What’s Wrong With How Most Businesses Look at Social Media Marketing?

How effective is your social media marketing plan… and before you mentally answer that question, let us ask another one: How do you know?

The “standard” way to measure social media marketing success – at least amongst small and medium-sized business owners – is by seeing what kind of following your company has accumulated.

In other words, they look to see how many fans they have on their profiles, how many customers or potential customers are following them on Twitter, the number of “likes” and “fans” that are being generated, and so on.

These are all good leading indicators for bigger things, but what do they really mean in terms of your profit picture? In most cases, not a lot. Having a bigger social media following is better than having a smaller one, of course, but how often do those friends and fans turn into committed buyers? What is the value of getting one, or the amount of time and money you have to spend to build that list?

The more you think about these issues, the more you see a problem in this way of measuring social media marketing progress. People who want to be famous on the Internet or keep up with their friends pay attention to those kinds of statistics; executives and number-crunchers at Fortune 500 firms, high-end ad agencies, and other serious marketing players look at things a lot differently. They want to know the numbers that really matter, and will ignore the simple indicators – and surely go past them – to find out.

So, the problem with looking at the simple numbers of your social media following is that they don’t really tell you what’s going on, or what impact they’ll have on your bottom line in the future. That’s why you should be paying attention to a different set of figures, like:

The number and percentage of conversions originating from your social media profiles.

In other words, what percentage of your new orders are coming from your social media contacts, or seem to at least be influenced by the social media marketing you’re doing? And what percentage of your contacts are eventually buying from you? What kinds of orders are they placing, or services are they signing up for?

Having a good analytics package can help you answer these questions, which can help you see what kind of progress you’re actually making with your updates, tweets, and other social content.

The value per contact for each social profile you have.

Once you have an idea of what kinds of revenue are being generated by your social campaigns, then you can take a step back and compare that to your social contact list in general. Do you have lots of great customers and potential customers, or only a few people who probably would have bought from you anyway and a lot more looking for free advice?

That conclusion is just a quick example, but it illustrates the importance of knowing the value of your social contacts. In addition, putting an account value on each one can help you project future revenue and help you decide what kind of social media marketing budget to set.

The cost of acquiring new social contacts and opportunities.

Social media marketing is often promoted as a “low-cost” way to acquire customers, and it can be. But, there are always costs, and many of those are hidden within the time spent on social sites, or as part of a larger Internet marketing expense.

That’s not a bad thing, but it’s important to compare those costs to the value you’re getting from time to time; otherwise, you’ll just be spending money and hoping for the right kinds of results.

It takes a little more work and insight to get these numbers than it does to simply look through your follower or subscriber list, but the time and effort is well spent. That’s because you won’t just get a more accurate look at the value of your social campaigns, but also a better way to divide up your time and effort, because you’ll be able to see how your social profiles are comparing to SEO, PPC, direct mail, telemarketing, and so on.

A lot of web designers and Internet marketers would argue that social media is still evolving and jumping to these kinds of figures is premature, but why spend time and money on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ if you aren’t expecting a return, and won’t be able to notice it or measure it when it arrives? By thinking about social media marketing in a different way than your colleagues and competitors do, you also open the door to bigger profit opportunities at the same time.

Are you ready to look at the real-world figures behind your social campaigns? Maybe it’s time to contact the team at KAYAK. At the very least, get my eBook – it’s worth the $2.99 – I promise.

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