The Social Media ROI Experiment

kelly shibari facebook failOne of the most common questions I get when speaking to potential clients about managing their social media marketing campaign is “How do I measure my ROI?

I have to then try to explain to them that social media marketing is not a dollars-in, dollars-out equation. It’s not that simple. Social media is about visibility. It’s about how many people find you interesting enough to check out. It’s about how many people think you’re interesting enough to talk to you, visit your site, and contemplate purchasing whatever is there.

It’s about branding.

Branding isn’t simple. It’s an ongoing process – good press, bad press, good reviews, bad reviews, scandal, drama, endorsements – it morphs from day to day. Maintaining it is a full-time job if you intend to market your product, your brand, and in essence, you, online.

If you just want to have a simple mom-and-pop storefront and only appeal to the local neighborhood, that’s all fine and dandy, but you know how gossip and rumors are in a small locality (watching any reality show can show you that). Now multiply that exponentially and you’ve got the world of trying to stake your claim online. Once you’ve worked hard at establishing yourself as a reputable company/business/manufacturer/individual, you then need to continue working on your brand. You have to keep an eye on what people are saying about you, good and bad, and plan your next steps strategically.

I recently helped a dear friend of mine who has been close to me for years with his project. He’s an “old-guard” photographer – doesn’t do the internet except to check email, doesn’t even own a digital camera. I (and many others) consider him a true artist. I often liken his work to that of Diane Arbus – beautiful, evocative, and begs you to keep looking deeper into the image.

So here’s this person, with a limited understanding of social media. He was working with a publisher who had put the merchandise on the company site but it wasn’t SEO’d, and there was very little presence of him on the Web. To those that know him and his work, he has a very steady and loyal following – but I knew we could take him to a more publicly visible place.

After two weeks of proper social media marketing, this is what happened:

kelly shibari social media stats

What the stats above don’t show is that the increase happened in less than two weeks. My first blog post for him was on August 18, 2009. Increased visibility translated for him into two additional sales and several inquiries of a product that is priced high – a collector’s item with limited availability. Two additional sales in a week and a half may not seem like much, but we’re talking about a product that ranges from $1000 to $3000. Selling even one in this economy would be tough, and near impossible given his limited visibility online. By increasing his reach and the ability for more people to not only see him online, but also interact with him, he raised the public’s brand awareness of him and his product, and that resulted in additional sales.

The thing, though, is that social media marketing can’t be something that you just do on a part-time basis. It can’t be an afterthought or something you hire an intern to do. It requires having someone manage your brand in the online community on a steady, regular basis so they can make adjustments as the marketing plan evolves. It’s organic, ever-changing, and amoebic. Thinking it’s just a static place to just place another ad will result in a failed marketing attempt – and wasted time and energy.

So, if you’re wondering about the ROI for properly implemented social media…hope this helps put a more concrete picture in your mind as to how it can work for you.

PS. If you’re interested, the photographer is Charles Gatewood. Please check him out!
Charles’ Twitter
Charles’ Blog
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