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Social Network : ROE vs. ROI: Part I

The case for socializing your business.

January 2012 By Sarah Fleishman, Manager, Marketing & Social Media, Access Networks

During the last few years social networking has quickly transformed from niche to mainstream. It is clear that social media is here to stay and stands to impact our marketing strategies forever. If you have embraced social marketing in your business you might have hired a consultant, read a few social-marketing books, or talked to your 15-year-old niece about proper online lingo. Now what?

If you have yet to take the plunge, you are certainly asking yourself 'Why do I need a social media strategy?' One of the biggest challenges to getting your business started with social media is figuring out what to do first. With numerous websites dedicated to content-sharing, it is often difficult to not only know where to start, but where and when to stop. Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Do I hire a full time social media manager? Should I allocate social media duties to my existing marketing department? Do I take on the challenge myself?

Whatever your approach, it is important to remember that social media is only one part of your overall marketing strategy. While simply having a presence is important, it is even more important to take the right steps to ensure that your business benefits from all the resources that social networking has to offer.

Educate your Social Media Strategist

Unlike traditional marketing, social media is not only about self-promotion. It is equally about answering questions, having conversations, and facilitating authentic interactions. It is nearly impossible to do this without a social media strategy that is managed by someone who can truly represent your brand. Therefore, if you do hire a dedicated social media manager it is, first and foremost, imperative to educate them about all aspects of your company. What is your overall marketing strategy? What is your company's brand all about? Who are your clients? How do they find you?

As a social media strategist at Access Networks, I have found that one of the most important tools for effective online communication is truly knowing our company from the inside out. This means not only understanding our brand, our overall marketing strategy, our clientele and our solution, but also knowing what we do in the field and how our solution complements, impacts and enriches others in the industry. What this means for me is a continuing education about all things Access Networks, including project walks, product demos, attending industry events and a commitment to discuss, shift and adjust our strategy as the industry evolves.

Remember that the person in charge of your social media strategy has direct, communication with the outside world and will help to shape the public image of your brand. The more knowledge you entrust to that person, the more successful your campaign will be.

Like your sales staff, social media marketers publicly represent your brand, which means they must always respond to questions quickly and accurately, and be able to engage with industry peers and followers on an authentic and personal level. When you provide your social media strategist with this high level of education and understanding, your business will shift from merely having a social media presence to becoming a social force in the industry.

ROE then ROI

One popular argument against social media is that there exists no concrete way to determine its direct return on investment (ROI). While ROI is absolutely the driving force of any business' marketing activities, I would argue that social networking efforts should focus on gaining ROI by strengthening return on engagement (ROE). The beauty of social media is that it gives users a place to listen and be heard, to converse and to share ideas. A digital town hall, if you will. It also uniquely presents a marketing landscape where positive ROE often leads to ROI, but rarely the other way around.

While it is true that your tweets, blog posts, YouTube videos and Facebook messages have the ability to reach thousands of potential leads each day, it is simply unrealistic to expect each person you reach to become that day's new sale. Therefore, a successful social media campaign focuses not on generating sales per se, but instead on spreading goodwill, providing valuable information to other users, and making friends. Unlike traditional marketing mediums, the immediacy of social networking platforms offer your company a chance to show people who you are and what makes your business unique, aside from the products you sell or the services you offer. The goal of a properly executed strategy is that when a follower does need the product or service you provide, they will think of you first.

This begs the question, 'How does one measure ROE?' Today, there are a growing number of ways to measure ROE. Google Analytics, Facebook brand pages and third-party social media clients such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are some examples. Each of these have features that allow you to see how many people have viewed your content, where they are located, and how long they stayed on your site. You can also measure ROE by noting how many users reply or comment on your posts or if new clients mention your recent tweet. We will discuss this more fully in the February issue of CustomRetailer. CR


Sarah Fleishman holds a degree in Sociology with a focus on social media marketing from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently the Marketing Manager at Access Networks, a leading provider of advanced, enterprise-grade plug-and-play networking solutions for the automated residence.


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