Does Social Media Pay Off?

As social media becomes a more entrenched part of the business ecosystem, there’s a growing focus on determining the return on investment – be it higher sales, a stronger brand, a higher profile, better customer service, etc.

Earlier this week, a new report was published by Charlene Li of the Altimeter Group and Wetpaint that ranked the top 100 brands by social media engagement. Their thesis is that companies that are “both deeply and widely engaged in social media surpass their peers in terms of both revenue and profit performance by a significant difference”.

For companies sitting on the fence about social media, the report suggests it’s definitely time to get on the social media bandwagon. After all, if social media leads to higher sales and profits, it’s a strategic no-brainer.

The reality, however, is social media is not a one-size-fits-all activity. For many companies, particularly consumer-facing businesses, social media can produce many benefits, including ones such as happier and more loyal customers than don’t have a direct relationship to sales and profits. For some companies, social media may not be relevant.

For companies who have embraced social media or thinking about getting into social media, some of the key considerations are:

1. Deciding why you want to do it – e.g. a stronger brand, higher sales, etc.

2. Determining the benchmarks for success so you can measure your social media efforts

3. Committing the time, people and money to make it happen

4. Picking the right social media platforms (e.g. blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) that meet your strategic need and goals.

For some good insight into how to approach social media, Rohit Bhargava has a blog post on Social Media Today that talks about how a key element to social media success is picking the right people to run your activities, and then giving them the tools, resources and freedom to make it happen.

“All the companies that get credit today for doing social media well–Zappos, Dell, Comcast–have all become comfortable with letting individuals from their company become the faces for their brand. These are the voices that I often call “accidental spokespeople.” Within them is the real secret to using social media to be a brand that actually matters: offering a real human connection.”

Going back to the question of return on investment (ROI), there are a growing number of tools to measure, monitor and analyze social media conversations so companies can get a good sense of what’s happening, why it’s happening and who’s driving the conversations.

If you’re interested in Sysomos’ social media services, MAP and Heartbeat, you can find information here.

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