Social Media’s Return on Investment

 

In the past, advertising took a “shotgun” approach. For instance, an organization could buy space on a billboard on the side of a major freeway in hopes that it will be effectual. Let’s say the billboard advertised your organization’s heating and plumbing services. A lot has to happen to get from billboard to having one of your plumbers actually working in someone’s home or business. First of all, someone driving down the freeway has to notice the billboard, and that someone has to be in need of plumbing services. That someone has to take action and call your organization to secure your services.

 

The real question is; how many tens of thousands of people had to drive by your billboard before someone was willing to take action? Restated from a business perspective, what is the return on investment (ROI) of the billboard? Let’s say the billboard cost your organization $3,000/month, or $36,000/year. One would hope that the billboard generated more than $36,000 in plumbing services and sales to make it worthwhile. This is where calculating ROI can get sticky. If every new customer could state definitively that they saw your billboard and called your organization, you might be able to find out the effectiveness (ROI) of the billboard. In real life, that doesn’t happen. You could poll your customers and ask how they found you, but that technique is often ineffectual leaving you to wonder if the billboard expenditure was worth it.

 

On the other hand, calculating the ROI of a new harvesting tractor is pretty straightforward. Let’s say your old tractor could harvest 100 acres a day, and a new one can harvest 1000. Is the added cost of a potential new tractor greater than the potential benefit? If so, it’s probably not worth buying. This type of ROI is completely objective and can be calculated in a simple spreadsheet. The billboard on the other hand has so many unknown variables that arriving at any meaningful ROI is almost impossible. It is this “meaningful” ROI that has been the bane of advertising since its very inception. Businesses often balk at advertising expenditures because they don’t completely know what they’re getting for their money. They simply cannot accurately calculate advertising’s return on investment.

 

Meaningful ROI Within Social Media

 

Instead of a billboard, consider social media as an advertising platform. One definition of social media is that it is web-based technologies that facilitate the formation and sharing of information, ideas, and career interests through virtual communities and social networking. Nowadays, an organization can direct their advertising dollars at social media platforms, and know exactly how effective they are, and even direct their advertising to specific market segments. For instance, let’s say the plumbing company advertises on Facebook.com instead of a billboard. Now they can direct their advertisement to show up on Facebook’s new homebuyer pages or commercial construction pages, essentially the most likely people who are in need of their services. The plumbing company can spend $100/day for example on a two-week campaign ($1,400 total) and view real-time analytics of who “clicked through” to their website, and which customers retained their services. Calculating return on investment as well as cost per customer for this sort of advertising campaign is extremely easy. If the plumbing company brought in $5,000 of new business from the Facebook campaign, then a simple ROI would show $3,600 ($5,000 new business minus the cost of the $1,400 campaign.) Social media is starting to reveal ROI in advertising for the first time ever.

 

The Weight of LinkedIn

 

In business, social media is not just advertising, not by a long shot. Social media can enhance marketing communications, drive sales, manage emails, and even handle customer support to name a few.  Social media can also connect perspective employers with qualified candidates, and vice versa with platforms like LinkedIn.com.

 

Consider the classified jobs section in an arcane newspaper that was replaced by employment websites like Monster.com, Dice.com and Jobing.com. As employment websites thrived, they became a better, digital distribution network of the same information that the newspaper offered, but with a wider array of geographic areas where jobs exist. Users were able to search for jobs all over the country, and many times, all over the world.

 

Problems started to arise when so many countless employment websites popped up that it was difficult to decide which ones deserved consideration, and which ones did not. To exacerbate the problem, employment agencies would post a singular job that was also posted by hundreds of other employment agencies, making it seem like there were hundreds of open positions, when in reality, there was only one. The employment agencies would also charge employers for hiring candidates they had “found” on employment websites, increasing the cost of employee acquisition. It wasn’t until social media websites like LinkedIn.com came along and changed all that.

 

LinkedIn.com became the de facto social media location for employers and employees to connect, as well as offering industry news and networking with other professionals.  As of July 2018, LinkedIn.com had an Alexa Internet ranking as the 32nd most popular website in the world, available in 24 different languages. Even high school students are creating LinkedIn profiles to be included with their university applications. On December 8, 2016, Microsoft acquired LinkedIn.com for approximately $26.4 billion dollars.

