What’s the return on investment (ROI) of social media? This question comes up quite often and usually as part of a conversation over how little someone can invest and how quickly they can pull the plug if they’re not seeing results. It’s a fair question to ask, but only if you understand how social media works before leaping to the bottom line of what it might deliver in dollars and cents. It would be better for you to ask: What’s the value of maintaining client relationships and how can social media help?
When teaching or coaching clients, we always stress the principle of avoiding the hard sell in using social media. Instead, we advise business owners to think of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ as the place where relationships can be nurtured. By providing soft touch points with clients (both current or potential), you can gently maintain visibility and top of mind awareness. Through social media, you can encourage conversation, answer questions, offer support, and become a useful resource or entertaining feature for your clients. In essence, you can become someone worth following.
Why is that important? Because the people who have connected with you through social media might not be at the point in the buying cycle where they are your customers, but if they follow you, they’re at least interested. If you can maintain a favourable place in their thoughts, you stand a good chance of being the one they’ll turn to when they are ready to buy.
We’ve had this pointed out to us recently as we were ending a discovery meeting with a potential website client. We had provided a proposal for the same person two years earlier, however she wasn’t ready to invest in her project at the time and she chose to use a free website service. Over the past two years we had kept in touch through Facebook, by being social, liking, commenting and sharing her posts. Our prospective client said she appreciated our approach and that the periodic touch points with us kept her interested in our company. When the time was right and she was ready to invest in taking her online presence to the next level, she knew who to contact and she did so through a Facebook direct message. Taking the conversation offline, we met with her, discussed her project, put together a new proposal and won the contract to do her next website.
In the end, we probably could point to her investment in a new website as the ROI of social media. But we only got that return because we understand the value of social media as a client relationship tool that develops leads over time. That’s the principle you should focus on if you’re going to “do” social media.