For businesses, social media is a marketing channel. Never forget this.
  • Yes, it gives you access to your target audience in a more conversational manner.
  • Yes, it can help you create buzz about your service or product.
  • Yes, the relatively low cost makes it easy to get involved with.
  • And yes, a lot of companies are having success with it.

But its still just another marketing channel.

If you are going to commit to social media, then you need to make sure that the money is well-spent. You need to have real expectations for growth and returns on investment. Individuals and celebrities may be on Facebook, Twitter or Ning or elsewhere just to socialize but you are there to grow your business. If you are not there to grow your business, then stop spending company resources on it and just set aside some time for yourself.

So, it should come down to ROI.

When people hear complaints about how social media traffic doesn’t convert or it’s time-intensiveness relative to returns, they usually start saying things like:

“Social media is about engaging with your audience. The sales will come but first you have to engage.”

“Social is a huge benefit to your brand.”

“You gained X number of followers/fans/views in the last month. You can’t get this type of exposure anywhere else.”

These are all great responses, though a little short on data, but they all miss the point: Whether or not social media marketing is building your brand, instilling trust in your audience or raising your visibility; at some point it has to benefit your bottom-line or its just an expense. Any marketing activity you commit resources to should show a return on investment.

Forget the Hype. Go Back to The Numbers

If you are spending $2,000+ per month on a Social Media Marketing Company, or have actually hired someone to be your in-house Social Media Guru, then I congratulate you. You have shown a commitment to being at the forefront of mainstream online marketing. But you need to ask yourself what you are getting for your money.

You should be monitoring some combination of the following metrics:

  • Visits
  • Bounce Rate
  • Conversions
  • Conversion Rate
  • Cost
  • Orders
  • Sales
  • Time on Site
  • Per Visit Value

Do these look familiar? They should because they are the metrics you use to assess the performance of every other online marketing channel. But for some reason, a lot of folks aren’t looking at these when it comes to social media.

Why aren’t people looking at these time-tested, useful metrics when it comes to social media?

  • Because its new and shiny.
  • Because they signed off on a social media plan without assigning reporting duties to anyone.
  • Because they are spending all their time tweeting and don’t have the time/inclination/incentive to go back and analyze performance.

If you take a few minutes to go into your analytics program and look at your traffic sources reports, maybe even setup a custom report for social media then you will be returning sanity and transparency to a channel that is full of hyperbole and waste.

I’m not saying that social media shouldn’t be part of your online marketing strategy, but you need to have some perspective. Yes, social may take time to become a revenue generator or lead source, but how much time is enough? Yes, branding and customer interaction are great reasons to be in social media, but how many of your followers/fans are turning into customers or subscribers?

Ask yourself these questions. Create some internal benchmarks for performance. Look at what your competitors and peers are doing to create ROI.

If you don’t ask questions and start holding this channel accountable, then how will you ever know if the dollars are going to the right place? You may discover that social media is a complete waste of time. BUT you may discover that its worth every penny you invest.

The only way to find out is to track, measure and report like you do for all your other marketing activities.

Image courtesy of http://blogs.oracle.com/