How Do You Sell Social Media?

I had lunch today with an old boss from years ago. it was fun to catch up, he told me stories about where the company is at these days. I told him stories about working in the public sector and how I’m now focussing on social media. I really enjoyed it. And it came just a few hours after a breakfast networking event here in Edinburgh called #EdCM.Return On Investment

I don’t do enough of this. Despite telling you in my previous post that you need to get out there and meet people, I do it too rarely. As with most things, I’m working on it.

The reason that I found these meetings so stimulating is that it makes me aware of how social media is perceived, and, by extension, how I’m perceived.

What’s in it for them?

For the young (and young at heart) of #EdCM, it’s exciting. it’s how we stay connected. it’s a forum for sharing things. It helps us all to grow, and learn and have fun. Social media is the glue which keeps these people together.

For the establishment (and by that I mean people who have been in business, any business for 15ys+), social media is regarded with suspicion. These people are successful in business. They’ve seen innovations and paradigm shifts come and go over the years and they’ve learned not to get excited about it. They are happy not to adopt simply because they realise that there’s no rush, there’ll be another one along in a minute.

That’s on a personal level. On a business level, the establishment are focussed on results. They see social media as a tool and are happy to use it where they can see some ROI. They’ve learned hard lessons about how and where to invest and they have to spend their money wisely.

So that leaves a grey area. Between the geeks and the establishment. This is where business people are open to new ideas and are willing to attempt something for the sole reason that they THINK it might improve their business, if they change the way they interact with customers.

So where does that leave me?

It leaves me in an interesting place. As a social media strategist I need to be able to speak to all of these people, to help them understand the benefits. I need to enthuse about 4Square to the early adopter crowd, preach about listen/engage CRM to the open-minded and nail the cold hard profit for the establishment.

I think I make a decent fist of the first 2 but actually pinning down the financial metrics for social media is hard. There are hundreds of analytical tools which can tell you your reach, penetration, influence, perception or whatever else but the crux of the matter is that you can’t predict a Return On Investment because you just don’t know if the social media landscape is going to be the same by the end of the project.

For instance, if you were banking on third-party advertising on Twitter to make profit until the end of this financial year, think again. That’s a huge deal and it’s the sort of seismic change that is occurring constantly in the social media world.

So, how do I discuss figures with the establishment?

I can’t. No-one can. I can analyse the results of a campaign and point towards profit/loss by applying other metrics, but I can’t predict the success of any campaign. What do I do when they ask? Well, I show them case studies. Case studies are great because it allows you to show a profit, and they way it was achieved. It’s tangible evidence of success and it works. I ‘ve got some crackers, with graphs and everything. I’ve still got to be honest though, I tell them that I may not stay the charted course to get to the end goal. If I see something now working, or a new bit of kit pops up that I think will allow me to do it better, I’ll be changing direction. Focus on the goal. 9 times out of 10 we’ll get there.

And if we don’t, well, at least we can apply what we’ve learned to the next project.

*OK, so there are some good resources out there regarding ROI in social media, I’m not just coming at this cold. For your consideration:

What Brian Solis says
What Chris Brogan says

There are more, Google it.

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3 responses

  1. Great post Barry. You’re right, it’s tough to sell, but it’s made easier when people like me say ‘You need a social media strategy and someone to help you implement it.’

    Clients are getting wiser to this and there’s a bunch who sit somewhere between the ‘I want to do it myself, get my hands dirty and perhaps f**k it up’ and those who say it’s of no use unless they can tell the board how much it’s going to improve the year end figures.

    I’ve been asked by a number of people just this week about what I’d recommend and so there’s a hunger for it. Somewhere between a web company and a PR firm, in the hinterland of the consultant.

    When you’ve got your rate card, send it to me :)

  2. Geoff Kennedy | Reply

    Definatly a good point about not staying on the charted course. It needs to be made clear from the start that’s how it works in social media, and online marketing as a whole.

    If taken the wrong way it can be seen
    by a client as “they didn’t know what they were doing at the start, and now they’re changing their ideas”. Whereas in reality it’s usually just adapting to an changing enviroment. Often what is the right solution at the start of a project/campaign is old-hat by the time things get going.

  3. It would be true that a traditional marketing manager feels difficult to measure the effectiveness of his/her marketing campaign and explain his/her manager. So they possibily feel no sound reason to adopt or switch to social media since it might be seen as just adding cost. Also there are other promotion media channels which will make it more difficult to distinguish the pure return of social media activities. So I suppose it might need find a way to show whether the target group communicated through social media would be more active (in short run or long run) than readers of online advertising/ newspaer/ magzines.

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