Without doubt this is the question I am asked most often when discussing social media marketing with new potential clients, or even just in conversation with business acquaintances.
When we ask the question, “How long does it take to get results from social media marketing?” or, “How will I measure the ROI on my social media marketing?”, what are we really asking?
Perhaps, something like – “Tell me when will I start putting some money into my bank account as a result of my efforts on social media?” 🙂
As a small business owner, I understand. I really do. Years ago, when I had one of my first businesses I was on the other side of that question. Back in those days of course, it wasn’t social media being discussed it was radio, magazine or billboards. It can be very difficult for a small business owner to look at marketing any other way. I get it.
I also understand that these are certainly normal questions to ask, especially in a world where instant is the new long term outlook for many.
Unfortunately, these are the wrong questions and we need to stop asking them. Or, more accurately, they are the right question just being asked at the wrong time.
These are also fair questions but the only way to answer the question honestly is with that phrase we all love to hear, “it depends”.
Is it not the same when someone asks a fitness instructor how long will it take me to get into shape or a dietician how long will it take me to lose 10lbs? It depends.
And until we have a lot more information that should always be the answer.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
So, what does come first? What information do we need to know before we can begin providing an answer to the question?
From a marketer’s point of view the more information we have the more accurately we can answer that big question. We need to know things like….
- What does your business do?
- What is your value proposition?
- Who do you help?
- What do you know about them? – be as specific as possible
- How do you differentiate yourself?
- What do you want social media to do for your business? – e.g. larger audience, more engagement, etc. (We need to make sure that the expectations are in line with what social media can deliver)
- What resources (Time, Money) do you have available for your social media marketing? – (this one is important – Is it DIY or is there a budget for outsourcing?)
There are more questions, but these will certainly give us a good start. Once we know the answers to these questions we can then begin to discuss your big question. How fast?
SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT ALL THINGS
It is also very important that at this juncture we talk about what social media is good at and perhaps examine areas that are not its strength.
Most marketers would agree that Social Media can do some things very well, but not all things. And it is important that you, the client, have a clear understanding of what it can do for your business.
Social media can…
- Help to build awareness of your brand
- Aid in driving traffic to your website
- Assist in differentiating you from your competitors
- Build engagement and increased presence with your target audience
If you are looking for an increase in immediate sales then social media is not the primary channel to look at. There are better options for you.
I am not saying that it cannot assist with sales, but in general that is not the primary goal you should be trying to achieve with your social media marketing.
WHAT IS A REALISTIC TIME FRAME?
And so what is a realistic time frame?
As the saying goes, “the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it” and social media is no different.
You can see results faster but it will require more planning, more investment and more work.
Your goal in the first few months of your campaign is to begin to cultivate a relationship with your readers and expand your reach to generate interest from new prospects. You do this by sharing great content that interests them on the social media sites where you audience can be found. (Check out my post on finding the right social media channel.)
If you post blogs on your website at a rate of two a week, you will see results faster than if you post twice a month. If you write 15-20 blog posts a month instead of eight or four, you will generate even more results. But, this also takes a greater investment in resources, be it time, energy or money.
However, it is not all a numbers game either, because frequency alone will not bring you the success you want. Quality content produced a few times per month will trump lesser quality content that is produced every other day.
You have to really focus on your content and make sure it offers value and is highly relevant to your readers. If you just rehash what lots of other people are already saying, or if you think a blog is the same thing as a sell-sheet, you are missing the whole philosophy of the era of shared information and people will not respond favorably to your initiative.
Content doesn’t generate customers; great content does.
At the end of each blog, assess whether or not your offering brings real and valuable information to people. By reading it will they know something that they didn’t know before? Will it enhance some aspect of their life and/or grow their business?
To answer yes to those questions, you have to start your social media campaign with an innovative and logical strategy. Know who you want to reach and what kind of information you have that would delight and interest them.
Invest in having great content written if you are planning an ambitious campaign. Nobody can do all of this alone; you will not have any time to run the rest of your business. You also need to be flexible enough with your content to respond if a major issue arises within your industry. Be the first to respond with guidance to your readers and they will be loyal for a very long time.
I should also mention that content does not always have to be written content. In fact, it is good to provide variety for your audience since we do not all like to consume our content in the same way. Video, audio and infographics are all valuable pieces of content when produced well.
MEASURE THE RESULTS
Throughout your social media marketing campaign, be sure to stay on top of the metrics of your campaign. This doesn’t have to be complicated at the start. Measure how much traffic your social media efforts are sending to your blog, how many people are downloading your special reports, how many people are liking your Facebook posts or responding to your Tweets, and how many are opting in with their emails to receive more material from you.
What your brand is may also influence how fast your campaign moves. If your organization is affiliated with one of the popular topics like food or dieting, exercise or fitness, saving money, raising children or engaging in sports, for example, you might find it easier to generate followers than the person trying to interest people in their heat pumps or their dryer vents or their energy efficient light bulbs. After all, everyone needs to eat food, but not everyone has their own home and money for a heat pump. The more general your brand is, the wider is the audience from which you can pull responses.
SIX KEYS FOR IMPACT WITH SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
To ensure that your social media marketing campaign has the most impact in the shortest time, here are six rules to follow:
- Create and share great content that is of value to your audience
- Be consistent. You do not need to post every day, but you do need to be consistent over time.
- Be sure you are on the right social media channel(s).
- Vary the type and format of your content.
- Measure the results and refine your strategy where necessary.
- Maintain a great website that has free downloadable content and a way for people to opt in leaving their emails.
If you do all of those things with consistency and quality, you will have results you can measure within a several month period and a solid foundation for the continued online growth of your business and your brand.
Erik Qualman, a recognized leader in the field of social media, has a phrase in his incredibly popular video series “social media revolution” and that is “The ROI on social media is that your business will still exist in five years”.
It is a little ironic that his video series is more than five years old and I don’t believe the prophecy has proven true.
However, I do believe that in today’s “disruptive” business climate the digital marketing and social media revolution are very real and to simply ignore them is to do so at your own peril.
Social media itself will not make or break your business. It is simply one marketing tool in your arsenal that when used correctly can have an impact on your business.
What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Until next time. I wish you continued success.