Throughout the last 8 years of my career in social media marketing, the biggest buzzword I've heard repeated constantly is "R.O.I." Many businesses still feel confused and frustrated about the value and R.O.I. of social media marketing, even though social media platforms have existed for more than a decade.
Marketers feel frustrated as well, as it's their job to remain relevant and ensure that their company is engaging in modern marketing practices. When senior leaders reject social media, accomplishing the aforementioned task is impossible.
Although I believe in social media, I understand the hesitation bosses have in pursuing it. Once you get beyond the fears of customers speaking negatively about your business publicly, most bosses reject social media because they don't see an immediate path to a successful conversion (traffic, leads, sales).
This ladies and gentleman is where we come to the problem in this equation. What does success really mean?
Since the early days of online marketing, SEO, SEM, PPC, content marketing, banner advertising and social media marketing has carried a heavy burden. It's a burden that was created by the platforms themselves and then later exploited by "Guru's," "Mavens," and "Experts." These are the people who constantly prophesy about online marketing and spread speculation about its value without even an ounce of negative criticism. These individuals are 100% biased in their teachings because their ability to earn a living is predicated on ensuring that online marketing as an industry stays solid and remains strong. On the surface, I don't completely have a problem with that. However, the issue that has risen as a result of a one-sided debate on the merits of online marketing has forced it into holding a title it doesn't deserve, and that's why after more than 10 years of social media platforms coming into existence, businesses are still confused about its value and R.O.I.
What the "speculators" have done is present online marketing and social media as tools that drive quick conversions (traffic, leads, sales). While this is certainly true in some cases, it's not presented that way by the speculators. The speculators never tell businesses to tread lightly on certain platforms or to analyze their business to see if a tactic really is worthwhile for them, but I will. I will tell you the truth and I will help you convince your boss of the value and R.O.I. of social media, because I believe in it. However, it's worth noting that there is some criticism that must be examined.
The fact remains that this criticism as I've just explained it, isn't really a bad thing. It's just something that's mis-represented and mis-understood.
In my experience, social media isn't effective in driving quick conversions for most brands. It works for some, but not all. This is likely the biggest reason why your boss still doesn't "get it." He/she is looking for an immediate conversion, but it's not going to happen.
Before you can really begin to understand and explain the value of social media, you first have to make sure you and your boss understand the basic principles of marketing in general. Misunderstanding the basic principles of marketing is where everyone is going wrong.
I would like to introduce you to: The Marketing Funnel
Experienced marketers know that marketing is a long-term process that rarely yields a short-term gain. It starts with gaining attention, then interest, then developing desire, and then getting the prospect to take action (A.I.D.A).
When you understand the basic principles of the marketing funnel, it becomes very easy to validate the value and R.O.I. of social media.
Social media is about creating truly remarkable content that grabs attention. This content should immediately provoke an emotional reaction. As this process is repeated over and over on a daily basis through the delivery of more and more content, you eventually develop interest which entices your prospects to follow you on your social channels. On occasion, you will sneak well-crafted but non-salesy promotional offers into your social content that creates desire. This is achieved by developing content that illustrates and speaks to the lifestyle of your brand and the value you provide to your customer. Finally, after all of these steps are completed, you reach the point at which your prospects who follow your social channels are primed and ready to take action (share your content, visit your website, buy something).
And that ladies and gentlemen is how you convince your boss of the value and R.O.I. of social media.
Social media unlike any other form of marketing gives brands the ability to drive customers and prospects into their marketing funnel in a way that feels authentic and builds real emotional connections with their brand. No other form of marketing can accomplish this, not billboards, TV ads, radio ads, print ads, banner ads, email newsletters, search engine listings, NOTHING!
One vital thing that's worth noting is that social media is a long-term play. This game isn't won through short-cuts. However, legitimately buying fans and promoting posts through platform-based advertising is a great option if you can afford it. Otherwise, recognize that this is a long-term game. No short-cuts, but that's the case with every marketing tactic so there's still no excuse to disregard social media on that account.
If your boss still isn't convinced about the value of social media after explaining the aforementioned, then you may be forced to go nuclear.
Here is what you do:
Pull up a list of your competitors' social media accounts and show your boss how large their social followings are compared to yours, and show them examples of how they are engaging with their fans and followers.
Then, ask him/her (respectfully) how they think their customers, distributors, retailers, investors, shareholders and other key players would feel if they knew that their brand was at the bottom of the social totem pole?
No one wants to be a loser, and with social media a brand's following is public. The bottom line is this, perception and social proof are tremendously important, and in this new digital age customers, prospects, clients, investors, etc are judging the validity of businesses based on their social presence. For the record, I don't think this is fair, but it is what it is. I don't make up the rules. I just follow them.
So there you have it. I hope that helps. Now storm into your boss' office and go get em'!
Michael Price is an entrepreneur, digital media marketer and author of What Next? The Millennial's Guide To Surviving and Thriving in the Real World, endorsed by Barbara Corcoran of ABC's Shark Tank.