The majority of companies today understand the need for a strong social media presence, but for many of them, the definition of success in this space still remains a bit hazy. Many organizations aren’t sure of the goals they should be setting, which creates challenges when it comes time to measure their performance. From generating leads, to establishing thought leadership, there’s a lot that can be achieved using this medium. A great rule to live by is that whenever there’s a tough decision to make, you should look at the experiences of those who have done it before. In a recent study performed by Social Media Examiner, almost 4,000 marketers were surveyed, and it was easy to see certain patterns in the way that businesses are using social media and how they are benefitting from it.
Here’s a look at some of the data, and what we can learn from it:
One piece of qualitative data the study produced was regarding the expected benefits of social media for their respective businesses. Among the answers given, the obvious frontrunner was that social media increased awareness, with 90% of respondents including it as part of their response. Coming in at second and third were improving web traffic and developing customer loyalty, at 77% and 70%, respectively. Benefits such as generating sales and reducing costs were among the lowest-scoring answers. What does all of this tell us? It shows the emphasis on less tangible ‘soft benefits’ like awareness, compared to the typical ‘hard benefits’ that many tend to focus on, such as increased profit margins. This is important to acknowledge, especially because many managers are trained to focus heavily on ROI rather than harder to track results.
Time vs Effectiveness
Another area of the study asked participants to describe the relationship between the time they’ve had a social media presence and the overall level of satisfaction they’ve had in meeting the expected benefits we mentioned above. Each answer was very similar, and correlated better results to having a longer presence on any given platform. What also stands out is the immediate effectiveness of soft benefits vs hard benefits when just starting out. 80% of responders saw an immediate increase in awareness in their first year using social media, while only 35% saw an increase in sales right away. If you look five years down the road, however, that sales figure skyrockets to 70% of marketers finding a tangible increase. In this space, true success really does take time, and this study makes that point very obvious.
For any company, relationship building is a must; it’s how you leave a lasting impression with your customers. Yet, why does success take so long when social media seems so simple and upfront? The mistake many businesses make is to approach social media marketing in the same way that they would approach advertising. Believe it or not, while there may be similarities here and there, the two are still very different. Advertising looks to create calls to action that have more immediate results, such as increasing sales for the quarter. Social media, on the other hand, is all about building a rapport with your target market. In the beginning, you probably won’t sway a person’s decision right away. Yet, with a little patience, your regular interactions with followers can lead to strong market penetration, and the establishment or reinforcement of customer loyalty. A well-crafted digital strategy rewards your brand advocates and encourages them to influence friends and family when the time comes around to make a purchase decision.
The biggest takeaway from this study is that consistency is key. Social media is a marathon, not a sprint. Regardless of your organization’s goals, it’s going to take time before you begin to see the desired results. When you’re first starting out, things will seem slow, but a regular schedule of rich content paired with engaging fan interactions can really make a difference for your bottom line a few years down the road.