What Social Media Sites Should My Business Be On?

Rubiks Cube social mediaWe get this question pretty frequently here at Quintain Marketing. We’ve been advising clients on their social media marketing since early 2009 and I can’t tell you how many times this has been the focus of client meetings. With so many different platforms to consider – and more popping up all the time – I can see why business owners want to know where they should devote their online marketing efforts.

The problem with this question is that it is really the wrong question to be asking. It’s the marketing equivelent of saying “where should I go out to dinner tonight?” Just as you can’t really recommend a restaurant without knowing what kind of food the person would like to eat, it’s impossible to know what social media sites a business should be on without first figuring out who they are targeting and what the message is.

In fact, I would argue that it’s less about what site you are on and more about what it is that you are using social media to accomplish.

Activity versus Objectives

Let me back up here and tell you a story. When we first started using social media to promote Quintain Marketing, it was really an experiment to see what kind of a business impact we could have without spending a cent on advertising. It was early 2009 and the economy had just fallen apart. Our sales were slumping and we had more time on our hands than usual. I happened to attend a conference that winter where I sat through a presentation about social media and I walked out thinking, “this is worth a shot.” I came home from the conference and in less than a month we had changed our static HTML website into a blog-driven site on WordPress, launched a Facebook page and Twitter account, started a YouTube Channel and recommitted ourselves to getting the most out of LinkedIn.

Once everything was set up, we dove in headfirst and just started cranking out the activity on our social media sites. We blogged at least once a week, regularly posted to Facebook, worked hard to build a following on Twitter, and began making what I can only describe as shaky home videos to promote Quintain. The goal initially was just to make our mark socially, and we were measuring success by the number of blog subscribers, Facebook fans (yes, back then they were still “fans” and not yet “likes”), Twitter followers and YouTube subscribers. While our online following began to grow, it never reached the astronomical numbers that some of the social media luminaries I admire have acheived. Regardless, we felt like we were very successful in what we had set out to do and apparently, so did many of our clients and friends because they began asking us to help them with their own social media marketing efforts.

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As we gained experience with our own social media we also had the benefit of insight into what was (and was not) working for our clients on their social media accounts. Many clients saw their online fan base grow through Facebook contests, video interviews, etc. It always feels good to see that your Facebook fans have gone from 100 to 1,000 in 3 months, doesn’t it? While we were able to acheive that kind of growth, it always felt somewhat hollow to pat ourselves on the back because of a metric such as Twitter likes. Soon, we began asking ourselves how we could tie our social media efforts in to clients’ (and our own) business objectives and answer the question “how is my social media marketing impacting the bottom line?”

Why Your Website Should Be Your Online Home Base

This question of measuring social media ROI has always been a tricky one within the marketing world. Can you really say whether a certain customer came to you because of a particular Facebook post or is that win the result of the sum of several different marketing activities?

Regardless, if the point of social media is to help market your business, you’ve got to be able to measure – in some way, shape or form – what impact it is having. What we learned when we set out to find a solution to this challenge changed our business forever.

In essence, the old activity-based social media model that we employed in our early days is really great if what you are trying to do is “check the box” and say you’ve got a social media presence (you’d be amazed at how many companies really do see this as the objective). But if you want to measure ROI, you’ve got to find a way of tracking whether the people you are engaging with on social media are turning into leads and, eventually, customers.

All social media sites limit the kind of analytical data you can pull from them. Facebook and LinkedIn both have “Insights”. Twitter and YouTube have “Analytics”. In each case, the data is helpful and can give you plenty of insight into your demographics and the level of engagement you are acheiving. What they can’t do is provide you the name and email address of the people you’re interacting with, or tell you whether that Facebook like has translated into a sale for you.

This is why its so important to use social media as a tool for driving people back to your website. Not only is your website the only place online where you have 100% control over how your brand is portrayed, it is also the place where you can gather the greatest degree of information about your audience. If you can get your social media fans and followers to visit your website and fill out a form, then you can learn more about them AND continue to market to them across a range of platforms.

How to Get Social Media Leads to Your Website?

If the objective is to get those social media contacts to visit your website and fill out a form, then the question becomes how to get them to make that leap? What we’ve discovered after 4 years of much experimentation is that content is the secret to online marketing success. By content, I mean helpful, educational information that answers people’s questions and teaches them something new – not sales literature or a pitch.

We’ve been practicing what we preach here for a little over a year, so you’ll find that our website and social media are pretty good examples of how you can use inbound marketing (often referred to as content marketing) to convert social media contacts into business leads and, ultimately, customers. We’ve published a ton of educational content ranging from ebooks on social media, to templates for setting up a LinkedIn company page and checklists for getting started on Google+ and Instagram. One we publish these things, we post about them to our social media accounts and offer anyone who wants them free copies of our stuff. All we ask for in exchange is that you fill out a form and give us a little information about yourself.

This strategy has paid off, and our website now gets about 4,000 visitors a year from social media, with 2.9% of them (or about 120 people) converting into leads. Not bad, right? Especially for a company that still, to this day, has never spent a cent on advertising!

Social media sources

Back to the Question At Hand

So back to the initial question about what social media sites your business should be on. My new answer is that I don’t care so much about what sites you are on as I do about what content you are using those sites to promote. If you’ve got great content, you’ll be able to drive traffic and leads. A great example of this is our own experience with social media. LinkedIn, as you might expect, drives the bulk of the social media traffic and leads to our site. It is a virtual powerhouse of lead generation due in large part to our postings to LinkedIn groups. But this is what I would expect given that we are promoting marketing services to LinkedIn’s largely professional audience.

What is more suprising than our results from Linked is the number of leads we’ve generated from Twitter. One of the most misunderstood social networks, Twitter forces users to condense their message into a very short 140 characters and the result is a firehose of information to weed through. Like many of you, I was skeptical that Twitter would work for my business (even though I LOVE it for personal reasons). But when I saw the data, I was pretty surprised to discover that Twitter was driving a respectable amount of traffic to our site and more than 2% of those visitors were converting into leads!

Twitter results

Remember, the point here is to convert visitors into leads. If I was just looking at my website visitor traffic, I would think that Pinterest was worth a lot more of my attention. But while it drove almost 1,000 visitors to my site this year, less than 0.5% of them converted into leads. Compare this to the 2.2% conversion rate of Twitter and you can see why its that conversion rate that is critical. Pinterest leads don’t convert as well for us because Pinterest as a platform is all about imagery and our content is not image heavy. Twitter and LinkedIn, on the other hand, do quite nicely for us.

The truth is that our presence on social media works for us because we are posting great content. If all we did was post memes or inspiring quotes or pretty pictures, we might build a following but we would never get leads. Without leads, you can’t measure your impact in a way that is meaningful to your business objectives.

What is the Takeaway?

Don’t get caught up in the social media hype and stop worrying about whether you are on the right platforms. DO start asking yourself how you are going to get your social media contacts to come to your website and give you their contact information. What willl you offer them in exchange for their name and email address? Anyone who advises you that you just have to get online and start posting is missing the boat.

Great educational content is a fantastic marketing asset that can change the way you use social media and help you measure your ROI. What has your experience been with social media? How do you measure ROI? Share your feedback in the comments below and let me know which social media strategies have really worked for your business!

Image credit: bloomua / 123RF Stock Photo

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