Stories about viral messages creating unprecedented demand make great reading. Don’t be fooled by the hype. You are more likely to win the lottery than create a profitable idea virus. Inflated expectations reduce your credibility and increase your risk.
Setting realistic goals, objectives, and expectations is the best thing you can do for your initiative.
The low barrier to social media entry is misleading. Most of the platforms and tools are free or the costs are nominal. This leads some to think that it doesn’t require many resources. Nothing could be further from the truth. It requires an extensive amount of time to achieve results. Assigning the project to an already overworked marketing manager limits your potential at best and destroys it at worst.
There is an ongoing debate about whether social media is accountable for return on investment. The answer is simple: if it doesn’t add value for your customers and company, then you don’t need to participate. It may not drive direct sales, but it may improve lifetime value or customer lifespan. Your initial goal is to determine if social media is a viable channel for your business.
Testing takes time.
Allow a minimum of one year to fully test your strategy. If you are a direct marketer, you already know how to test. You establish a control, and then alter conditions to compare. The same is true with testing social media. Your baseline is the benchmarks established before you begin.
The first objective is to build a following that matches your target market. A gazillion followers or fans without an interest in your products or services add zero value to your business. Next, you want these people active in your community. You measure activity by conversation, clicks, and conversion.
Once you have a base for your community, increasing traffic to your website is fairly easy. Many of your followers will click on every link that you post. The trick is insuring that you are receiving the right kind of traffic. Site activity without conversion increases costs without generating revenue. Watch your bounce rates to insure that your social media participation is attracting the right visitors.
Social media’s primary power is in relationships and long-term loyalty.
Retention rates, lifetime value, and lifespan are consistently higher for customers actively participating in a company’s community. Be conservative when setting goals and objectives because you have no idea where your community will go. No one knows because your customers can alter the direction. Your job is to guide them, listen to them, and follow their lead when it moves your company forward.
The secondary power of social media is search engine optimization (SEO). The search engines are indexing the major platforms. Be sure to include keywords and links back to your website and other platforms.
Note: This post is an excerpt from our marketing guide, Social Media 4 Direct Marketers 2.0. For more information on how to create a realistic and effective social media strategy that works with your current marketing, click here.