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Weeds or Flowers? How to Determine the Value of Social Media

There is a lot to dislike about social media: It’s labor-intensive, difficult to control and hard to measure. So, does it make sense to jump into the fray of 425 million Google+ members, 500 million Twitter users and 1 billion Facebook account holders?

Most evidence suggests that social media proves cost effective — if used and measured properly. If you view social media primarily as an advertising tool — announcing sales, for example — rather than to engage customers, you may not get your money’s worth out of social media. And if you rate success solely on your popularity — number of “likes” or followers — you may be spending a lot on vanity.

But if you use social media strategically and measure its ability to meet specific objectives, you will find it an important part of your inbound marketing plan, a great way to augment your SEO and content marketing efforts.

Ranking Your Efforts

The amount of time and money spent on social media ranges from zero to millions and what works for one company isn’t necessarily right for you.

But if you want to get an idea of what others are doing, Vertical Response’s survey of 462 small businesses revealed some statistics you may find helpful in planning your social media budget:

– Two out of three small business owners increased their social media budgets in 2012

– About 4 in 10 small businesses spend 6 or more hours a week in social media, about 1 in 4 spends 6 to 10 hours a week and just under 1 in 5 spends 11 or more hours a week

– About 1 in 3 small companies publish something on social media daily.

Return on Investment

Small businesses with active Facebook and Twitter accounts make more money than companies that don’t use the social media platforms, according to a March 4 article in Harvard Business Review.

Social entrepreneurs with dedicated Facebook accounts earned an average of $142,000 annually, compared to the $77,000 earned each year by companies without Facebook accounts. It also paid to have an active Twitter account — an average of $149,000 annually — compared to the $69,000 for companies without one.

Companies with active Facebook and Twitter accounts also raised more than twice as much investment capital as companies without them, according to the research reported by HBR.

Metrics vs Numbers

In 2011, posted a YouTube video that earned 1.5 million views — the kind of numbers most companies would brag about.

But Jeff Bladt, director of analytics for Do Something, called the campaign an utter failure. Why? Because only 8 viewers answered the video’s call to action — donate used sports equipment to needy youth — and not one person actually made a donation.

Bladt measured the metrics of the campaign rather than its raw numbers.

To determine whether your social media efforts are succeeding, you must first determine your goal: email sign ups, perhaps, or sales? And then measure the correlation between activity on social media and achievement of your goals.

A million Facebook “likes” or a viral YouTube video is meaningless if it doesn’t lead to desired results.

Weeds and Vanity Metrics

Bladt says viewing social media as a popularity contest prevents a company from developing meaningful metrics.

” Vanity metrics are like dandelions – they might look pretty, but to most of us, they’re weeds, using up resources, and doing nothing for your property value. Vanity metrics for your organization might include website visitors per month, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and media impressions. Here’s the thing: if these numbers go up, it might drive up sales of your product. But can you prove it? If yes, great. Measure away. But if you can’t, they aren’t valuable.”

Making Metrics Matter

What results are you hoping to achieve through social media? And how can you measure the success of your efforts toward achieving desired results?

Answer these two questions and you can prioritize your social media efforts into a cost-effective online marketing strategy.

Infograhic-aholic?  Check out the very cool infographic from Verical Response about how much businesses spend on Social Media.



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