by helen on March 14, 2011

The social media bandwagon is gathering pace – but there are still plenty of business owners and company directors who remain unconvinced that the ticket price is worth the ride. After all, information about the destination is vague – is it really a place where the streets are paved with gold and everyone can make their fortune?

In an attempt to help you make an informed decision, here’s my take on what you really need to know before you join the queue at the ticket office. These “Top 10 Questions” come courtesy of Social Media Examiner’s infographic showing how marketers used social media last year. It’s a bit dated now, but I think the questions (and hopefully my answers) are still relevant.

I’ll be posting two answers every day this week – so stick with me until Friday for the full countdown.

How do I measure social media return on investment?

From a business owner’s perspective, establishing a presence and engaging with the people that matter via social media could be considered more cost-effective than other marketing tools – depending on the size of the organisation and the in-house skills pool. There are no hefty overheads (as with a website, newsletter, email campaign, brochure or magazine advert) and careful planning and a focused objective will ensure social media networking doesn’t become a time drain. So that’s the investment side.

What of ROI? How an organisation already measures marketing ROI should be examined – are there systems and processes already in place that could be adapted to incorporate social media? No? Hmmm. What does that tell a marketer?

Analysing the impact of your social media activity is made very easy by the platforms themselves: Facebook provides free insights into activity and interaction on your page; Google Analytics can be installed on your website for free to provide a host of reports into where visitors are staying the longest, where they are coming from (did they click on a link in a tweet or on Google); dashboards like Hootsuite now provide analytics in easily prepared and easily shared reports; Linkedin provides information about how many people have looked at your profile and insights on the new company pages – and all of these are free (at the most basic level).

The challenge is to interpret the information about social media activity and relate it to your sales activity. The analytics will tell you what people like in terms of the content you provide, but it won’t tell you whether or not you influenced them enough to buy your product or service. But then, neither would distributing a press release or sending out a newsletter – unless you monitor sales activity too.

[NB Yorkshire Mafia members: I have asked this question to one of Freeserve’s founders Rob Wilmot, who is presenting at the inaugural conference in Leeds on Tuesday 15 March. If he answers, I will update this post with his comments.]

What are the social media marketing best practices?

I think this is pretty straightforward. If you wouldn’t do it face to face in the real world, don’t do it using social media. Just because the medium is new, doesn’t mean the behaviour has to be. If you need more advice, Gini Dietrich’s Social media pet peeves is a great starting point.

Hope that was helpful, and if it was, see you tomorrow for the next two answers :)

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