 

LinkedIn.com allows people to post a dynamic, searchable, virtual resume that can be accessed by other business professionals and perspective employers. Other industry professionals with virtual endorsements can further enhance LinkedIn resumes. Whether a person is looking for employment or not, LinkedIn is a must-have piece of social media for the business professional.

 

Signing up for LinkedIn is straightforward enough, but there are many guidelines to follow. For instance, make sure your LinkedIn profile is very complete before setting it adrift on the web. LinkedIn will actually measure “completeness” and provide helpful guidelines as to where your profile is deficient. LinkedIn’s “completeness” guidelines encourage their users to include robust work experience history, known skill sets, and educational background to name a few.

 

Other considerations to bolster your LinkedIn profile have to do with your profile photo and your headline. Your photo needs to be an appropriately professional image that matches your industry. Remember, a potential employee doesn’t really care for your rock climber photo; they want a good look at you in a professional setting. Your initial headline doesn’t necessarily have to start by announcing your current job title and where you work, as a matter of fact, it probably shouldn’t. A potential employer can find these details easily enough, so take advantage of the headline to showcase what you’re good at, what your specialties are, and your value proposition.

 

LinkedIn.com provides a summary space that lets you highlight key skills, qualifications, and various industries you’ve worked in to name a few. It’s tempting to include too much information in the summary space. Be succinct and avoid making your summary space more than five paragraphs. If you are targeting a certain job in a certain industry, it is of utmost importance to include keywords that are in the actual job description you are targeting! For instance, if the actual job description lists skills like Microsoft Excel and knowledge of database, your summary space needs to include “Microsoft Excel” and “knowledge of database” which enhances your profile’s chance to be found by a potential employer.

 

LinkedIn is your de facto resume and should be treated as such because it can offer so much more than an arcane paper resume. You might not have the room to include personal details about yourself on paper, but LinkedIn encourages it. A potential employer likes to see that you are involved in your community and that you are well rounded. Take the opportunity to highlight your achievements, whether professional or personal; your potential employer wants to know!

 

Even if you are currently unemployed, it is very important to include a current job entry. Some mistakenly move their old job to the past experience section and leave the current job section blank. By leaving your last job in the current job entry section, employers will find you more easily because they search the “current job section” the most. They will see that you are currently unemployed based on the job entry’s end date.

 

LinkedIn lets you “connect” with industry professionals that you know and you need to manage these connections very carefully. Connecting also means maintaining a professional demeanor at all times. Although LinkedIn.com is considered social media, it’s not really “social.” Many industry professionals claim that you should have a minimum of fifty connections. Having less than fifty connections might signal that you are uncomfortable with technology and maybe somewhat of a loner. It is always a mistake to connect with someone you don’t know. If enough people reject your connection request, your account could potentially be shut down.

 

Other Business Social Media Avenues

 

Social media platforms like YouTube.com are commonly thought of as massive collections of viral videos and the domain of content creators until recently when organizations started using it for customer support. Do you really want to read how your cordless drill works, or would you prefer to actually see how it works on a business’ YouTube video channel?

 

Organizations are taking advantage of YouTube’s video platform to clarify and enhance their products use. Instead of having their customers click on a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) link, they can direct them to helpful videos. The videos in turn can bolster traffic to their organization’s website.

 

Some organizations actually monetize their YouTube channel with the help of Google AdSense that can potentially defer some the original production costs. YouTube also lets organizations link directly to Amazon.com to sell their products providing another revenue stream.

 

Social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram not only provide organizations more ways to connect with their customers, but also an opportunity to possibly reveal future trends. For instance, some businesses use business intelligence techniques and advanced analytics to gauge their follower’s opinions. An organization can “scrape” large amounts of data from their Twitter feed and then normalize that data. Normalizing simply means the data is arranged in a usable format. Once the data is usable, the organization can start looking for trends, and searching for key words. Maybe the business in the fashion industry would be interested in searches that reveal color trends within their Twitter feed and find out that “burnt orange” is the next big thing. The automobile industry can potentially find out if their customer base is starting to lean towards smaller, more fuel-efficient trucks and be ready to retool if need be.

 

It is very important to keep in mind that it is incumbent on your customers to participate on an organization’s Twitter or Instagram feed. Many organizations incentivize customers to follow their Twitter or Instagram feed by offering discounted products that can only be redeemed by followers. Twitter actually has a large advantage over Instagram because it lets an organization post links directly on their tweets to the products on their website whereas Instagram only allows links in a company’s profile, and not on a post. Using social media in business is not an option; it is an imperative.