 

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, the author of Spin Sucks, the founder of Spin Sucks Pro, and co-author of the forthcoming Marketing In the Round.

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23 comments

  1. Michelle Gilstrap /

    Very interesting article, hope many people come and check this out.

  2. Thanks for sharing tips for lead capture and conversion. 

  3. Thanks for this nice info

  4. Katiesheadesign /

    Great post!

  5. It is true that words are just words and math is much more tangible when you can present a new client visible metrics.

  6. I really hope people take something away from this. In business, social media has always been an expense. From workers wasting hours a day on Farmville to the guy who you had to fire because he tweeted an inappropriate picture to our friends at “To Catch a Predator” (There was a guy fire from my office about 3 years ago for just that!). Unless the people who get in the position to use social media for profit start tracking their progress, the perception of Facebook as a time waster isn’t going to change anytime soon. On the other hand, there is an accounts manager somewhere who is closing a deal on a multi-million dollar account because he flattered a client with picture comments (which is the last thing you’d associate with social media marketing). 

  7. Baker Jeri /

    Great information.  Thanks for sharing.

  8. useful article :)

  9. ‘Funneling’ is important.

  10. John L. Evans /

    Some people complain when I send them information about ZURKER – why?  Have they tried it…. No!!

    Can you believe that?

    ZURKER – what are your thoughts?

    http://tinyurl.com/about-ZURKER

    Please feel free to join the Zurker facebook group:

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/228062120619145/

    Cheers John

  11. Thank you Gini. Interesting, and indeed you are.

  12. Anonymous /

    Thank you Gini for making it clear and concise. Social media is part of the communications strategy – sales cycle. We don’t need to go re-inventing the wheel. 

  13. I agree that every other marketer call themselves a “social media expert” and that it is possible to measure ROI but it is difficult to convince small business owners to invest in social media. My job profile deals with small business owners and I find it very cumbersome to deal with them when it comes to investing in social media. People think its all free so why should they spend? 

    • Yeah…they forget there is that thing called time. Something will have to happen for most. There will be a big blow-up online because they weren’t paying attention. Or there will be a crisis of sorts. Just like anything else, you have early adopters, the fence sitters, and those who will go kicking and screaming. The good news is that the space is much different than it was three years ago. At least now they’re beginning to realize they need it.

      • One thing I’ve been trying to come to terms with is how much is the current popularity of social media directly related to the success of the major social networks (especially since the conception of this new website). With Facebook producing record traffic, and even more importantly people who are staying on the site 23 minutes everyday, is social media part of advertising budgets simply because Facebook is to the Internet what Times Square is to billboards?

        There are tangible and very valuable uses for having these channels in place for businesses. A comprehensive FAQ will cut back on Customer Service complaints and calls, and if you staff the channel with good people, it’s really going to help your image as a company who supports their product and takes care of their customers. 

        When Facebook isn’t the hottest online destination, and apps replace a lot of websites, and search engines improve to the point that they do a better job of finding content for you than your friends do, do businesses start avoiding social media because the propensity for scandal and the high risk for making public mistakes that have proven detrimental to many marketing campaigns? I just hope that as soon as people get the message and start producing tangible, verifiable results for the bottom line that social media doesn’t prove itself to be a fad. 

        • It’s a really interesting question, Adam. I’m also hearing rumors that Google soon will provide you the answer you need, right in the search results, instead of giving you a link to find it on a website or blog. These are all things we’re thinking about as we help our client’s businesses grow. I wish I knew what the future is going to hold, but the search results combined with the apps and more personalized searches you mention certainly give us pause for thought.

  14. Unfortunately its true that so many call themselves Social Media Experts.  There is so much more as you have pointed out.  :)

  15. Mcudahy /

    Great points, Gini (so good, you’ve got me as a new subscriber!). For so many, social media has become the tail that wags the dog! Very simply: It’s a tool to achieve business objectives, and if you can’t quantify those objectives and your SM efforts, you can’t claim the objective is achieved!

  16. Rosebudd /

    Some really good ideas to promote your product or business

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