Lately, I have been hearing a lot of questioning on the value and ROI in social media. Let me start with saying that I don’t believe in social media expertise. I do believe, however, that there are those that are currently getting it right and seeing real value and those that aren’t hitting the mark. The firms that get it right are those that know that this isn’t a method to push your message and promote your company, but instead consider social media as a way to learn what their customers and the industry is talking about, being a part of that discussion and providing real value. If your firm isn’t seeing value in it, then you should take a second look at your strategy and consider the following.
1) The biggest value comes from listening – not posting. I’ll give you that this doesn’t do much for building followers, but it is critical in helping understand your customers, targets, their customers, and the industry overall are thinking and talking about. For us, we monitor not only our customers and prospects but also on behalf of our clients to learn more about their customers, competitors, and other industry participants. Doing so leads to a more insightful agency, which leads to more insightful marketing.
I also think that it then leads to more meaningful postings that are part of a discussion that we didn’t create, but took part in. Again, it’s supposed to be a discussion – right? Both CME Group and Charles Schwab both do a good job of listening first and then putting out information that relates to what customers and people want to know more about.
2) Use it to distribute meaningful tools and information to customers. Examples of this include proprietary research, consumer reports, upcoming product or service changes, customer support information. By doing so, it changes this from a marketing channel into a service and customer support channel creating real customer value.
3) Get interactive with your customers. Social media can also provide a forum for your customers to talk about you and with you. If you’re doing it right, it can lead to positive customer experiences. Tracking mentions provides you an opportunity to create an even more meaningful dialogue. A simple example of this happened to me personally when I mentioned that I wanted to bike through Denmark on my next vacation (by the way, I didn’t say @Denmark so wasn’t looking for a response from them). In less than an hour, their tourism board wrote back and sent me a link to a CNN segment on Copenhagen’s bike friendly streets. Now, I follow their site to help me plan for my future trip.
Finally, keep in consideration that social media is a digital relationship that hopefully leads to real-world relationships. Therefore, the relationship should mimic your offline relationships and how you advise/share/respond with others in person.