The most common questions business leaders ask about social media engagement is: What is the return on investment?
The answer to this question goes to the root of why so many social media initiatives outright fail or fall short of expectations.
Return is a function of investment
There is nothing wrong with expecting to get a positive return from the time and resources you invest in social media. But your return is only ever going to be as good as the quality of your investment.
If you’re like most people that are active on social media, you’re probably thinking of all the ways you can use your social media accounts to promote your business and its products and services and drive traffic to your website. And I’ll bet you’re probably paying more attention to how many retweets you get and how often what you share is liked on LinkedIn or Facebook than you do to how often you are doing these things yourself.
Then, you’re asking yourself: what did I get from all this effort? Did I get any new leads? And if I did, how many converted to new business opportunities?
Before you conclude that you may be wasting your time for the measly return, let me ask you an important question: What did you INVEST in social media?
If you’re investing time and resources in social media mostly to promote yourself, drive traffic to your website and convert leads to new business, you’re likely going to be disappointed.
Social networks like givers way more than takers.
Stop focusing on GETTING and start focusing on GIVING
Most of us don’t pay half as much attention to what we’re giving to our social networks as we do to what we’re trying to get from them.
Yet, the economics of social networking works very differently:
the richest people are the ones that give the most.
(See Srinivas Rao, The Economics of Social Capital).
How many of us count how many times we’re liking, thanking, commenting and sharing other people’s content? Not many, in my experience.
Adopting a proactive giving strategy – paying it forward, if you will – is the key to social engagement and building social capital in the influence economy.
In social networks, we promote ourselves by promoting others. We attract attention to ourselves by shining a light on others.
If you’re disappointed with your social media ROI, try this: Set a “giving budget” for your social media activities and actually set some goals. How many “likes” do you want to give each week? How many times do you want to comment? If you’re connected to your clients on social networks, you should be setting a giving budget specifically for interactions with them.
Here are some practical ways to give more to your social networks:
- Use lists and share content. Track influencers and clients using Twitter lists and Google+ circles, then share something from those people every day.
- Pay some attention. Invest some time and mental energy each week to review the information shared on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. of your key influencers and clients and look for intelligent opportunities to engage. People will take notice and reciprocate if you are consistently paying them attention.
- Give credit where it’s due. When you share anything, mention the source. Say you discover a great article shared by a contact on LinkedIn and you Tweet it, make sure to give that person credit on Twitter with a mention.
- Endorse people on LinkedIn. It’s an easy and effective way to be top of mind. And don’t just endorse them for all the topics that the LinkedIn algorithm suggests because sometimes those aren’t very contextually relevant to your relationship. Be relevant.
- Like and comment thoughtfully. It’s easy to click ‘like’ on articles shared to LinkedIn and Facebook, but take the extra time to read what’s being shared and add a meaningful comment. “Great post” is a nice thought, but being more thoughtful is a better investment.
By consistently focusing on giving more to your social networks, you will inevitably get more benefit out of them.