In that article, I mentioned that I'm skeptical of social media's business value, but that my biggest concerns stem from how most companies are approaching social media. If you want to get it right, start with these fundamentals -- by the way, most social media experts don't agree with these.
1. Only Invest in Social If It Is the Best Use of Time and Money
Some organizations try to justify social programs with a rationale that makes no sense. Don't be that company. More specifically, you should:
- Never invest in social to be cool. With very rare exception, cool is not a business objective. Cool does not pay the bills. Cool does not get you into the Inc 5000. Last time I checked, most people would rather be un-cool and be successful than be cool and fail.
- Never invest in social to keep up with the Jones. Just because your competition is spending time and money on social media doesn't mean you should. Just because they have 5,000 followers and you have only 300 followers doesn't mean you need to hire a social agency to try to catch up with them. When people say, "They have more followers than us," you can respond by saying "Yes, that's because they waste their time on social marketing. That's why we are beating them. Do you want us to stop doing what works and spend time on social? If we lose market share because of that decision, will you be OK with that?"
- Never invest in social solely for brand awareness purposes. Marketing dollars are scarce. Allocate them to the things that move the needle on sales. If that's social, great. If not, skip social altogether, or do it in a way that doesn't cost anything. (This advice is really for mainstream businesses without the infinite resources that a large company has; the big boys/girls have marketing dollars to burn and not much accountability for results, so they can throw a lot of cash at social to build brand awareness.)
2. Only Invest in Social If You Are Executing Well on Other Marketing Fronts
I can't say this enough. There are things that work for your business. Make sure you do them well before you get distracted with social. It could be content marketing, it could be SEO, it could be PPC, it could be events, it could be webinars -- before I threw even a nickel at social, I would make sure I was executing flawlessly on those other marketing fronts that I already know are productive for lead generation and sales.
3. If You Need to Do It, Invest Sparingly in Social to Test Results
The odds are that social media is not going to be your most productive marketing tactic. But you won't know that until you try it. The key, then, is to do small pilot programs that don't cost much and see if you get any results. Define some simple controlled experiments and see what results you get. If you get 300 followers on Twitter, for example, and don't get any leads from them, guess what? You can bust your behind to get to 3,000 followers and you will likely still not get any leads. So why bother?
4. Set It and Forget It Is OK for Many Firms
Social experts will tell you that you need to truly engage in social to be successful. If engaging actively in social works for you, then that's fantastic advice. If you don't get much from social, however, then put into it what you get out of it -- and don't believe people who say you only get out of it what you put into it. Set up some simple auto-posting and go back to higher-ROI marketing tactics. You can always come back to social later and try some new pilot programs to see if social has metamorphosed into a productive marketing channel for you.
5. Quit Calling It "Social", and Focus on Specific Social Platforms Where Your Prospects Are
Social is not one big thing. It's a lot of things. It's LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Quora, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and a bunch of other things.
So don't "invest in social." Instead, invest in specific social platforms where your people are. No sense for a B2B professional services firm to waste time on Twitter and Facebook if it would be much more productive for them to spend time on LinkedIn and Quora.
Everyone thinks they need to be active everywhere. Not true. Pick the social platforms that will have the highest yields and work on those first. Ignore all the other social media platforms while you perfect your execution on the most promising platforms.
So, if a B2B company tells me they are investing in social, I'm skeptical. But if they say they are trying to get leads via LinkedIn by using LinkedIn Sales Navigator and LinkedIn sponsored posts, then my reaction is "These guys get it. They're not just throwing time and money at Social without a smart strategy that is based on who their prospects are and what they need."
Which social media platforms are your prospects on? If you don't know, ask them. Don't ask the social media ad sales reps because there answer inevitably is "Yes. We've got that audience here in spades." It bears repeating: the best person to ask is a potential customer, not an ad sales rep.
6. How Much to Spend on Social?
I'm usually of the school of thought that small and mid-sized companies should spend 10 percent of revenues on marketing, including agency spend, internal headcount, tools, ad fees and everything else.
So, for example, I'd recommend $500,000 in marketing spend for a $5 million company and $100,000 in marketing spend for a $1 million company.
Some companies need more, some need less -- but it's a good rule of thumb. But how much of that should go to social?
Unless I learned that social marketing was especially productive for the company, I wouldn't spend more than half a percent of revenues on social. So, a $25,000 social spend for a $5 million company, and just $5,000 in spend for a company with $1 million in revenues.
Your Mileage May Vary
For B2B companies in particular, this advice will help you define your social strategy and your social marketing budget. B2C companies may need to be more active with social, and they'll be better served by Twitter and Facebook than, say, LinkedIn and Quora.
The specifics of your business may mean that you need to dial social up or dial it down. But don't do it just because you think you should. Do it because you're fairly certain it's a good use of your marketing dollars and will really help your business to be successful.
We publish news articles for entrepreneurs whenever there's news. Our small business news articles review trends in entrepreneurship, analyze the impact of new government policies, monitor key economic indicators that impact small business, and cover many other topics of interest to small business owners.