So, have you dared ask the question – "Is social media worth it?" yet? It's something I increasingly ask myself. Controversial I know, for an agency that manages 60% of its clients' social media channels.
Initial concerns around social media centred on resource and content, with companies hesitant to ‘jump in' only to realise they didn't have the time or the substance to keep going. However, over time, we've all proven that with the right mix of original and evergreen content and regular signposting, any social media feed can be kept up-to-date and interesting.
Now the spotlight has shifted – to whether it's actually worth the investment after all. As someone who has worked in PR for almost 20 years, I find the comparative intensity at which social media is analysed on all levels (particularly MD level!) fascinating, particularly when compared to the attention that is given to other marcomms activities, which will commonly account for significantly more of the annual budget.
And the general feeling is… we're all a little disappointed, and for that, I blame the utopia that is ‘engagement'. This ideal – peddled by some - that we were going to have valuable conversations with our target audience and reap the rewards.
Let's be frank – taking a sample of 250 building products brands on Twitter, the average number of followers is 2,100 and across the industry, engagement levels remain relatively low. Sure, there are some great examples of engagement – but dig deeper and you'll find it's most often brands that had a ready-made ‘community' through preferred installer schemes, e-commerce or direct contact i.e. merchants – that they've successfully transferred across. For many brands, there is no such opportunity.
Engaging in conversation also costs money – with little ROI. Realistically, I'd suggest a brand would have to demonstrate true examples of engagement and advocacy across hundreds, if not thousands of their target audience for their managing director to really take note – and we are far, far off this.
So, why do I still think providing social media services to my clients is a good idea..?
Because social media advertising came along – and it's a game changer.
At CIB, our social media strategies look to deliver across three key areas – OTS, lead generation and engagement: And for me – at this moment in time – the most valuable of these is lead generation [cue uproar from the social media evangelists!]
It's a pragmatic view, based on understanding that my clients need to justify their investment.
Will engagement levels increase organically over time? Who knows – it would seem a reasonable conclusion to make as more of the ‘social' generation enter the workforce. In the meantime, how do we make it work hard in the here and now?
By putting social media advertising into the mix; to communicate specific calls to action, to the right people - and measure the response for a reportable ROI. It's about getting your target audience to do what you want them to do. Whether that's visiting a web page, registering for training, downloading a brochure or watching a video – that's what I would call valuable engagement.
By adding advertising into the mix, you can achieve a more rounded social media campaign that continues to work on the basis of good quality content and engagement where possible – but that also achieves monetised ROI.
That way, you can demonstrate that social media is worth it – and provide the numbers behind the why.