How Much Money Are You Making with Social Media?

I know, I know, making money is not the point of social media. But the fact is, every marketing-savvy company measures their marketing efforts. Ultimately, each effort must make a positive impact on the bottom line, or it will eventually get the axe.

I strongly suspect that conversion measurement will become a big part of social media, but we are not yet there. I posed this question on twitter, on which I have several well-known social media expert followers, and not one person responded. I asked, “Who can tell me how you are tracking social media to sales revenue?” twitter silence followed.

I had the following conversation with a friend recently:

“I feel like I have to add social media to some of my clients’ marketing plans,” I told him, “Yet I can’t quantify it. There is no way for me to say, ‘Social media can increase your sales by XX%’ because I honestly have never met anyone who made money with social media.”

My friend was quick to reply with, “I’ve made money with my blog.”

“Oh? How did you do that?” I asked.

“Well, I have advertising on my blog,” he said.

“So you made money with advertising. Social media was just a medium, much like a magazine.” I replied.

“The advertising was on the blog though.”

“Ok, but without the advertising, the blog would just be a blog. You wouldn’t have made any money. It’s just like a magazine. Without the ads, most magazines would lose money. The advertising sales pay for the production. Are you selling anything on your blog?”

“No. Maybe I should.”

“What would you sell?” I asked.

“Um, I don’t know. I don’t really want to sell stuff.”

There’s nothing wrong with making money from the ads on a blog, but that’s not the point here. Social media is a great addition to a marketing plan, but it’s not the cornerstone of it unless you make sales specifically from engaging in social media. Again, though, this is not the point. So what is the point? Companies have to justify their marketing efforts, and it’s currently very hard to do that when it comes to social media.

With nearly any other form of marketing, including websites, identity design, branding, advertising and direct mail, we can track response and resulting sales, or at the very least, increases in sales. I can objectively provide clients with realistic expectations for how their company might benefit from traditional branding and advertising efforts. With social media, I simply cannot do that.

On the one hand, I feel an obligation to help clients get involved with social media, to open up the dialog between the company and the customer, but on the other hand, it sends us back to the dark ages of advertising when nobody tracked results. When people start tracking their efforts in earnest, I’ll bet they will see some great numbers.

Social media is really something that should be handled by a different department entirely. Task editorial with it, or research, or better yet, sales people. Sales people have the most to gain from social media interaction. They are uniquely qualified to lend a unique, genuine personal voice to a corporate message in a way that can directly influence the sale at hand, and they are likely to get to know their customers much better than they ever could from focus group research, where responses are almost guaranteed to be totally off the mark. The trick for them will be in understanding that they cannot sound at all like they are selling while engaging in social media. That’s a tough sell to a good salesperson! Teach the sales team about the company’s brand, and once they have a deep understanding of it, give each sales person a social media plan to be integrated into their overall sales regimen. Regular meetings betwixt sales and marketing would help too. Then we could measure the results of their efforts.

How are you measuring your investment of time in social media?

Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.


Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.

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