Is There a Social Networking ROI?
Last week, I was with a bunch of business owners discussing their Internet social media efforts. Two of the seven owners were doing something with social networking, yet neither could hang their hat on any revenue generated. Still, discarding social media as a valuable part of your marketing and selling strategy is dangerous.
How do you value your efforts with “in-person” social networking? Industry conferences, Rotary meetings, Chamber of Commerce lunches and BNI networking meetings are examples of in-person social networking. These venues take time and discipline to develop as a revenue generating strategy. It takes commitment, but the effort builds on itself.
I am now a believer that online social networking is critical, but it takes more time than some executives expect. Ask yourself the question, “How do our customers and prospects find people, connect socially, and gather information?” Find the groups you want to get acquainted with and then hang out there.
Below are a few real-life ROI examples of how Survey Advantage has benefited from online social networking. Adapt your approach based on where your customers and prospects hang out.
Where do your customers and prospects ask for advice, find industry specific or regional information to help them run their businesses? Make sure you or a friend is active on that forum.
For us (Survey Advantage), I think this is the most important online social networking effort. Examples include forums for association management, franchisees, printer owners and financial services—verticals we are very active in. Forum members gather knowledge and ask questions about vendors and ways of approaching business problems. We are active on some forums, while others have strict rules about supplier participating.
Rule #1—never sell on a forum. These forums help us run our business as well, and being part of a community helps everyone. Rule #2—never persuade others for your own self interests. Let people get to know you over time.
We have received business from forums when other network members have seen our answers. Another example comes from the Printer Owners Forum where a printer recommended us. I am not so naïve or arrogant to think there are not others bashing us online, but forums are very powerful when they are vibrant with activity. Think where print buyers or marketing professionals hang out online and be present.
LinkedIn is great for business-to-business (B2B) relationships. Over the past year, we have accumulated 700 LinkedIn friends. Some may think this is a waste of time, but I receive e-mail through LinkedIn and the networking continues. This tells me certain people in this network use LinkedIn to gather information and find people.
Posting news articles, press releases and information on LinkedIn helps those people. Here is a real example. I received a LinkedIn request from someone I met at a trade show, accepted the invitation and then months later received the following LinkedIn e-mail: “How do we get started?” Now that is tangible ROI measurement. Just think how much time you need to spend at those Rotary meetings or at conferences to get to know people.
For business-to-consumer (B2C) enterprises, such as restaurants, dry cleaners and retailers, this is a viable medium. People become fans, receive promotions to motivate them to visit or purchase, and receive updated information about events.
For us, we haven’t experienced a solid ROI here. That's not to say it isn’t important to you. Start with a fan page instead of a friend page for better control over content and managing the people in your network. Think of the fan page as a billboard with a link to your entire Website. Fan pages help your search ranking as well.
Twitter hasn’t had a direct ROI, but I think it is important. The more content posted as a Tweet, the more people find the article or press release, show interest and follow us. I think over time this will have a solid ROI, but may just take longer. The nice thing is that it takes very little time. A Tweet goes out whenever we post to Facebook or LinkedIn.
Think about where your customers or prospects hang out and have a positive presence there. Prioritize where to spend your time, pick the right network, and stick with it.
You don’t expect to get business after your first Rotary meeting. The same holds true with online social media. The difference is that you can do online social networking in your bunny slippers. Good night.