Monthly Archives: October 2009

Don’t Be a Creeper – Engage!

You’ve heard all the buzz about this social media stuff and how important it is to be out there and listening.  So, you set up a Twitter account to monitor tweets and see what’s being said about your company or industry.

But how long are you planning on being a wallflower before you decide to get out there and join the party?

I’m not looking to point fingers or anything, but how long is too long – especially when you have followers?

DSW has had a Twitter account since March 2009, and has over 400 followers, without a single tweet.  Same thing with Target.  Their account was created in May 2009 and are approaching 1,500 followers without answering that ever so simple (and yet sometimes complicated) question “What are you doing?”  And these are just two large brands that I found in a quick search.

If two bigger brands like these are sitting on the sidelines, I can only imagine the number of small to medium size businesses that are doing the same.  At the very least, engage and post specials, deals, or sales for the upcoming week.  You don’t have to start out engaging right from the start, but at least utilize the tool for broadcasting messages to followers, especially if you have them by the hundreds without ever needing a single tweet.  Clearly, with a follower list, customers or potential customers are interested in hearing from you, even if you haven’t said anything yet.  Why not give them what they are looking for?

Don’t be that company that waits too long to get involved.  Don’t be a creeper.

Measuring Social Media: ROI and Sales vs Value

Measuring the ROI (return on investment) of social media activities is a pretty hot topic for marketers today.  Many have theories on how to measure, what to measure, and how often to measure.  But is it right for your business?

Without getting overly technical (because, let’s face it, I didn’t major in accounting/finance for a good reason), ROI is mostly defined as the ratio of sales minus investment to investment [(x – y) / y where x=sales and y=investment].  Seems simple enough, right?

The not-so-simple part comes from trying to attribute your social media activities directly to sales.  Where the water is muddied is that many confuse sales with marketing, when in reality these are two different business functions.  According to Seth Godin, “Marketing tells a story that spreads.  Sales overcomes the natural resistance to say yes.”  Simply put, sales is the measurable (at least in dollars) part of marketing.  However, there is much more to marketing than simply sales.  The bigger part of marketing involves building relationships and leveraging those relationships to hopefully then make sales.

Breaking the argument down:

If social media = marketing

And marketing ≠ sales

Therefore, we can ascertain that social media cannot be equated to sales (by manipulating that whole transitive theory stuff from high school math).

My contention here is that just because social media cannot be measured directly in terms of sales, does not mean that it doesn’t increase the likelihood of sales (afterall, the purchasing decision is a complicated one and social media involvement can play a role in that) and thus does pose value to businesses.

I know, all fascinating stuff, but what does it mean to your business?  It means that as business leaders, we need to realize that not all business activities can be directly measured in dollars coming in the door, but that doesn’t mean we stop (or never start) doing them.  Just as many times sponsoring a charitable activity many times can lead to dollars floating out the door rather than in, that doesn’t mean that as a business you stop being charitable.  Businesses realize that this leads to building relationships within your community, bridging gaps, and sending out the good vibes about your organization as being one that gives, cares, and participates.

Social media is just bringing this to a different level.  It generates value for your organization that may not be directly attributed to sales, but definitely contributes.  Your business needs to find a way to benchmark, set parameters, and define what value this brings to your particular business as this won’t be the same across the board.

I’m not aware of any of my friends or colleagues who have purchased a product or service on the sole basis of a tweet or Facebook post, so we as businesses should stop trying to measure our social media activities as if this is true.

When Companies Shouldn’t Use Social Media: Top 3 Excuses that Will Simply Backfire

I’ve seen a great deal of articles, blogs, and conversations out there surrounding the concept of whether or not social media is right for businesses.  There are some very poignant reasons to get involved, engage, and listen.  The question of whether businesses should think about engaging in social media activities is an easy one to answer.  Every business should certainly consider it, but should definitely weigh the pros and cons and see if it is the right fit for their organization.

Here’s a list of reasons why a company shouldn’t jump right out there and start tweeting or building that fan page:

  1. Everyone’s doing it. If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?  Seems a little silly to put it in the same perspective as a lecture from Mom and Dad, but when you break it down – is it that drastically different?  Successful businesses hardly make strategic decisions based upon the notion that “everyone else is doing it, so we should.”  You shouldn’t look at or operate your business as if it were in a vacuum.  Some things just make good business sense, and some things don’t.  You need to evaluate which one of those things social media is to your specific business.
  2. Our competition is doing it. Although this sounds like a far better reason than “everyone’s doing it,” it still could be the wrong answer for businesses.  Is your competition doing it, and doing it well?  Are they floundering around without a clear direction or purpose, offering you an opportunity to seize?  Maybe there is a reason they are failing – but can you identify what that is and correct so as to not repeat?
  3. We have people here who use social media, so they could totally do that for the business too. Whoa, whoa there.  Personal use of social media and social networking sites can be far different terrain than using it for business purposes.  Take it from someone who’s seen the short-end of where that line blurs.  Just because you have an employee (or employees) who seem well versed in posting Facebook status updates on what they’re doing that weekend or sending out tweets about the latest and greatest iPhone apps, doesn’t mean they are qualified to just transition into engaging with customers via the same tools.  There’s a certain etiquette that can be involved that must be understood before jumping in with both feet.

All in all, I strongly encourage businesses of all forms to engage in some kind of social media activities to supplement or enhance their business.  My premise is that the reasons outlined above aren’t the justification that you should be using when making that pitch to upper management.  The “me too” mentality might have worked for getting curfew extended another hour, but doesn’t always work here.