Is social media worth it?

Those of us in online marketing have been wondering for years whether social media is worth it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that social media is a fad. No, my friends, the era of sharing is certainly here to stay. But for businesses is it worth it? Is there a return on spending X amount of man hours on keeping a twitter account lively or a Facebook page engaging?

I’ve read studies that put the value of a Facebook fan at $12 dollars and others at $0.12 cents. We’ve all heard about using Twitter as an alternative customer support tool and keeping customers happy. But I can tell you from personal experience that Twitter can also be used as a megaphone for an unhappy customer. And bad or scandalous content is going to be shared far more than good content. Which of the following do you think would be more likely to be retweeted?

A: The new Purina Oatmeal flavor Mango Madness tastes great!
B: The new Purina Oatmeal flavor Mango Madness tastes like flakes of card board  floating in dumpster juice!

Sharing can be daring.

But, there’s one reason why a social media presence must be actively maintained: they give good SERP.

Google me. Do it. Google “Chris Hedick” right now. Where is Twitter and Facebook in the results? Right at the top. Because of Google’s smothering love of social media sites a good social media strategy is essential.

But Chris? What’s a ‘good’ social media strategy? Don’t I just put up a Facebook fan page and let people rave about my company or product? No.

A good social media strategy has structure. A good social media strategy has a content strategy. Here’s one that I recommend:

1- Do your keyword research. An earlier post on end user vernacular got into this a little bit, but it’s worth repeating. Find out how your users are searching. This is more art than science but by combining Google Adwords, internal search analytics and even Twitter itself you can quickly find out how people talk about your product. I consulted for a friend who was helping to clean up some of this housing crisis debacle. Two terms were being used all the time in the media to explain the situation of the people he was trying to help: “underwater mortgage” and “upside down mortgage”. Which to concentrate upon? Plug ‘em into Twitter and see how frequently there was a tweet on each. The more frequently used term is the winner.
2- Now that you know how your users speak, talk to them in that language via social media. Use those terms in posts, YouTube videos and tweets in a subtle and natural way.
3- Have a blog or landing site specifically devoted to receiving people interested in those terms. Then make sure that the social media content links to that blog or other content that is relevant to the terms. And make sure that the blog has a content strategy that emphasizes those terms.
4- Link out as well. Let’s say you make marsh mellows. Doing some research revealed that the number one reason people buy marsh mellows is to make Rice Krispie treats. Linking your blog post about Rice Krispie treats to a Rice Krispie recipe site isn’t going to hurt you, it’s only going to up your SERP rank for the term “rice Krispie treats”.

So to answer the question “is social media worth it?” I’d have to give a qualified and yet emphatic yes.

Social Media is a powerful weapon that can carefully and powerfully target like a sniper rifle. But just throwing stuff up on Twitter without a well thought out strategy is like trying to hit your customer at 500 paces with a Nerf gun.

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