Getting results in social media: it’s not always about the numbers

I know, I know, yesterday I just posted about a study that was documenting how social media was working for small businesses. So why today am I saying “it’s not always about the numbers?”

Over at Jay Baer’s excellent Convince and Convert blog there’s a guest post by Matt Ridings. Ridings is talking about bigger-than-small-business clients of course, so he’s talking about the fixation on “ROI” — which means Return On Investment.

Bigger companies like to quantify their investment in social media and attach a dollar volume to new business they get through it. Which is totally doable. But Ridings says don’t get fixated on the ROI. It is just the nature of social media that quantifying its effect on a business is difficult.

I’ll give a perfect example. For one of my clients, I pushed hard on Twitter a special offer for a day or two. So I called him up to see if he had any takers. The answer — yes. But they all came over the phone, and he never asked them how they found out about the offer. It originated on his blog, of course, but who knows if someone found that offer via Twitter? He didn’t ask. Which is OK — it’s not his job to spend time on that. His job is sales.

Was there data to show high interest in his offer on Twitter? You bet. But who knows even if he’d asked the people who called if they found the offer on Twitter if they could correctly answer the question.

Ridings makes a great point too: that focusing on “ROI” is often just an excuse — to continue to “hide” from the public and customers. I think that’s about right. But it shadows a point I made yesterday: so many small businesses are now using social media that NOT using it is putting your business further behind the competition. I suspect a lot of the late adopters are fearful — and hiding from public view because of fears over being open and accessible.

Fair enough. Just don’t kid yourself that your business will look any better as more of your competitors get on the bandwagon.

Report: Two-thirds of small businesses using social media getting results

eMarketer reports on a new study of how small businesses are using social media and finds that the number has “plateaued” at about 24%. But the real interesting news is that of those who do social media marketing, two-thirds are getting results.

What kind of results? Mainly in loyalty and engagement – in other words, they are building better connections with existing customers. Getting new customers, however, is a little harder to accomplish (53% say that’s working for them).

Facebook and LinkedIn are the two main platforms for small businesses, with Twitter following. Sales leads from Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, however, are not that far apart. Success is reported on Facebook at 42%, LinkedIn at 35%, and Twitter at 35%.

The number complaining that it takes more time than they’d expected has dropped over time. This is to be expected – the more you use social media, the better/more efficient you’ll get at it. Also, the more-experienced seem to outsource social media work, to some extent. I recently heard of a New York bar that outsources its social media efforts to India. Not something I’d recommend, but interesting nonetheless.

Summing up: This is all good news actually. Social media keeps you connected and engaged with customers — and if you are NOT using social media, your business is missing that “loyalty” edge. Sure, getting new customers isn’t easy, but about half are reporting success in that. I’m willing to bet the half that succeed in getting new customers are doing a lot more than theĀ other half.

Why isn’t Twitter trying ads that work?

When the “new Twitter” was unveiled last week I noted that it certainly seemed like Twitter’s redesign had ads in mind in that conspicuously large right hand space.

I wasn’t alone in that observation – eMarketer noted in a good article last Friday summing up Twitter’s ad-relate moves that the right-hand column looks ripe for ad placement. They also noted that if Twitter algorithms are already recommending “who to follow” … it’s a short step to matching an ad with a topic of interest (theoretically, yeah, I agree). Also, the eMarketer piece notes that real-time advertising is likely — meaning Twitter is moving to pairing real-time activity with ads.

Frankly that’s the holy grail for Twitter, and why oh why they have not figured out how to monetize matching ads to trending topics (or any topic) is beyond me. Sure, until now their structure has limited ad space — but those structural issues (the size of ad space boxes) should be gone now.

But here’s what really puzzles me. Why doesn’t Twitter consider Facebook-like ads? Most people are not aware how much money Facebook rakes in from their tiny little ad space on their right-hand column. It’s around $1.5 billion annually. Why? Because they are so easy to create. Facebook’s ads are actually modeled on Google AdWords — you can self-create your own ads with headline, text and link (and image). Users can post and measure results by themselves. Simple, efficient, and for some, effective.

Why, oh, why, is there no buzz about Twitter trying THIS ad model which makes a huge amount of money for Facebook and Google?