What is the value of social media? While this is a very big question– one that I cannot answer in one blog post, I do want to begin to confront it, beginning with the larger view.
Social Media has changed the way we communicate both personally and professionally. Professionally-oriented social media initiatives may take more work, time, even more employees, position titles; though, it should not be viewed as a separate effort apart from any other marketing/communications effort. One’s social media efforts must reach as far as how you use your company website or your ad campaigns. It’s just as important and should be viewed as an integrated component of your communication goals and initiatives, handled with in depth strategy (which is it’s own beast).
So let’s start with what social media means to a company– what it’s value is (not numerically just yet). Across any social platform, when one engages, you are sharing real-time knowledge, ideas, etc. in an authentic way. You are able to get behind the voice of your company and put it out on social media in the most personal way possible. Additionally, the people who are receiving and engaging with those posts are all over the world. Suddenly, whether or not your company extends its product/services across the globe, you have a global voice and you are connecting/engaging with the world in real-time in a way that is much more “real” than an email could ever be.
The most common misunderstanding I am confronted with is always “well, how many followers do we have? Is that a good number? Let’s get more.” While gauging the number of followers/fans is important, it is not the telling-metric. I always view it as an opportunity number. I have the opportunity to reach 20,000 followers. Of course, more the better, but that does not define its value. I like to think of it as: given the opportunity to reach X number of followers, I am successfully engaging and interacting with Y followers. This will tell you the value not only of social media, but how successful your social media content is. The second common misunderstanding around the value of social media is to randomly suggest that one’s social media efforts should be doing ONE thing. For example, if only 1.5% of my homepage traffic is coming from Facebook, does that mean my Facebook efforts are not working? Maybe. But only if your goal and only goal is to drive traffic to your homepage. Most of the time, a successful presence on a social media platform means you have a variety of goals and a variety of ways to reach those goals. I might want to direct people to the Company homepage, but I might also want to have users go elsewhere; I might want them to stay on my Facebook Page itself, and so your efforts should reflect that variety (and so should your metrics). Of course, these are just examples of how the value of social media and surrounding questions can be approached with a limited view rather than remembering that while social media’s value might be wrapped around one or two goals, it’s incredibly important to define how social media is simply a means of communication, a tool (an amazing tool) that changes how we communicate and the scale of communication efforts.