If youâ€™ve been active in social media at all, you canâ€™t have missed the debate on social media ROI.
I think, though, that the discussion is missing an important point. We should be talking about marketing ROI in broader terms, not just focus on the ROI of one tool.
Youâ€™re probably familiar with the term alternative investment. When I was working at an advertising agency a long time ago, one of my bosses put it succinctly when talking with a client about a campaign: If itâ€™s cheaper to hire someone to throw stones at your competitorâ€™s windows, you should do that.
In the context of social media marketing, alternative investment means things you can do instead of investing your time â€” and, indirectly, money â€” in trying to “engage” people on social media platforms. In many cases, your time could produce more results if you spent it on alternatives to social media, such as:
- learning about your potential clients
(to be able to approach them in a way that really speaks to them)
- doing email prospecting
(still one of the most efficient marketing methods)
- sending out good old direct mail
(when everybody and his cousin are on social media, you have an opportunity to stand out of the crowd, plus it makes a deeper psychological impact), or
- putting yourself in front of your audience by giving talks and presentations
(great for instant one-on-one feedback and warmer leads).
There are many other ways, of course, but you get my point.
So why am I swimming against the tide? After all, it seems to be the prevailing truth that every company should engage online like mad. True, a social media presence in some form is good, for SEO, if not for other reasons, but community-building is awfully slow and costly.
My own experience, based on more than two yearsâ€™ adventures in a variety of social media hangouts, is that it gets you friends but not a lot of business. Results, of course, will vary depending on the business youâ€™re in, your clout and whether you can find the right people. Still, about one-third of the effort Iâ€™ve put in social media allocated elsewhere (email, blogging, commenting on other blogs etc) has produced the same result.
Before putting too many eggs in the social media basket, analyse whether your targets are active in social media in the first place. If you can’t find a sufficient audience or don’t seem to get any results, move on to something more productive. In other words, with higher ROI.
Food for thought?
Just for fun, read Ad Contrarian‘s piece on how Pepsi didÂ when diverting most of its Super Bowl budget to social. Okay, this is B2C, but you can draw conclusions. Also, there’s an article in Forbes by Steve Olenski:Â In This Land Of Digital, Let’s Not Forget The Physical.)