One of the most common reason stated by small businesses for not embracing social networking is that they can’t measure or, worse yet, don’t believe there is any solid return on the investment of participation. I get emails almost daily from frustrated marketers who want to dive more fully into social networking, but can’t convince the boss that it’s worth it.
My response to the ROI roadblock is this – How does your boss measure the ROI of attending Chamber mixers, participating in Associations, and dropping in on networking luncheons? Done correctly, social networking on sites like Facebook is really no different – you don’t measure participation based on direct sales, you measure success based on identifying one potential strategic partner, acquiring one actionable bit of advice, or striking up a conversation or two that may eventually lead to developing a new customer. That kind of sounds like a set of solid networking objectives doesn’t it?
Of course this line of thinking assumes that you have identified a set of objectives for your offline networking, which often is not the case. But, the primary point here is to align digital networking with face to face networking and then create a set of objectives and subsequent strategies and tactics to get the most from both. But, job one is to wrap your head around social networking as, just that, networking.
Now, with job one out of the way, you’ve also got to tackle something I alluded to earlier – “done correctly, social networking on sites like Facebook is really no different” – this is where the boss is really coming from when they say there’s no ROI. So many people see social networking as a 24/7, hang out all day excuse for a job – and it can easily become that if you don’t identify and state objectives. You could also quite easily hang out at every at every networking event or meetup, join unrelated trade groups, and sponsor the local knitting club. (which would only be good if you sell yarn)
By identifying and clearly stating your objectives for social network participation (objectives not unlike those of participating in your local Chamber) you can more easily identify the networks that make sense, the type of engagement you need to create, and, most importantly, how much time and energy you can afford to invest to reach your objectives.
When you think strategically about all forms of networking the ROI picture becomes much clearer.
Image credit: AurelioZen