In the old days of print media clients could rarely track the Return On Investment (ROI) of an advertisement, unless it was a direct-response ad. Leading publishers and ad agencies knew this, and often created “branding campaigns” to increase awareness of their product, relying upon the logical formula that the more people who were aware of their product the more the product would sell. And mostly it worked.
Online advertising did not become an industry standard overnight, for several reasons, including the fear of new things (will it last?) the aesthetic differences (initially much less glamorous medium than that page four color in Vanity Fair), and a whole new language of pixels and CPM to learn.
But online ads offered something new: The ability to track who sees your ad and who clicks on your ad for more information. Suddenly, ads were not just lovely pages in a magazine; they could be immediately measured and tweaked at a moment’s notice. Not possible with a magazine. Clients and agencies loved it. They could now track their ROI. This is one of the reasons that print advertising is on the decline, the other being that, compared to print, online advertising is a much less expensive vehicle to deliver a client’s message.
Enter social media. A new frontier. Cost effective , and a platform that transcends both print and online ads as it allows companies to interact immediately and directly with their clients and potential customers. A firm enabled with social media can, for example, chat back and forth with customers on Twitter in real time thus building or maintaining relationships. They can answer questions and push information out immediately on Facebook. They can post videos of product demos or events within minutes of the event’s occurrence. Photos and collections of products can be curated on Pinterest. This is new. This is exciting. This is how business “should” work.
And as businesses plan how to best brand themselves and interact with customers on social media channels , the traditional media school of thought automatically seems to go to ROI. The media world has thought in terms of ROI since the beginning of Advertising. It’s how it was always done. That needs to change.
Just as moving from print advertising to online advertising required a change of thought, a new and different understanding of how media can affect your brand and sales, the move to social media is a paradigm shift. It is a new medium in which to service, communicate and brand to your business customers. To make them a part of your firm’s “community.” A conversation with a customer on Facebook or Twitter, for example, can grow or restore a customer relationship. This is invaluable.
These days every business must interact with their customers to succeed. There obviously rarely a measurable ROI on those interactions, but the positive results should not be discounted. Social Media is not a print or online ad campaign, or an ad in the phonebook, it’s not a one-way non-conversation, it’s an interaction. A relationship-builder.
After initiating their social media presence a firm can certainly look back months later and likely see an increase in their followers and improved customer service interactions. This is if their social media is handled professionally and regularly by either a dedicated, enthusiastic and knowledgeable employee or outsourced to a professional social media firm.
The challenge is this: Businesses must dedicate budget and manpower to build and maintain their social media presence. And, as stated above, it must be done with energy and enthusiasm and regularity. Monitoring and maintaining your firms social media presence is ideally a daily effort. It requires research and plenty of fresh and relevant content. In order to succeed, in this economy and the future, every sized business in corporate America, from a small business to a multi-national, must commit to social media
Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest et.al, is how business will be done in the future. Period. In many cases it is how business is done best now. It’s a wholly different medium – one where directly- measurable numerical ROI is not front-and-center but rather people are. The only guarantee in Social Media is that if your business does not use it you’ll be left behind.
Kodak CMO Jeff Hayzlett, when asked recently about social media adoption, said “What’s your return on ignoring?” Well said, sir.