Does Social Media Need an ROI?

I read an interesting post on SEOmoz last week about the “elephant in the room” at Pubcon social media sessions, the dreaded ROI word.  You can read it here.  In it Dr. Pete discussed how companies can find their metric for social media marketing and relate it back to money into their business, producing the ROI on the activity.

Whilst I agree, the measurability of online marketing, social media included, means you should be tracking all online revenues back to source, and analysing profitability, I think a large proportion of social media elements fall outside of the ROI driven channels.  Social media by its very nature is about communication, collaboration, and engagement and this should be the starting point of any social media strategy.  Profit and revenues may follow, but too much focus on ROI will make social media look poor in comparison to other true “advertising” media and will have people missing the point.

A lot of social media activity comes under the banner of customer engagement, networking or customer services.  Engaging people on twitter and Facebook, communicating to customers via a corporate blog, creating business connections through social networks.  Most of these things will not have a directly attributable ROI but that doesn’t mean they are not of value.  After all, does you local supermarket place an ROI on the greeter they have instore, or the customer help desk? No, they are there to try and ensure people a pleasant “user” experience and many online social channels should be used in the same way.

Use social media to engage, understand, and build relationships, if you achieve this then the profits come naturally.

5382 Words to Describe 140 Characters

True to form the government has encased microblogging in red tape by producing a 5382 word, 20 page guide to its best usage for government agencies.  The document, which would take 259 separate tweets if distributing using twitter, was produced by the department of business’ head of corporate digital channels, and even he is said to have admitted it might be “a bit over the top”!

I cant quite imagine what the document says but Im sure it is a thrilling read!  According the the Guardian online its recommendations include:

“• Human: He warns that Twitter users can be hostile to the “over-use of automation” – such as RSS feeds – and to the regurgitation of press release headlines: “While corporate in message, the tone of our Twitter channel must therefore be informal spoken English, human-edited and for the most part written/paraphrased for the channel.”

• Frequent: a minimum of two and maximum of 10 tweets per working day, with a minimum gap of 30 minutes between tweets to avoid flooding followers’ Twitter streams. (Not counting @replies or live coverage of a crisis/event.) Downing Street spends 20 minutes on its Twitter stream with two-three tweets a day plus a few replies, five-six tweets a day in total.

• Timely: in keeping with the “zeitgeist” feel of Twitter, official tweets should be about issues of relevance today or events coming soon.

• Credible: while tweets may occasionally be “fun”, their relationship to departmental objectives must be defensible.”

<sarcasm>Wow, groundbreaking stuff.</sarcasm>

I suppose if nothing else it shows that the government recognises Twitter’s uses and if the oldest and most traditional of establishments can do so, then it bodes well for the future of the micro-blogging platform.  Much has been said about the take up of Twitter by businesses, and more and more agencies are queueing up to advise companies on how to engage users.

Is this a big day for Twitter? The British government registering them as a respected and worthwhile communication channel, or is it just somebody trying to justify their job title, salary, and dare I say it expenses!  You decide.

Twitter Tries to Educate Businesses

As part of a redesign of their homepage, and in an obvious attempt to drive continued growth in the micro-blogging platform, Twitter has turned educational in their approach to driving new sign ups. Twitter will unveil its new homepage next week and according to all things D “People arriving at the new main homepage will be greeted by a search box, information on Twitter trends and a panoply of more specific information about how they can use Twitter.”

In explaining the reasons behind the redesign Biz Stone said the current page is essentially confusing to the masses of people who come to it, made aware of the microblogging service by the massive media hype it has received over the last year.

(with the new page)“You can try it out without having to sign up, so you can get an idea of what Twitter is before you use it,” said Stone. “We need to do a better job of explaining ourselves to people who hear about us and then have no idea what do to.”

And Twitter has gone further with their attempts to woo businesses into signing up for an account with a full educational piece on Twitter 101 with full details of how buseinsses can utilise its service to serve their customers, get feedback, promote offers, and all the other useful things social media professionals have known for a while.  Even going as far as providing case studies of companies who have used Twitter to good effect, blatant self promotion and a clear attempt to dirve business take up.

I dont mean to sound negative about these attempts, I actually believe they are a good move.  The current homepage is pretty dire and non descriptive and they have relied ont he buzz to get them to where they are, they are obviously reacting to a plateuax in users and the need to adapt as the early adopters drop off.

More news to follow on launch but for now check out the business guide at Twitter 101 to see for yourselves. Twitter 101

twitter for businesses

Would You Pay for a Voice?

