“Why should I pay for social?” “What does social media really do for me?” “What is the key to using social media to drive sales?” All valid questions, and all rarely answered honestly by any agency or marketing firm.

You’re bombarded with adverts every day encouraging you to “learn how to maximize your ROI on social media” or “manage your social effectively to produce results”. The truth is, your poor entrepreneurial brain is getting pumped with misinformation about social and we aim to fix that right now.

The single most important thing you should know as a business owner is that social media will not produce ROI for your business. You heard right, and you’d better get used to that concept if your social is to do you any good. Here’s why it doesn’t work like that and what it can realistically provide for you.

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Why it doesn’t work for bottom line results

Information Overload
Social media produces an overly saturated chaos of messaging and communications for consumers on a second-by-second basis. Humans simply aren’t capable of processing all of the information so they end up shutting most of it out. So the reality is: the content you put up on social media won’t impact or register with very many people at all. And the very few people who it does register with will not take an action IN REAL LIFE. Why? Because of consumer behavior.

Consumer Behavior
SO many businesses and marketing agencies waste their efforts trying to effectively change or sway consumer behavior with social media. Changing consumer behavior is nearly impossible without a revolutionary, well funded, and mass-distributed product that will change the way society operates (i.e. computers). So unless you’ve got one of those, you’re not going to change consumer behavior. As the saying goes, it is what it is. So you or your marketers must leverage what “is” to your advantage instead of fighting it. Social media is a way for consumers to connect with the people they know, compare and share their lives, and digest the interesting articles and information that land on their newsfeeds at the exact point in time they are looking at it. Even when you are able to get said interesting information in front of them at the exact time they are looking at it – and assuming they haven’t tuned it out due to information overload – the only action you can hope for is a “like” or “share”. That’s got no impact on your bottom line. Consumers do not use social media to find products and services.

Social Entrapment
The odds will never be in your favor. As if the above barriers weren’t enough, there’s another one: what we like to call social entrapment. Facebook and Google have you and every other business owner, marketer, public figure, artist, foundation or cause in the palm of their hand because that’s where consumers go. They know this so they’ve capitalized on it. They’ve set up a system by which you don’t get any exposure on Google AdWords or Facebook unless you pay for it. Simple. Doesn’t matter how relevant, insightful or rich your content is. The exception to this rule is if you have a massive following of consumers that are self-generating so much content for your brand that it has undeniable search relevance. So be prepared to spend money if you want any traction on social, and by traction we mean people simply seeing it on their screen.

So now the burning question is…
why do it? And even more importantly,
why pay for it?

Social media, though it doesn’t produce the results you’re expecting it to produce (consumer actions, ROI or conversion), does provide a few very key ingredients to a brand’s success. Here’s what you SHOULD expect out of your social media if it’s done right, and why you might want to pay for it.

What it can do for you

Brand Awareness
Done properly, good social media management builds brand awareness. You can get exposure and reach with a little money and good content. Actions might not come of it, but brand awareness often tends to play its hand down the road when you need it most. And without brand awareness, you can’t get brand conversion.

Brand Authority
What a good social media management company should do for you is establish your brand as an authority figure on the topic of interest in which you operate. This produces trust, when consumers are seeing your brand repeatedly and consistently produce relevant and original content and information related to your industry or offering. When people see you’re relevant, producing content online as a brand, they trust your product and services more because you’ve positioned yourself as an educator and provider of information with your social media. And that is what consumers are looking for: interesting stuff they can watch or read within a few minutes. They read a few of your posts or see your tweets come through on their Twitter feed, and 2 years later when they need your product or services they’re going to think of you as an authority figure on that topic because of your active social management and rich content.

The 1%
We always like to say it like this: when that one person does go looking, you better be there. Not having a social media presence is a big no-no. It makes your brand look less established, out-dated, and even sketchy to consumers who feel they aren’t able to see reviews or social commentary on your brand. Are you hiding something? Having an active social presence provides this peace of mind for consumers – knowing you’re a legitimate company that is operating with today’s tools and standards. Beyond just having a social profile, you need to actively and regularly post. Even if no one sees it, when that one person does look you should be there with fresh content. Meaning they shouldn’t see your last post was from 6 months ago – this makes it look like your business isn’t going so well and not a whole lot is happening. So like it or not it’s a necessary evil… at least for now.

We’ll close by saying that if you have the right expectations on what your social media should and can yield, then you will be happy with the results and successful with social. Social media isn’t sales. It’s a true blue, long term brand and marketing strategy that you should employ. Make sure your marketing company and/or employees are on the same page.

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