With social media now such an omnipotent presence in our lives, it’s easy to forget where it all started. Take Facebook, for example. Originally set up so American university students could communicate in a more cordial digital environment than email, it went on to become a global force that now boasts close to 3 billion users.
A category of digital media that acquired a staggering number of users in such a short space of time – whilst remaining free at the point of use – was always going to be explored by third parties for its commercial potential. And so it came to pass, and over the years, businesses of all types have used the various platforms to attempt to leverage social media ROI.
Initially, the social media ROI businesses pursued was taken in its most literal sense. They would set up pages and accounts and advertise their products and services in the hope of generating sales. However, though this remains a crucial methodology for meeting growth objectives, things have since progressed. As the platforms became more sophisticated, so too did the definition of Social Media ROI.
Suddenly, it wasn’t all about cold, hard sales.
The Issue with Social Media ROI
The problem with adopting a sales-first approach to social media is that it misses why people engage with social media in the first place. Even with more business-orientated platforms such as LinkedIn, users don’t like to feel bombarded by offers and promotions. Accounts and pages that are perceived to be responsible for this, often find themselves on the wrong end of mute and unfollow buttons.
Despite this, businesses can still use the platforms to nurture compelling social media ROI. It’s just that it might not be measured purely in terms of sales. It’s not – as the following will hopefully demonstrate – all about pounds and pence.
Increasing brand awareness without direct selling
Though subject to some criticism in recent years, online gambling remains a formidable sector. It is the largest combined sector within the broader gambling industry with £5.7bn kept in revenues in the 2019/2020 financial year and comprising around 40% of the overall market.
The reason we raise online gambling is to shine a light on a particular bookmaker which has used social media to develop brand awareness with stunning results.
From the quaint streets of 1980s Dublin, bookmaker Paddy Power has become a serious player in the gambling world. However, if we were to look at their social media feed, it isn’t even immediately obvious they’re a bookie.
Rather than a slew of gaudy images depicting footballers and racehorses juxtaposed with enticing odds, Paddy Power have taken a different approach. Instead, they focus almost wholly on irreverent content. In the place of potential winnings, they share memes, photos of cheeky stunts, and their weekly ‘Fan Denial’ videos – which routinely rack up thousands of shares.
Paddy Power realised that if people are associating their brand with good humour, their content was more likely to be shared. And they were right. By focusing on brand awareness as their social media ROI metric, their popularity exploded. From the back streets of Ireland’s capital, they became an online powerhouse and today post close to a £1BN in annual revenues.
Of course, Paddy Power’s irreverent approach isn’t for every business. No-one wants to see hilarious videos from a Funeral Directors, for example. Nevertheless, their story proves that, by focusing on getting your brand out on social media in novel ways, the returns can be a lot more compelling than from simply posting special offers.
Credibility and Brand Authority rather than Social Media ROI
The relationship customers have with brands has changed significantly in recent years. It is no longer enough for brands to simply showcase the products and services their customers want. Today, they need to be hubs of information, providing insight, advice, support, and relief.
Take businesses that sell computers, for instance. Plenty do this, but not all put the effort into providing resources for their customers which allow them to become more knowledgeable. It is here where another form of social media ROI comes into play.
A brand able to demonstrate extensive knowledge of their product or service provides enormous value to their customers. The more authority and credibility a brand has on a subject matter, the better the resource (and the more visited) they become. In order to forge a position as an established authority and enhance search engine rankings, brands should be sharing their insight and knowledge on social media regularly. In turn, this drives traffic to the website and this particular type of social media ROI can begin to be measured.
A blog, or an infographic for example, may not contain details of price reductions or new stock, but if it leaves the user feeling enriched, a vital impact has been made. Such content also has a much better chance of being shared and thus seen by more people.
Leveraging the various platforms to achieve social media ROI in this way is also a vital strategy for achieving long-term sustainability. If the content a brand shares is high-quality, speaks to the user as a human being, and is regular in its output, the brand soon becomes a beacon which users gravitate towards.
And if they’re spending time engaging with your content, they might just have a look at your products and services whilst they’re at it.
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Adapting to a new dynamic
The purpose of this piece was to demonstrate why brands need to view social media as more than just a place to make sales. The relationship dynamic between brand and customer is evolving and the evolution looks set to be permanent.
Brand awareness, credibility, and authority are emerging as the ‘Three Kings’ of Social Media Marketing and they promise riches for all who take them seriously.
Yes, it might require a bit more work to achieve, but the spoils can eventually be measured in pounds and pence.