Is It Worth It?

Raise your hand if anyone's ever asked you about ROI.

That lovely little acronym makes a lot of marketers unhappy. It means "return on investment," and in our case it measures the efficiency of the time and money that we spend on social media.

Was that social media training worth the cost? What is your business gaining from Instagram or Twitter? Why is your employee spending all that time posting on Facebook, anyway?

Here's the truth that makes a lot of bosses squirm in their office chairs: Seeing a return on social media investment takes time and persistence. On average, it take can upwards of six months, and longer for brand-new brands. 

To many bosses, investing in social media should automatically mean more followers, and quickly. Increasing the number of followers you have overnight sounds nice, and it might impress someone who doesn't know much about those Tweets and Snaps and Boomerangs. But we in the #biz call this a vanity metric; it just makes you feel popular. Increasing your followers is useless if those followers aren't doing anything for you, or with you.

And it's painfully obvious when a brand has been buying followers. Let's take Facebook, for example; a few years ago, it was very popular to buy Facebook ads that were targeted at potential customers and try to get them to follow your page. But how many people took the time to carefully target potential customers in multiple rounds of small campaigns and finesse exactly who the right target audience should be? 

Sure, you can buy tools that artificially inflate your follower numbers, using methods that are probably against a network's terms of service, and that can get your account suspended. It can also damage your brand's credibility, screw up the chance that even your organic posts will actually reach the right people, and waste your money. It can also make you look shady, and if you don't value your own reputation, well... you just might be reading the wrong Weekly Slice.

Do a little bit of searching on various company pages and you'll see a page with tons of fans, but zero engagement on their posts. (Like this one or this one or this one.) We think you can figure out what happened there. 

If you're going to do it, do it right.

Post organically, engage honestly, and track what works. It's really that simple. If you have a good message and you're willing to spend the time figuring out what works to get that message to the people who want it, you'll see results. Just make focus on the right results. 

Back to that pesky ROI. If you're running a social media campaign, set some goals so you can track the results you actually want to see: 

  • If your goal is more customers, track if users are clicking on links to your product pages.
  • If your goal is building relationships with potential clients, track new users that are following you and ensuring they actually fit your target client profile (and aren't fake accounts or bots).
  • If your goal is to inspire action and outrage so users fill out petitions, track your comments and shares so you know that your messages are compelling enough to get a reaction.

Here are some other things to remember:

  • Be realistic: Getting a return on social media really does take time, and that's if you're consistent enough to be posting daily or several times a week, as well as paying enough attention to be interacting with others, finding opportunities to engage, and monitoring what's working and what's not. This is why so many people hire a professional!
  • Be human: Yes, efficiency is great, and we'll talk about managing your social media efficiently in a future Slice. But if you're so efficient that you no longer sound or act like a human being, what's the point? Social media is social. Don't fake it.
  • Be yourself: Speaking of who you are... who are you? And why should I pay attention to your business? Spend some time on this. Are you snarky and clever, or inspirational and sweet? Are you a company that's also passionate about social justice? Do you want to attract clients who share your values? Show it, and the right people will be drawn to you.
  • Be valuable: What are you bringing to your audience? Are you educating them, inspiring them, entertaining them? Figure out the purpose your account will serve, and live up to it.
  • Be organized: We can't say it enough. Brainstorm what you could say, and plan out what you will say with a tool that works for you. We believe in editorial calendars, but you may find that making a list of topics to revisit when you're out of ideas works better for you. Find a method and take it seriously.

If nothing else, think of it this way: Spending time on social media will, at the very least, help you become more confident and capable in all of your communications, from media interviews to networking to sales pitches. So use it to learn as much as you can to hone your message in every aspect of your business, and it won't feel like a waste.