Most organizations have a social media presence. And why wouldn’t they? Social media is a relatively easy, inexpensive way to reach target audiences. However, more often than not, companies tend to overestimate or underestimate the impact of their social media efforts.
They have unrealistic expectations and expect their company to receive immediate results (even if the brand isn’t yet a recognizable one) or conversely they get a lot of response but fail to properly staff the effort, ignoring complaints and praise expressed on social media. These misunderstandings are common for small- to mid-sized companies just getting into social media for the first time — to be successful, you need defined metrics for ROI in place, as well as a content and outreach strategy.
For service companies, deciding what to promote on social media channels is tricky. There isn’t one specific widget for which they are looking to increase sales. People can’t fall in love with a product a la Coca-Cola or Nike. Still yet, the number of followers companies have on Twitter doesn’t necessarily indicate the number of individuals who have purchased a given product. It’s not that cut and dry. It’s all about positioning your organization and engaging with others — which service companies are already really good at!
Content and engagement that positions you as a thought leader
Take a small technology reseller I’ve worked with for the last couple of years. They came to ENC to rebrand their company as a thought leader and make more prospects aware of what they do. An integral component of our engagement with them was social media. Immediately, they knew that they weren’t going to gain a huge following on social media just by having accounts set up — most people only seek out big brands to follow online. But our client had a very specific target audience they appealed to and wanted to reach. They cared about the quality of their followers rather than the quantity, and research showed those target IT influencers were using social media.
By engaging with others in the industry and sharing/discussing thoughts on relevant topics and recent issues, our client gained significant brand recognition and built rapport as a thought leader in the industry. The number of speaking engagements one C-suite executive attended increased, and the sales team leveraged the blog posts we wrote (in the voice of senior leaders) as touch points with potential clients. Other companies, including suppliers and potential partners, began interacting with our client online, even referencing some of our client’s new social media and blog content in their own blog posts and media commentary.
Using social media, our client showed the breadth of their knowledge and expertise and gave the outward appearance of a modern, fresh and intellectual brand. Although they’ve gained traction in follower numbers steadily over time, they’ll never be a Coca-Cola. And that’s OK. Because 100 fans in your geographic and expertise domains is way better than 1 million who just like your logo (which, by the way, we also spruced up) or pictures of cute polar bears.
Measure ROI instead of popularity
When it comes to measuring the success social media efforts, it shouldn’t be a popularity contest. Likes, retweets and all the rest are certainly good metrics for determining the types of content your audience prefers, but social media is all about the ROI that is less visible:
- Gaining recognition as a thought leader in the industry
- Getting the company and its top executives’ names out in front of prospects
- Building brand recognition and bridging legitimacy gaps
- Having meaningful discussions that might generate new ideas for serving customers
- Directing users to content pages or people that encourage them to buy
- Tracking user behavior from clickthrough to sale
If you jump on the social media bandwagon just because everyone else is doing it and you think you need more followers than the company across the street, chances are you will be disappointed. But if you have a clear strategy in place mapped to reasonable, meaningful metrics, your investment will go much further. Sometimes, using social media as an inbound marketing tactic as part of a larger content marketing strategy can really pay off by increasing traffic to targeted content on your website or elsewhere.
This isn’t high school — popularity might be nice, but even one meaningful conversation with a targeted prospect could be your next big win.