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In my role at SellerDeck I talk to a lot of small business owners. Apart from discussing the latest and greatest ideas in ecommerce a lot of them want to talk to me about social media and how it can work with their business.
Much has already been written about the various tips, techniques and strategies businesses can adopt, so I won’t go over this old ground again. However, one of the questions I have always struggled to answer is “How many extra sales will this make me?”
Social media ROI is a difficult statistic to measure. There are methods and technologies that can help you to quantify things, but it’s hard to feel confident that they are accurate.
Recently social media guru @DarenBBC suggested that we should consider an alternate meaning to ROI, Return on Influence. The explanation is simple, if your strategy is just aimed at selling a few more products you are missing the point entirely. The most successful strategies have a complete focus on connecting with your customers. This enables you to discuss, influence and ultimately own your brand online.
To prove the point do a quick search using Collecta for your brand or product. Collecta is a search engine that scours blog posts, Twitter, Facebook and many others. This content is real time, it’s happening as you search as opposed to looking through a huge archive of out-of-date data. The results can be very illuminating and often humbling.
To properly understand social media, the first step is to get involved, answer questions and show yourself to be human. It won’t turn into immediate sales figures, but influence will lead to involvement, and involvement is an easy thing to measure. Just ask yourself this: how many questions did you answer today? Eventually, there will be a big impact on sales, but it’s not immediate cause and effect.
I speak to many companies that pour huge vats of time and effort into brand protection. Many of them don’t understand that if you’re not the core influencer for your company in these dynamic online communities, someone else will seize that position, and it may cost a fortune to put things right if they go wrong. Sure it’s just about next quarter’s sales figures?
There are lots of decisions to be made about how to market your business. Lots of money to be spent. Lots of time invested. So actually having confidence that you are doing the right thing is probably reasonably important. Why don't you pause just for a moment and consider how you determine (and even as importantly, measure) performance?
It seems that Ronaldo might not be number one (for now at least). Are you measuring the right factors?
It's easy to pay lip service to "working smarter, not harder", but when you are running a business during one of the nastiest periods of economic turmoil (ever), effectiveness is everything. In this video, top level experts talk through effective strategies for marketing during a downturn.
Please share your comments or thoughts!
I have spent my whole working life in the business world. Before creating Ecademy in 1998, I was sales and marketing director of a computer distributor. I worked for an entrepreneurial managing director and he had an excellent hold on the value of a customer to our relatively small company. We won respect and loyalty in a very competitive market by truly seeing the value of each of our 6,000 customers.
An interesting learning curve for me was that my ‘boss’ also gave me the responsibility for customer service. He felt the outcome and quality of that department were intrinsically linked to sales and marketing - and of course he was right. However, his beliefs and foresight are only just beginning to be vindicated now that consumers and businesses have a loud voice on the Internet.
In 2010, I see many opportunities for businesses to have an impact on the relationship they have with their customers. One area I am fascinated by is the relationship that will have to be formed between the customer service and marketing departments.
In a recent study carried out by CPP Group, they investigated what constitutes bad customer service and how consumers are by no means shy about telling their friends and family about their experiences. In this study they saw a growing trend toward utilising social media to share frustrations rather than telephoning or writing to the ‘offending’ company directly. A shocking set of statistics were:
“…. young adults under the age of 35 could do the most damage to an organisation’s reputation as they are most likely to talk about poor customer service online. Nearly three in ten (28.6%) of 16-24 year olds and two in ten (19.2%) 25-34 year olds would specifically use Facebook, versus only 2.7% of consumers aged 45-54 years old; highlighting the persuasive influence of this single website”.
Source: CPP Group Plc survey – October 09 (CPP White paper on Customer Service)
The use of social media by the under 35’s begs the question ‘What are companies doing to actively seek out the conversations online that can destroy a brand?’
I believe the opportunities and threats that have emerged for companies and brands within the conversations inside social networks will continue to rise at an unprecedented speed. We are only at the cusp of the use of these social networks, with the use of mobile devices only just beginning to integrate social networking into their functionality, and the utilisation of these sites by the mass to vent their frustrations.
In 2010 we will see growing use of mobile interaction with social networks. Through this avenue, consumers will create a much larger demand for high levels of customer service. The ability to spontaneously vent frustration at the exact moment of disappointment will capture irrational, gut-felt emotions in real-time. This will require a rush to get to the ‘disrupted’ customer before their conversations become viral and damaging. Speed of feedback and use of sophisticated search mechanisms to find these conversations will be critical. Microsoft have launched their new search engine, Bing, now indexing Twitter conversations, and Google will follow. Ths is an indication of the desire to seek conversations and be part of them fast.
Customer service will become a game of ‘hunting out the customer’s emotions’, not just waiting for them to call and complain. At this point the customer service team will need to become pro-active rather than reactive. I predict that the customer service team will have as much influence on the marketing and belief in a brand as the marketing teams do.
We're all aware that your website can make or break your business. But are you focussing on the right things to improve?
In these two videos, two world leading experts tell you what you should be focussing on. Stefan Tornquist is Research Director at Marketing Sherpa (just google it) and has undertaken dozens and dozens of studies into what works - right down to sophisticated eye tracking software to see where people are looking. David Meerman Scott is a leading authority on viral marketing (just google his name!): he's responsible for over US$1 billion in sales for his clients.
I think this is really refreshing advice. Keep it simple; focus on content. So against these two simple measures, how does your website stack up?
The growth in use of social media tools has been impossible to ignore over the last year or so. It is even almost customary to hear Twitter messages read out on Radio shows or TV shows. Recently a legal injunction which prevented the Guardian reporting parliamentary questions relating to the oil trader, Trafigura was overturned as a partial consequence to extensive exposure and discussion on Twitter.
But what does this mean for small firms? What it does demonstrate is that social media tools like Facebook and Twitter have become very influential means of communication. Those firms that do not have some sort of representation on social media may find themselves at a disadvantage. However, there are many significant benefits too as online platforms have levelled the playing field somewhat for small businesses. It is easier than ever before to build a cost effective online representation and get your message out to potential customers.
In fact small business by their very nature may be better placed to incorporate online strategies into their models than larger businesses. Such businesses already have an extensive corporate structure and have to look at other more complex solutions. Small businesses on the other hand are more versatile and can be more responsive to the fast-paced online environment. The recession has taken its toll on many firms but this is an area where they can leverage their strength in order to survive into the future.
Another point to remember is that it is literally possible to communicate a brand using social media tools and there is a mind-boggling variety of options in which this can be done. The way you represent yourself online really depends on your particular business and what you want to achieve. An online strategy for a restaurant may be totally different to that of an online book store. It is not just about creating noise but creating the right sort of noise that is good for business.