At some point on your social media journey, you’ve probably asked: “What am I getting in return from the investment I’m putting in to social media?” It’s a valid question. After all, you’re investing valuable resources: your money, and even bigger, your TIME.
But what often gets forgotten when this question is asked is that we are marketing through a relationship driven channel. You have to first look at your ability to create relationships with social media before you can start to measure success from a sales perspective. If you’ve grappled with the question of social media ROI at any point, I’d invite you to consider a few social media truths:
SOCIAL MEDIA IS RELATIONAL
Let’s talk about offline relationships for a moment. Building relationships in your personal life takes time, right? If all you did was throw money at a relationship and you invested zero time with that person, you wouldn’t have a friend (and not to mention-- your money would be wasted). Your ROI in this case would be nothing.
For a relationship to grow, your only option is to first invest your time. Imagine you are a parent, and you desire to spend time with your child (as any sensible parent would). So you invest your time by going out to eat, or watching movies together. Wouldn’t it be silly to ask yourself, “What am I getting in return?” Of course it would be silly!
It just makes sense that you would invest your time into the people you love. The parent/child example might seem extreme -- after all, why would a brand care about the consumer in such a way? My question is, why wouldn’t they? Your customers are valuable, and not just because they can buy from you. It is in the execution of that understanding (which has been made possible through social media) that will bring you the results you’re looking for.
TRUE BRAND LOYALTY IS INTANGIBLE
I believe the best relationships are the ones that provide you with intangible returns. Think about your best friend. Why are you friends with them? It can likely be narrowed down to the way they make you feel, which is intangible, but deeply valuable.
The point is, even from your friendships you receive ROI, but you also get something deeper than that. If you’ve built your relationships well, you will likely have lifelong friends who would do anything for you. In the marketing world, we call this “brand loyalty.”
For marketers, when you use social media to invest your time into the right relationships, you can be confident that the brand loyalty you seek will come to you.
THE BEST RELATIONSHIPS ARE NOT SELF-SERVING
If you could sense that someone was pretending to be your friend because they were trying to get something from you, would you want to be friends with them? Nobody wants to be friends with someone that has underlying self-serving motives, and the same is true for consumers forging relationships with brands.
Marketing within social media has created a conflict of interest. Businesses and brands have entered a relational space, but have continued to behave in non-relational ways. People are smart, and they know that brands are on social media to get more business. The idea of this can turn people off before you’ve even introduced yourself IF you’re not careful with your content and communications. That’s why it is important for brands to know that they are building relationships well, and with authenticity.
So before asking how social media is going to produce an ROI, we must first understand that social media is about relationships that can’t be concretely measured. I am not suggesting that we stop measuring ROI altogether– it is essential to understand that our financial investment is justified. What I am suggesting is that before we go searching for increased sales, we need to make sure we have used social media appropriately. My question to you is, are you building relationships well? I would venture to say your sales will reflect the answer.