4149199725_4874a27616_zHow many times have you been told how difficult (if not impossible) it is to find a positive Return on Investment (ROI) with social media marketing? It’s a tale almost as old as social media itself.

But social media shouldn’t be viewed as a treasure hunt clouded by mystery and fraught with peril. The fact is, you don’t need a detailed map to find buried treasure in your social media activity. I see opportunities everywhere in the social landscape and most of them are hidden in plain sight. Locating social media ROI can often result from simply fine tuning existing business strategies which, with a little effort and right technology in place, should be a fairly easy process.

If you are struggling to find ROI from your social media marketing efforts here are six places I suggest you look first:

  1. Customer Acquisition: Social media provides an amazing opportunity to generate new business leads. These could come from an individual posing a question via a social media platform (such as: Can anyone recommend a good accountant in London?) or perhaps an existing client sharing a piece of content or general insight with their wider social network. Having the technology in place to monitor these conversations via the social web will make it easier to find these potentially profitable engagements and track revenues generated from them.
  2. Customer Retention: As anyone who has been in business for any length of time will tell you, it’s much easier to make money from an existing client than to win a new one. Social media will help you retain profitable relationships by helping you understand how your clients feel about your brand, your product and your services and can help flag up problems before they become threats. Remember, a problem can become an opportunity if it is identified quickly and handled in the right way.
  3. Customer Services: A vital component of any acquisition or retention strategy (see points #1 and #2). Social media is increasingly becoming a channel of choice for clients and potential clients to contact your organization. The public nature of social media communications mean that any contact via social media should be monitored and followed up accordingly. The best place to do this is through your existing contact centers where trained and experienced staff can efficiently handle inquiries and complaints, as well as monitoring and processing more general communications.
  4. Public Relations: In recent years, social media has significantly disrupted the PR landscape. Journalists no longer have the monopoly over how news is disseminated. Organizations (and even individuals) with large social media followings can potentially yield the kind of influence only once afforded to major news networks. PR has traditionally been another area where it is difficult (but not impossible) to track ROI. If you see value in investing in any form of PR, social media should be seen as a vital component of that strategy.
  5. Email Marketing: Social media was once seen as a major threat to the email marketing industry but is now more likely to be seen as a profitable bedfellow. Socializing your email content has the potential the increase the reach and effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns, essentially turning a traditional retention marketing channel into an extremely low cost acquisition marketing channel.
  6. Competitive Analysis: Sometimes the biggest opportunities happen when a competitor drops the ball and makes a mistake or comes up with an idea which you can exploit. Monitoring your competitors social media activity will not only help you understand how the market feels about your industry in genera,l it could influence new revenue generating ideas.

The moral of this story is that social media ROI is not part of some elaborate tale where the lines between reality and fantasy have been blurred by mystery and rumor. Social media should be an integral part of your organization’s revenue protection and growth strategies. The ROI is there, and the chances are you won’t have to look too far to find it.

This post first appeared on the Viralheat blog.

Photo credit: Scott Howard