Getting a return on your social media investment

feature-twitter-cash-thumbBusinesses large and small are rushing onto Twitter and Facebook in an attempt to engage with customers.


But unless your social media activity actually drives sales for your start-up, isn’t it just a waste of time? As a new business, it’s vital that the precious time and, yes, money you spend on social media leads to tangible results.


Young Digital Group, a company advising businesses on social media and digital strategies, has had strong growth since it launched in February this year.


Part of its success comes from the way its founder, John Young, has used social media.


The start-up operates on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Reddit. It also has a blog.


Young works social media to generate business. For example, he will film a video of a product, stick it on YouTube, post that on his blog and then put that on Twitter and Facebook.


The result: clients from around Australia and the globe. Young says social media can work in the same way for many start-ups.


“When you look at start-ups, we have little cash but time to develop the product,’’ Young says.


“So with service industries, it’s a chance to show the world what you can do.”


“You start with no audience at all, so you have to build your list, and the way you do that is leverage off other people’s lists through social media.”


“It’s given me new contacts in Brisbane and WA. How else could I have got there to engage with them? They have led me to new clients.”


He says social media is perfect for start-ups offering such services as photography, yoga schools, business consultants and event management.


Social media rookie mistakes


Indeed, research by GE Capital has revealed that companies in the cultural, recreational and personal services are twice as likely to use social media to create scale.


But despite what most people are told, it’s not free. It requires an investment of time, effort and, most importantly, the company’s reputation is being put on the line. There are also risks.


Which social media platform is appropriate for your company? If you are a B2B, for example, it’s probably better to use LinkedIn and Twitter than Facebook.


LinkedIn is attuned to business professionals. Facebook, on the other hand, is dominated by the social crowd.


And the big risk for a start-up is that you only get one chance. Jump into social media with poor brand definition and badly presented content and you will be ignored, there will be no return on investment.


It is also important to know how to measure your ROI using the right tools, like Google Analytics, Omniture and HootSuite.


These need to be measured regularly, at least quarterly.


And finally, the start-up needs to make social media part of its overall strategy. The messages it’s putting out on Twitter and Facebook have to match what’s going out offline.


GE Capital communications director Anthony Spargo says social media can be used to build the start-up’s market.


Activating the social media conversation


“I’d say to develop a strategy, the first thing you want to do is really listen and respond using existing channels, gather some insights into what your customer base is to really help you take the next step – which is to go beyond the test and learn and going into activation,’’ Spargo says.


“Then you can look at establishing new, potentially dedicated communities where you can then drive that engagement and begin to tell your story using social media. For me, that’s the ultimate powerful piece because it does four things.”


“It allows you, first of all, to listen to your customers because they are the ones in the community.”


“Of course, [secondly] you get the chance in a brand sense to position what you do in the market.”


“Thirdly, on the commercial side, there’s the added benefit that you can potentially attract new customers and prospects. And then there is the key engagement and using influences and providing meaningful content.”


GE does a lot of work connecting with its mid-market customers on LinkedIn and Twitter, where it regularly posts thought leadership pieces.


Spargo says the company had selected its platforms carefully.


He says: “We saw straight away that they are on LinkedIn and the key piece there was creating community that had rich, engaging content on it so that they would then start to engage with it rather than just watch it.”


“That’s the advice we give to a lot of mid-market businesses that are starting off in the social space.”


“It’s critical that they don’t just operate a whole heap of channels because you can’t do them all. What’s better to do is do a couple and do them really well.”


“Then make sure you amplify your content between each of the two channels.”


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