It is easy to question the benefits of social media when it comes to your bottom line. After all, how much should you be investing for a like, a share or a follow? Those are markers that don’t automatically add dollars to the balance sheet and can therefore be viewed quite skeptically by business owners looking to maximise their operating potential.
Yet the keyword of that scenario comes down to “investing.” In much the same mold as search engine optimisation (SEO), a process that takes months before results begin to emerge, marketing your brand on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+ becomes a long-term strategy that builds on trust and loyalty.
So why if the system proves to be so valuable are there still doubters out there invalidating social media? There will be a number of different theories that fit the unique circumstances of that particular enterprise, but it will often be one of two factors:
- A lack of patience to see the project through
- An inability to formulate a coherent campaign and utilise the social tools at your disposal
Just establishing a social media presence is nowhere near close enough to ticking the right boxes. Consumers need to know what you offer, how you will offer it, where you can be contacted and how well you communicate with the online community at large. Not a task for the uninitiated, yet the advantages for tapping into this space is certainly quantifiable.
Let us run our eye over the 6 essential return on investment (ROI) elements that makes social media such a popular entity for brands looking to capitalise on the billions of users worldwide.
Plans are entirely flexible
From the outset, the joy of social media marketing is that campaigns can be completely isolated from one and other. A significant factor that holds many businesses back is fear of failure where projects that are once slated in the meeting room are dismissed because it might not be 100% foolproof or perfect in the owner’s eyes.
That stress will ebb away by the fact that posts, tweets and releases can be edited, deleted and switched at a given’s notice. Nothing is static or etched in stone in this sphere because organisations have the flexibility to switch gears and place the emphasis on an alternative product, topic or content type to suit their own agenda.
Other forms of mainstream media for marketing purposes don’t necessarily have this format where changes can be made. Should a contact detail change or an alteration has to be made to a radio spot, television commercial or giant billboard, the cost can be monumental and the opportunity to redesign is minuscule.
Enterprises don’t need to rehire third parties for advertising campaigns or promotional posts in this respect, giving more power in the hands of the operator.
Organically builds a consumer community
Pages and accounts that are crafted over time will eventually house a group of followers who receive updates when content becomes available. Their collective timelines are used as a newsfeed of information where product releases, events, announcements, offers and anything that offers value is made apparent.
If you have time to step back after a series of months and years to see what has been accumulated, you will see that a community has been formed. The shared interest is there from those that follow the account as users develop common behaviours that become repeated over time.
A non-social media equivalent in this field would be an email list – a strategy that still very much has its place in 2018 given the advent of tools like Mailchimp. Yet there is no shared experience in this example because individual users are marketed to directly without seeing how others interact with the message.
A community of followers who have at least one shared interest in common helps to garner brand credibility and allows the enterprise to consistently advise, recommend and direct a subsection of people to stay up to date with their offerings. This process is organic and eliminates cost when it comes to broadcasting.
Organically builds a peer network
Business-to-business or B2B marketing is another facet in and of itself in the commerce world. How brands communicate between one another is a different animal to responding and messaging customers and challenges can arise when those lines become blurred.
The joy of social media is that this lack of distinction really works to benefit organisations who are usually perceived to be one-dimensional, humourless and stale vacuums that are designed purely for profit.
By tapping into social hubs including Facebook and Instagram, companies can showcase their creativity and develop working connections that leverage off each other’s followers.
Known as co-branding, this has been seen numerous times on social media where organisations like GoPro and Red Bull formulate a combined campaign to maximise the visibility of both labels.
Professionals who have studied the social media field for the best part of a decade argue that platforms including Facebook and Instagram should be viewed as networking portals more than avenues to market. Of course it is necessary to focus on your consumer base first and foremost, but the need to develop a strategic connection between peers can be born out on social media whereby content posts and promotions remain low overheads.
Geo-targeting and scheduling
A continual bugbear of marketing experts is having the ability of pinpointing when and where a promotion will drop. A radio commercial for instance might only be affordable for a local business between the hours of midnight and 3am, but by the time that is crafted and sent to the airwaves, nobody interested in the brand will be awake to hear it, let alone act on it.
Sending out content and marketing messages across the social sphere ensures that operators can surgically insert their brand at key times, allowing their consumer base to absorb the promotion when they are logged in and active.
A dashboard software application like Hootsuite is designed to cater to this requirement across the board when links and releases can be scheduled from Facebook to Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+ and more.
Paid advertisements on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram happen to enable geo-targeting promotional spots as well. Postcodes can be identified ahead of time as consumers are chosen based on their unique geography, a tool that alternative marketing methods cannot guarantee – particularly at no additional cost.
Build and design a radius to select exactly where your message will be seen and change it for future campaigns accordingly.
Repeats brand messaging/reinforces brand awareness
Brands are always on the lookout for avenues where they can broadcast their message free of disruption and without oversight. Business directories are highly regulated and additional features often come at a high cost.
Social media pages and accounts operate as open channels where the freedom to promote is unlimited and unbounded – an asset that should not be overlooked compared to the alternatives out there.
So many options in the marketing world are built on the pay-per-promotion model whereby returning brands have to re-invest for the privilege.
The platforms of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are free of that hassle as brand awareness is continually reinforced. They are unobtrusive outlets that compare favourably to alternatives that require significant investment to acquire that same space.
Free and affordable
Top of the pops when it comes to social media’s ROI benefit is simple: entry is 100% free. There are no strings, no set-up costs, no fees or gimmicks whereby the company feels obligated to spend for the sake of spending. The millions of domestic users and billions around the world are always open for your business – the trick is to find them and offer them a unique selling point to opt in.
Naturally there is a paid element for brands who want to give themselves a visibility boost. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are known for giving this option as they alter their business model. Yet the ROI is tangibly more beneficial over the other mainstream options.
Research conducted by Lyfe Marketing illustrated that social media is head and shoulders the more valuable when it comes to exposure vs. cost. Hitting 1,000 impressions for the price of $3 or less, this figure dwarfed the likes of billboards ($5), radio ($10), newspapers ($16), magazines ($16), broadcast TV ($28) and direct mail ($57).
Measuring your social ROI
So we have outlined the benefits for venturing down the social media path. The return on investment is there to obtain for operators who stick to the guidelines and get proactive with the resources.
But how do you exactly do about measuring the ROI? This is not an exact science by any measure, yet there are yardsticks to deduce how you are tracking and whether or not it is an asset for your organisation.
Applications like Facebook Insights gives social marketers a comprehensive understanding of their impact or otherwise on the platform. Demographics are outlined in clarity as brands can gauge where the impressions and cut-through is being made at key times and key places.
This data is vital because it provides the ROI in up-to-date report form and allows the operator to design future promotions based on the response of previous examples. Other analytical programs are available for Twitter and Google.
Weigh up the benefits
The given equation for ROI is deduced to:
Net Profit/Total Investment x 100
That does not change when you are examining the advantages and disadvantages of marketing on social media. Take onboard the revenue gleaned from these accounts and study the quantitative data.
As a note of context, don’t exclude the qualitative data. Take note of the time required to cater a social media presence that grows organically and hits the right markers for content and marketing messages that actually work for your niche.
Once that is established, the ROI can be boiled down to pure numbers.