There has been a lot of speculation in the world of social media about how twitter plan to monetise their huge user base.  It is a big decision for twitter as if they get it wrong, it could all come tumbling down overnight.  Bombard users with adverts, and you will put them off, decide you are going to charge for accounts, and they could all walk away.  The owners themselves have stated an intention to utilise paid corporate accounts rather than advertising, but that in itself surely wont bring a return on the investment they have received.

But the Social Media Insider this week made a good point in its bulletin this week suggesting that paying for elements of social media, or giving members the option to pay, may not be so much of a crazy idea by asking the question “How Much Would a Protester in Iran Pay to Have a Twitter or Facebook Account?”  The political situation and media black out in Iran has once again thrown twitter into the limelight with protesters using the microblogging platform to get stories out of the troubled country.  It became such an important channel for getting comment out of Iran that the US government intervened to prevent some planned maintenance which would have pulled twitter down for a few hours (read more here).

By either charging for social media accounts (it wouldn’t need to be much) you would undoubtedly lose some users.  But those who are regular users and involve it in their everyday life would probably be willing to pay something.  And if that figure was only a nominal $5 or so it would soon add up across millions of users.  On top of that, by stripping out the infrequent users you would free up a large amount of server space and overheads too.  Win, win.

There is also the option pointed out in the article of charging for additional functionality, the Facebook vanity URLs for example.  A couple of dollars a pop to secure your URL probably wouldn’t have stopped millions of people for bagging theirs.  The problem is of course, once you have been giving something away for so long, it is difficult to start charging for it.  You could do a radiohead and ask people how much they are willing to pay, but you run the risk of everybody offering up a big fat zero.  From somebody who works in the industry, I think a nominal fee for an account, or maybe a “pro” account would be easy for me to stomach, but it would need to be nominal.

What do you think?  Would you pay for your twitter or St, what about spotify, last.fm, myspace, bebo or any other social tool for that matter?

How to get more twitter followers

The quest for Twitter followers is a serious one to hard core twitterers and they keep a constant eye on their follower numbers, and notice when they are up and down. Personally I couldn’t tell you from one day to the next how many followers I have but some people seem view it as a measure of importance and also the value you add to the twitter “community”. But how do you get more followers? What are the secrets to a large follower list? Here goes:

Have a Keyword Rich User Name

This will help you show up when users search for people to follow related to a particular topic. So rather than choosing the username johnsmith, why not go for johnnySEO? It could boost your follower numbers from the SEO community.

Include Your Target Keywords in Your Tweet Content

Again this will improve your rankings in the Twitter search engine when users are searching for people to follow. You would be surprised how much a few keyword laden tweets can boost your follower numbers. But make sure you don’t keyword stuff your tweets as this will come across as spammy and have the reverse impact resulting in you losing your new hard earned followers.

Make Sure Your Tweets are Follower Friendly

When somebody follows me, I check out their profile to see whether they are worth following back. If they are consistently posting useful or witty information I am likely to follow back but if their timeline is full of self promotion, affiliate links or insight into their private life I just don’t need, I probably won’t bother.

Write Useful Content to Generate Retweets

Retweets mean that your message, and more importantly your username, reaches a much larger audience than just your own followers. If provides access to a much broader audience and opens up the potential for those following the person who retweets to find you, view your profile, and potentially become a follower themselves. They may even retweet themselves which further expands the reach of your message. Obviously to achieve multiple retweets you need to be saying something interesting and/or important, so think before you tweet!

Engage with Your Followers

Engagement with others is the whole purpose of Twitter, so make sure you do this with your followers. If they provide some useful information, retweet it. If they provide you something of interest, thank them and engage in a discussion about the particular topic. This will help you become a valued member of their network, and mean they will recommend you to others they engage with. If you are really good they may even include you in #followfriday!

Don’t Engage in Black Hat Follower Building Tactics

Randomly following large numbers of people in an attempt they reciprocate, or trying one of the growing number of scams which claims to get you thousands of followers will only see you rejected by the twitter community. People want to follow others who are going to add value to their network.

Make Sure You Tag Your Tweets

Tagging tweets using hashtags makes it easier for people to find them in the various Twitter search functions. If you are providing insight or information on the tagged topic, you will pick up followers who are interested in the subject.

Link Out To Follow Other Quality Tweeters in Your Field

If there are Twitter celebrities in your chosen field of interest then follow them, engage with them and become part of their community. Many people will view other people’s lists of followers to find interesting people to follow themselves. By following a high quality of Tweeters you are providing a resource yourself, which will result in more followers, and will also pick up more followers by appearing in the follower lists of others.

Did I miss any?  Let me know.