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.

Michael Casey is the founder of Survey Advantage and strategic partner with several printer associations and franchises. By leveraging information from a printer’s estimation and production software, Mike’s business has helped hundreds of printers automate their customer feedback and lead generation process. He may be reached via e-mail or (401) 560-0311 ext. 103. Read printer case studies on the Survey Advantage Website.
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  • http://DavidPilcher David Pilcher

    I believe the results of social media are unproven and only widely adopted because of the low cost to participate in them. Print in the Mix just released an interesting bit of data on how nine out of 10 B2B marketers, from companies of all size and industries, report using custom content to grow their businesses. But ends the information (with bar charts) saying while social media is a tactic widely used (used by 71% of large companies, used by 79% of companies overall), this tactic is rated as having the lowest effectiveness (25% for large companies, 31% overall).

    So, while we actively participate in social media the payback for those efforts are not easily measured by us. Print in the Mix’s measurements show a very negative outlook of social media’s effectiveness.

  • http://Ray Ray

    As a printer and student of social media (I haven’t implemented in earnest yet and will not until I have a complete understanding of it’s use and a well thought out strategy), we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines. While it’s true social media has not done well with some printers, there are many examples of marketing success. When using social media marketing, you must have an effective integrative strategy, use the tools with proper social etiquette and be active. Every business/printer is different so each approach will differ.

    There are many so called social media gurus out there – use them only when you have a very good understanding of how social media works and fits into your business. Social Media is constantly evolving and no-one knows your business better than yourself. We’re no longer just printers–we’re communications experts and social media must be part of the mix. This is new school.

    Really not so scary once you have the knowledge; and guess what?–much of that knowledge and implementation is available for low/no cost.