How to get social media right for your business

Delia spoke at Santander, Kingston for their Breakthrough In Business event on what social media can do for your business. She covered where social media fits in the bigger marketing picture; how much to spend; how to measure your return on investment (ROI) and how to get it right. If you weren't there on the night, read on to find out what the audience learnt.

Delia started with a few stats: with half the world population now on the internet and over a quarter active on social media, you need to be sure you’ve got your social media strategy right. With most businesses (63% according to Sage) stating that their primary reason for being on social media is for brand awareness, it is evident that they are choosing social media over other channels for reach; and not just reaching a wider audience but reaching them more quickly.

It took the telephone 75 years to reach 50 million users; Facebook 4 years and Pokemon Go only 19 days. For products, in particular, it’s no longer the survival of the fittest, but the survival of the fastest. So how does the average business keep up?

The bigger picture: social media alone will not bring you success

Social media encompasses various platforms for reaching out and engaging with your customers and potential customers, and as such it is just another marketing tool. The question you should be asking is, what is the right marketing mix for your business? To do that you need to understand your existing customer profile, your target customer profile and what your unique value proposition is - why are people going to buy your product or service from you?

You also need to understand your customer journey. It's really important to map that out so that you know what all the different touch points are with your company across all your different marketing channels before someone buys from you. People need to know, like and trust you before they buy from you; and that process takes time. All your marketing efforts should be focused on keeping your business front of mind so that people buy from you and not your competitors. 

It is therefore crucial that your social media strategy supports your overall marketing strategy and business objectives.

How do you measure ROI?

Well that depends on what stage you're at. There are three stages: launch, management and optimisation. People perceive measuring ROI as a challenge and that's because either they haven’t got to the bottom of the funnel (they've had no sales) or they aren’t taking note of where their business is coming from. You can’t measure what you don’t monitor and you can’t improve what you don’t measure.

In the launch stage, you are creating your social media presence and making your first connections, typically with existing customers. Then you start focusing on connecting with your potential customers and growing your number of followers and likes, which is pretty much all you can measure at that stage.

In the next stage - the management stage - you are focusing on engaging with your customers and potential customers. All the platforms have analytics and you can easily measure engagement. You can also track whether someone clicks on your links or call-to-action buttons and goes through to your website.

However, it's not until the third stage when someone actually buys your product or service, that you can actually measure a financial return on your investment. If you have a product which can be bought online then, measuring ROI is relatively easy, but if you need someone to click on your phone number or email button, then the tracking process is more difficult because the ultimate sale is offline. Unless you are very good at asking where your leads come from, you won't get a true picture of your ROI. 

Also remember that if someone says they saw an advert, then that might not be the only thing that influenced their decision. They may have been to your website and followed you on social media. The same applies to referrals. The person who referred them may not have remembered you if you hadn't been staying in touch with that person through email campaigns, newsletters or engaging with them on social media.

So, you need to look at the whole picture.

Is it worth trying to measure ROI? Yes, absolutely because even when you can't get an absolute final number, it’s the process of measuring, monitoring and evaluating results that's important. It makes you ask questions about what's working and what's not working. Gut instinct will get you so far but when you work with other people and you want to scale your business, you need numbers and you need to go through the process to be able to make more informed business decisions.

Also, remember that what works for someone else might not work for you, and what works well for you today, might not work well tomorrow. 

So, how can you make an informed decision about whether social media is right for your small business. Well it comes back to reviewing results within the context of your overall marketing strategy. Ask if you could achieve better results by spending some or all of your time and money on something else? 

How much should I spend on social media?

This is particularly difficult when you are just starting out. You can look at industry benchmarks but at the end of the day the question is really, what are you comfortable spending? Benchmark studies will show you that businesses typically spend about 10% of revenue on marketing. But it varies hugely: Apple only spends 7% but Twitter spends 43%.

So how much to spend on social media? Allocate budget across all marketing efforts and prioritise by what's working with a small amount for testing, for example, on social media. Don't forget to include your time. Setting a budget is a good idea because when you do that, you force yourself to review and evaluate results.

Think about what else you could spend that money on and whether it would get you better results.

How do I get started on social media?

Getting started on social media can be daunting. If you use social media already, you will know just how easy it is to spend way too much time doing nothing productive, interesting or useful. The last thing you can afford to do when you run a business is to waste time. So, what should you do? Well, it's all down to planning and preparation.

Do your research, decide which platforms are best suited to your business so that you can reach out to and engage with your existing customers and target audience, and plan what you are going to do and when. Use a social media calendar and scheduling tools, so that you are not leaving everything to the last minute. And remember, social media is about engagement - it is not, at least initially, about advertising and sales. If you're a shop floor sales person you don't go up and hand someone a product and say, "Buy this, now". First, you engage in conversation, create a rapport and once they "know, like and trust" you, they are then ready to be sold to.

Should I outsource social media?

Are you good at delegating? If not, then it might be a waste of time. Whoever you work with, whether they are your own staff or you are working with external marketers, they need to understand your business so they can get your marketing message right, your tone of voice right, and know when they can respond on your behalf and when to bring you in. It's a two way process and to begin with you need to put time in to get the best results.

A few tips on getting it right

  • Know what you want to achieve and be realistic
  • Planning and preparation is key
  • Measure what you can so you can monitor and review what works and what doesn't
  • Keep doing what works and review in the context of the bigger picture
  • Know your customers and your target audience

So, it's worth asking your existing clients how they would like to engage with you and which social media platforms, if any, they use. At the end of the day, if all your customers are on email and none of them have social media accounts, then perhaps social media is not going to be right for your business. However, with the average number of active social media users still increasing year-on-year, you'd be foolish not to review what platforms your customers and potential customers are using and also, what your competitors are doing.

Also, you need to remember to review what you're doing because there is no status quo; it's no longer the survival of the fittest but the survival of the fastest. You need to regularly monitor and evaluate results and your return on investment. What worked yesterday, might not work tomorrow. But, if something is working, keep doing it!



Delia PorterMD & Founder