The secrets to social media

by / Wednesday, 06 July 2016 / Published in Digital, Entertainment, Lifestyle

A recent report by Sensis in Australia confirms what many of us have started to presume. Social media in Australia is no longer on a steep growth curve, but mimicking the product lifecycle some of us remember studying, has now started to plateau. The report suggest that over 80% of all Australian businesses have a presence on Facebook and 69% of all Australian internet users have some sort of social profile.

If there is a growth curve, it’s in the take up of Instagram which appears to have doubled in size in the last few years, but overall, Facebook is still the daddy of them all, dwarfing all other social media both in terms of numbers of users (a lot) and time spent with the platform (probably too much).

Of course rather than reading a report, you could just stand on a city street one morning and calculate how many people are risking their lives crossing the road while updating their Facebook status. Again, the answer is “lots”.

From a business perspective however, the most interesting revelation in the report is the number of businesses struggling with social media. A staggering and slightly worrying 70% of small to medium sized business apparently do not know what return they are getting on their investment.

To help explain why that is, a short history lesson.

Before the arrival of social media, businesses had a more limited range of choices for promoting their products and engaging with their customers. Anyone who was taught the 5P’s of marketing understood the importance of an attractive logo, a strong strapline, consistency of service and strong retail display.

We used to say that “word of mouth” was the best form of advertising. It was certainly the cheapest. Because 20 years ago, everything cost money. For my clients on the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, the first requirement of buying an ad was that they would get at least as much money back in sales as they had spent on their half page ad with spot colour. Same for ads on the local radio station and in specialist magazines. Calculating ROI was simple, usually based on a metric involving the number of fivers in the till at the end of the day.

Working out the value of TV advertising was harder. In truth, apart from those people selling the ab crunch exercise machine or the worlds’ fastest juicer, it was often hard to know if ads on TV worked. At best, marketing directors would hope that having spent the year advertising the product on TV, the end of year sales figures would bring good news. During boom times, they usually did. Everybody was selling more stuff.

Few companies had any more robust measures about the value of TV advertising, including the advertising agencies who were spending the money. But that’s a conversation for another day.

And then along came social media. I’d say that in the period between about 2007 and 2010, one of the most common questions I’d get asked would be something on the lines of “Should we be on Facebook”. (My answer then, as now, was “it depends”).

Because of course the single most attractive thing about being on Facebook wasn’t that it was the solution to a previously identified strategic problem, nor that organisation has dreamed of being broadcasters.

The single most attractive thing about Facebook, and indeed all social media, is that it’s free.

(Or so people thought. Over the years, the reality of the need for 24/7 moderation and content curation started to dawn. For some. For others, the existence of social media profiles that clearly haven’t been looked at or thought about for months, years is proof that running a successful social media strategy is far from free and harder than it looks. Boy I could tell some stories…)

So there you have it. The reason that so many businesses have invested time and effort in social without having any idea whether it’s working is probably because they thought it was somehow free. It’s also possible that it was a project by a junior team member. Whatever the reason, it’s unlikely that they launched their social media profiles as part of a plan.

The good news for businesses in that position, or indeed any business that wants to clarify their ROI on social media, is that all is not lost. Implementing an ROI assessment into your social media strategy is just a matter of building a strategy based on the answer to these simple questions.

  1. What do you want to achieve (more footfall, more brand awareness?.Who are you kidding, you want to sell more stuff…)
  2. Who are the likely purchasers?
  3. Where will you find them?
  4. What message can you create that will arouse their interest?
  5. What does success look like?
  6. What tools do you have to measure it?

Want to know more? Then like/follow/share and you’ll be the first to get details of a free social media masterclass coming to a You Tube channel near you very soon. And guess what…

It’s free.


About the author

Alun Probert is a media veteran and social media expert. He coaches senior executives and businesses large and small in marketing strategy in the digital age.
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