Everyone is well aware of the influence that social media has on our private online lives; but what about for business? How useful is social media as a tool for commerce? According to the majority of UK businesses, very – over half of small and medium size enterprises in Britain use social media as part of the progression and upkeep of their business efforts.
But is a “like” or a “share” solid and tangible evidence of return? The need to demonstrate that social media is worth its salt is now rising in priority among commercial leaders; measuring ROI (return on investment) with regards to a business’ social media campaign is top of the agenda.
There is a problem: how this is done is disputed.
Views on the subject can vary, with a lot reputable business minds having opposite opinions. Business Insider, for example, says that the ability to measure ROI for social media is a “myth”, arguing instead that companies are now moving towards using sites like Twitter or Facebook only as online testaments of their brand awareness.
On the other side of the coin, Entrepreneur sees social media sites as an almost definite indicator of ROI, maintaining that conversions from such websites can very much be used to track a business’ return.
But where to stand? As with many heated debates, perhaps it is more the middle ground that is the safest.
What do I mean by this? Well, first it is important to know what both viewpoints agree on: for the task of attempting to actually measure ROI from social media (even if some don’t believe it will work), all sides of the argument agree that online analytics tools are key, for example Google Analytics – these help keep tabs on things like web traffic, social mentions, and conversions from social sites. As well as this, very few people dispute the fact that despite accurate social media ROI measurements being controversial in nature, a company’s potential reach gained via social media can be calculated. Why not attempt to capitalise on that?
So with the above in mind, it’s advisable to think about what ends you want to gain from starting a business Twitter account (for example). Maintaining the view “followers = cash” will do you no favours, while insisting “followers = nothing useful” will be an equally detrimental standpoint.
Setting realistic targets for your use of social media is important – don’t expect your business to explode overnight because of these platforms. Having said that, no one can deny that Facebook, Twitter and their rising compatriots are rapidly being (or already have been) absorbed into the mind-set of the commercial sector – blogging, for example, is now rife, and a huge number of businesses now feature blogs on their sites to provide resources and interest pieces for their customers (and any other readers for that matter). So all in all, get into the social sphere – just don’t expect miracles.
For more opinions on this topic and a PDF guide on social media in business, see the following article