Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.
Being active on social media for business for several years, I can legitimately say that I've found it to be wonderful, wasteful, profitable and pointless... all at the same time. I'm one of the few that can honestly say I've gained new clients and business from my social networking.
One of the reasons marketers have gravitated toward social media marketing is that it can help build long-term rapport with potential customers in a non-sales, non-threatening way. (Not to mention the fact that getting a presence on the social networks is usually "free"... well, in terms of hard dollars at least.) The goal is that when these followers need the product or service offered, the marketer has top of mind awareness. Prospects and customers come to know, like and trust the marketer, creating warm sales leads. That is the true purpose of social media and it has done very well for me.
But here's the problem: Know, like and trust doesn't automatically lead to sales leads. There's one essential element that needs to be added to that mix.
No Need, No Sales, No Problem?
I am so honored to have thousands of followers on Twitter, as well as hundreds of followers and readers around the world. Many of them know, like and trust me enough to the point where we've been able to establish relationships offline in real life. Many have also become clients, dear friends and mutual beneficial resources.
But at the end of the day, I've realized that most of my followers will never, ever buy my standard product and service offerings. Primarily, this is because they often don't have the need or authority to buy, even if they're interested in the topics I discuss. They may not even have friends they can refer to me. Some are even friendly competitors.
And that's okay... really it is. I'm very, very appreciative of the support and friendship my followers provide. Many have changed my life forever.
But when it comes to using social media for business, I definitely have some sales objectives. And I'm very mindful of the difference between the friendship and financial paths these efforts can take.
So how do I separate the two paths and prevent myself from mistaking friendship as productivity? Trust me, it's not easy.
The Social Media Black Hole
Some years back, social media was really turning the marketing arena upside down. And I wanted to make a name for myself in that emerging space. To some extent I did. But what did it cost?
Starting back around 2009, I was spending a large amount of time on the social networks, somewhere on the order of three to four hours a day, even on the weekends. Blogging a blue streak, too, which took additional hours. I was gaining new followers and was having a lot of conversation.
Finally, in late 2010, I was getting exasperated and exhausted. (The recession didn't help either.) Luckily, I was smart enough to recognize that my small business needed some outside professional help. I told my new business strategy consultant about my social media exploits and achievements and how I felt pretty proud of my thousands of fans and such. Know what his response was?
So what? Really? Doesn't he know how hard I worked to achieve this? Basically, my consultant pointed out how I really had little to show for spending nearly half a standard workday every day on the social networks. But here's why this is a problem:
Conversation Does Not Equal Conversion!
Have I ditched social media as a result? Of course not! It's still bringing traffic and opportunities my way, though I'm no longer falling into a rabbit hole of low productivity and high stress. But it does take a strategy.
Managing and Monitoring Social Media for Business
One of the first things my consultant emphasized is that a business needs to be run by the numbers. Not just any numbers. The right numbers. Those right numbers include such things as profit margins, website traffic and conversion rates, but not follower counts on social media. So I did a thorough analysis of my website traffic. What an enlightening exercise!
I found that very little of my blog traffic was being generated by social media, except for traffic from Twitter. Then traffic from my blog to one of my shopsites was significant. But the problem was that this particular shopsite was not the one generating sales leads. What did this mean? Well, possibly a lot of tire kickers or those simply curious, not serious, were coming from the blog.
The biggest traffic driver on most of my shopsites was coming from organic search (SEO). That's good. But it also meant that my social media frenzy might not be driving sales. When I ask new customers how they found me, they usually respond "through search." Case closed.
How to Manage and Monitor Business Social Media Presence
- Monitor Social Media Traffic to Web Properties. Set up Google Analytics (or other web traffic monitoring system) for each website owned. Don't guess how much traffic is being generated by social media. Know! Today I watch traffic numbers to all my sites every week, with more detailed analysis quarterly and annually. Monitoring frequency necessary will be determined by the nature of the website and business being promoted.
- Don't Worry About Follower Counts. While certainly one needs to encourage people to join a business' "tribe" on social networks, obsessing over follower counts is counterproductive.
- Limit, Schedule and Organize Time on Social Media. Set a time limit that will be spent on social media and schedule when that time will be. For example, I set 30 minutes aside on weekday mornings (no weekends!) to check and post to primary social media feeds. Consider it a standing sales call. Using a social media management system such as HootSuite.com (non-affiliate link) can assist in pre-scheduling posts and tweets, as well as organizing incoming feeds to save time on reading.
- Know What You're "Selling." In some cases, non-sales traffic can still be profitable. For example, if a blog or other site generates advertising revenue, then driving traffic to it from social media is a good thing, regardless of whether the visitors actually buy the company's traditional offerings or not. But know that what's being "sold" is advertising, not invitations to buy products and services.
- Understand the Social Media Time Cost. While setting up accounts on social media is typically free, the cost in terms of time and effort can be HUGE. Try this exercise. Multiply the hourly rate you earn by the amount of time you spend on social media per day. Go ahead try it. Even if you earned only $10 an hour, spending 30 minutes a day only on weekdays would cost you $1,300 per year in labor. Shocked? Small business owners and entrepreneurs need to do this, too! Owners would prorate their annual revenue to get an hourly cost. And if employees are also doing this, imagine how much this can cost an organization!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Heidi Thorne
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on May 09, 2015:
Hi randel9! You got that right! :) Appreciate you stopping by. Have a great weekend!
