What Is the TRUE Value of Social Media, and Are You Finding It?

If you’re a business person, you’ve probably been pitched “social media,” and if you’re an agency, you’ve probably done the pitching. Maybe you’ve been madly tweeting and posting updates to a Facebook Page. Perhaps, you have an active company blog. There’s a lot being done and a lot being said in regards to social media, but why it matters isn’t always clear. Forrester recently posted a study related to this, and it got me thinking.

Businesses have found social media to be yet another avenue for distributing coupons and deals while driving consumers to participate in contests and promotions. All of that is fine, but when that's the core of a social media strategy, it completely misses the true value of social media.

Looking at revenue is key for any business, and coupons, promotions and other quick metrics are easy to see and compare to traditional media. But when analyzing social media efforts, immediate revenue isn’t all that matters. Ultimately, investing in social media is investing in a brand’s long-term value, which leads to revenue down the line.

Risk Management

One example of this is risk management. Look no further than Toyota, Domino’s and BP to find brands that were caught off guard by unforeseen issues. Each of them took a hit, and neither had invested in social media. Having an established presence in the social media space and a plan to interact, respond and provide your side of the story is key for any businesses. Problems have a way of happening without asking you first, so being prepared by already being involved is true investment in risk management.

Be Where Your Customers Are

Computers, smart phones, video game consoles and other gadgets are taking up more of consumers’ attention than ever before, and this will only continue to grow. Many consumers live online, and social media is taking up a good chunk of the time spent there. The average person spends more than 6 hours per month on Facebook. The point is that consumers are already engaged with social media, and if they’re interested in it, you should be too. This is an investment in your brand’s relevance and availability.

Communicate in a New Way

People respond differently to different types of communication, and social media enables your brand to interact on an entirely unique level. You can be responsive, personal and more than a corporation. You can be a brand with a personality that is approachable, which builds credibility and positive sentiment. Engaging with consumers through social media is starting to become expected by consumers. Building your presence now and starting to engage is an investment in your brand's long-term marketing strategy.

Financial Gains

I wouldn’t be recommending social media if it didn’t have the potential to bring in revenue. Looking at coupon redemptions, online sales, in-store sales and products sold should be part of any social media strategy because, ultimately, investing in social media is an investment to drive revenue today and tomorrow.

Look Beyond Dollars and Cents

Money matters, and it should be a significant factor when weighing any business decision. However, when looking at the value of social media and what it can do for your business, it should be weighed with the other factors of risk management, being where your consumers are and communicating in a strategic way that builds the brand. Your social media strategy should be doing all four of those things in one way or another. If it isn’t, it’s time to optimize and discover the true value that social media brings.