As social media expands its reach and content marketing becomes an essential component of almost any marketing plan, every company needs to keep an eye on it’s ROTI.
You see, social media isn’t free. Not really.
Sure, you can set up accounts on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ without spending a dime. But those free accounts are the loss leaders of the social media world, like the toasters that banks used to give away free with every new checking account. By the time you added up all the fees paid for the pleasure of banking with your chosen institution, that “free” toaster could cost you hundreds of dollars.
Times have changed, and our most valuable asset is now…you guessed it: Time. No exchange rates are needed. Time is a universal currency. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. How we spend them is what makes the difference between success and failure, fulfillment and emptiness.
When you are paying employees to work a 40-hour week, you must be attuned to the ROTI of their social media efforts, especially if social media is only one aspect of their job. If you are an entrepreneur or soloprenuer, your ROTI is even more important. Can you afford to spend hours a day building a following on Twitter or connecting on Google+.?
The things you give up while spending time posting status updates, chatting with followers and sharing articles is the opportunity cost of social media. What are you and your employees NOT doing while investing in social media? If you are just playing around without a clear objective, you may be bypassing other more lucrative time investments like face to face networking or reconnecting with past customers.
To avoid the social media time drain, develop a focused communication plan for your business. Without one, your ROTI for social media is likely to be in the single digits (if it’s not a negative number).
What to do? Gather your team and have a frank discussion about why you are engaging in social media in the first place. If the answer is “everyone is doing it and we should, too” then you have a lot of work to do.
Map out your objectives for social media. Do you want to engage with potential customers? Are you hoping to catch the attention of the media? Maybe you would like to recruit new employees or engage potential partners. Figure out which of these are priorities, and how you will reach the right people. Anything else is just noise.
Once you know who you need to reach, then you can figure out where those people hang out. You may don’t need to be on all the major social media networks all the time if your targeted contacts spend most of their time on one or two platforms. A little knowledge about your buyers’ social media habits will greatly increase your ROTI by reducing wasted effort.
Get focused in your messaging, and be intentional about what you share. Don’t kill time tweeting about topics that aren’t relevant to your audience, or sharing content that doesn’t add value to the relationships you are building. Laser focus is essential to high social media ROTI.
Finally, get the right tools, even if you have to pay a few bucks a month for them. There are some great applications like Hootsuite (choose free or paid versions) and Sprout Social (free trial, then $9 or $49/month) that can streamline your social media efforts. These applications help you find content to share, track mentions and follows, and engage others.
If you’ve tried all these things and still free like your ROTI is not where it should be, don’t give up. Hire a social media consultant to guide you through the process of building a social media play that pays real dividends.
Image by Sanja Gjenero.