Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Is Social Media Right For Your Small Business?

Everyone from pre-teens to granddads, does social media today. With Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and many newer ways to stay in the know popping up every day, picking the right platform can be a difficult task. While the personal value of this modern convenience seems obvious to most, the task of proving the channel’s worth to a business can be very challenging.

With this said up front, many larger companies have taken the plunge anyway. According to a recent eMarketer survey, 88 percent of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees that were surveyed are using social media for marketing purposes. This figure is actually expected to rise slightly to 89.5 percent in 2016. Dell has been a leader in the use of social media for business and recognizes that it has value for more than improved brand awareness. This large global corporation has become especially adept with social media, learning how to meaningfully increase business sales and revenue.

A similar survey of 350 small businesses done by the research firm Clutch, however, found that nearly half of those organizations don’t actively use social media to promote their businesses and 25 percent say they have no plans to do so in the future. Do these numbers represent a business “social media gap”? Are small businesses missing the boat?

Strategize, then analyze the numbers

As a small business owner myself, this question is more than just academic. When I founded GovCloud Network over a year and a half ago, using social media for marketing and opportunity identification was one of my strategic planks. In my simplistic view, we would use Twitter to advertise new content posted on the company’s blog, Cloud Musings. The expertise and knowledge demonstrated by thought-leadership pieces would, in turn, drive our targeted customer segment straight to the company website.

After reading this study though, I began to second guess both the money and time investments. So
prior to finalizing next quarter’s budget, I decided that an objective and quantifiable evaluation of our social media program’s ROI was needed.

The good news was that because social media was in the plan from the very beginning, we already had site visit data from the initial launch of all our sites. The bad news was that, being a startup, we couldn’t afford any fancy customized social media tracking service. We could only use what was freely provided by Google Analytics and Twitter. Luckily those tools are very good, and we were able to pull robust data sets from two three-month periods, August-October 2014 and March-May 2015. That data enabled us to measure Twitter engagement rate and the number of company blog and website users.
Social Media Engagement Model

The engagement rate measures all clicks on a tweet, including retweets, replies, favorites, follows and link click-throughs. It is also used as a measure of how well a tweet resonates with its audience. By defining visitor segment characteristics in Google Analytics, we were also able to quantify how many users were members of specific market segments. The segments we selected corresponded to specific GovCloud Network business lines.

With this data and the use of relative percent difference as a comparative measure, the results were
stunning! Except for a reduction in the overall number of pages per session at the company website, our documented increase in Twitter engagements drove increases in the number of blog and company website users. This trend was also seen across all of our customer segments

Give social media a try

Does this mean that social media is right for your small business? No, it doesn’t, but it does show how a small business can monitor, quantify and analyze the ROI of a social media strategy. My best advice is to not ignore the value that social media can bring. Using these services strategically does take an investment in time and sometimes even a little money, but the value could be significant. Have an open mind, plan a pilot, give it a little time, and don’t forget to do the numbers.

Social Media Engagement Results

(This post was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. To learn more about tech news and analysis visit PowerMore. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies)

Cloud Musings
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