Raffy from United Kingdom on May 08, 2015:
Likes and trust are not good if it didn't generate any sales. Thanks for that good insight.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 19, 2015:
Hi Shelley! Yep, social media is a constantly changing landscape and it's easy to give up on it. Thanks for reading and chiming in! Happy Weekend!
ShelleyHeath on April 19, 2015:
Awesome hub... you can never stop learning about social media I find and all too often people can just give up on it.
Thanks for sharing... voted up! :D
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 25, 2014:
Oh, Suzanne Day, you've hit it on the head! There is no end to barrage of trash offers on the social networks. It's one of the reasons I spend very little time on Facebook. They've advertised anti-wrinkle, diet programs and so much other stuff I don't need or want, it's distracting and presumptuous (just because I'm over 50 doesn't mean I'm interested in this stuff).
I also really like email marketing. Is it always high conversion? No. But it does generate high awareness. Interestingly, at a networking event, the speaker who I have seen in ages mentioned during his talk that he remembers my emails. What? Wow!
I am all for inbound marketing, whether customers find me via search, through social media or some other way. Sounds like you are, too. Thanks so much for adding your helpful insight to the conversation! Have a great weekend ahead!
Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on April 24, 2014:
Social media does so many different things, but since the general public use social media to converse and relax, it's not a place where people feel like buying or shopping (unless it's a completely viral wacko item!)
People often feel annoyed that they get sold to so much on social media. I think you've found the right strategy with getting qualified organic search traffic, with their hands out, ready to buy (especially if they've typed "buy" into the search engine). In my experience, email marketing is still really good with conversions, though ultimate care must be taken not to spam (or you'll be deleted from their inbox).
Lastly, people always need to ask themselves if they are really offering something that others want. There is no end of idiot business people selling highly priced crap online. Voted useful and great concept for a hub!
FlourishAnyway from USA on April 24, 2014:
Great advice. Time is definitely money. The more time you spend on social media, the less you can spend producing. It's a balancing act.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 24, 2014:
Hi Nell Rose! I had a very similar experience to yours. There is definitely not a direct correlation between results and number of hours on social media. I also spend time here on HP (mostly writing though). But this is another world in my opinion and I have different objectives here. For me, HP is more like regular networking and research, not social media-ing. I've gotten a host of great ideas and feedback from using this platform. I've met so many wonderful people (including you). But even at that, I turn off HP when I need to get work done and in the evenings to preserve my sanity. Thanks for adding your insight to the conversation & have a great day!
Nell Rose from England on April 23, 2014:
Hi, yes I did too go through a period where I was on the computer solidly throughout the day, desperately trying to make money, sell myself if you like, now I realise that there is a world out there, and even though I am on here a lot I do make time for other things. the one thing I did notice is that whether we spend all day on social media or just a couple of hours, the results are the same, we are either successful or not! lol! voted up and shared, nell
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 23, 2014:
Hi purl3agony! I've got a bunch of those social media "overachievers" in my network, too. One even suggested spending 4 hours a day on the social-verse. What? That's half a workday. Yikes! Measuring, monitoring and balancing is critical to making social media an investment instead of an expense. Thanks for your additional insight and support! Have a beautiful day!
Donna Herron from USA on April 23, 2014:
Another great hub - very thoughtful and informative! I have a number of business colleagues who seem obsessed with recruiting followers for their blog and on twitter. And they spend hours signing up on various sites to attract more. But you make an excellent point - if it's not leading to sales, is your time and effort worth it? I agree that blogs and twitter can be important marketing tools, but there needs to be a limit and a balance to how much time is put into it. Voted up and useful!!
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 22, 2014:
Hi AliciaC! Glad you found the tips helpful and thank you so much for sharing. It is critical that business owners and writers get their social media game under control. Appreciate you stopping by. Have a lovely week ahead!
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 22, 2014:
Hi midget38! Glad you found the tips useful. Thanks so much for sharing. Have a lovely week ahead!
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 22, 2014:
This is an excellent hub, Heidi. Your advice is very useful and important for business owners, including people who are writing for profit. Thank you very much for the suggestions, which I will definitely remember. I'll share this hub.
Michelle Liew from Singapore on April 22, 2014:
Sharing. You offer to the point, useful advice, Heidi!
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 21, 2014:
Hi Elizabeth/epbooks! You and me both! I also feel so much more in control of my social media-ing these days. It's not consuming my weekdays and weekends anymore and I have a lot more time to devote to quality content creation (like here on HP). I also spend more quality social media time with only those folks (like you and a bunch of other amazing hubbers) who are positive and enriching. Thanks for starting off your week with me here! Cheers!
Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on April 21, 2014:
Wonderful advice. Like you, I got stuck in a social media loop and I was on it all of the time. I still switch back and forth between sites, but I feel more in control these days, limiting to how often and how much. I have learned to balance it better and am doing my best to stay off on the weekends!! I love your posts and advice. Voting up and sharing!
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 21, 2014:
Happy Monday, billybuc! Thanks for sharing on Facebook since I'm not there very much if at all. As part of my social media "diet," I almost completely abandoned Facebook. The returns I got from it were so minuscule, I couldn't justify participating there in any substantial way. Yet, I have some friends who are doing amazing things there. All depends on the business and its objectives.
And, you're right, there are a lot of business folks (not just writers) who don't get the whole social media investment thing and end up spinning their wheels chatting about the weather, last night's TV, etc. and thinking they're accomplishing something.
Thanks for starting off your week here! Hope it's a great one!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 21, 2014:
Bravo! I'm sharing on Facebook because there are a few writers who just don't get it. :)