I follow a lot of folks on Twitter who, like myself, are very active in the social media community. These people, again like me, are very passionate about the importance of social media in the business world and about how valuable of a tool it can be to promote your business. Unfortunately, many of them seem to fall flat on their face when it comes to coming up with a valid justification as to why a business needs to be involved in social media. In fact, they very frequently tend to take offense at the very nature of the question. Which is, of course, a sure fire way to guarantee that the business you’re trying to convince to get into social media never well.
Return On Investment, kids. It’s not a dirty word. Get over it. The whole nature of taking offense at the idea of justifying why a business should spend money on your idea without being able to quantify where it will turn into profits for them is absurd. It is tantamount to an artist claiming that people “just don’t get” their work. It’s a cop out. Sure, it’s all fine and dandy that you might be doing something unique and awesome in your mind, but if you can’t prove to someone that giving you money for doing so is worth their time you have no business trying.
This is not to say that you have to be able to prove that what you can do with social media will turn into real dollars, although that certainly is a possibility if you do it correctly. Those kind of results, however, take a considerable amount of time (and, subsequently, money) to achieve. In the short term, however, the business you are trying to solicit is going to paying for something that really doesn’t seem to do much for them.
You have to be prepared to prove to them it is worthwhile.
I realize that for many of us who “live” in social media the idea of not having a presence on services like Twitter or Facebook is ludicrous. We know how we use those services. We know that we’ve taken advantage of promotions that were offered through those outlets or talked about on them by our friends. We know that we ask our social networks their opinion on things and that those opinions heavily factor our purchasing decisions. We know we’ve looked on Foursquare to find out where our friends are hanging out and gone to those locations to meet them. The thing you have to remember, though, is that may of the people who are in charge of the businesses we’re trying to convince to jump in the fray do not. They are the people who think that Twitter is nothing but people posting about what they are eating for lunch, and they post embarrassing personal messages to our Facebook walls instead of sending us an email. They are the people who send you the jokes with 20 “FWD” declarations in the subject line. They use inappropriate capitalization in their email or they spend the time to structure every email they send like a formal business letter.
These are not stupid people. At all. They just aren’t people who grew up with the technology that is currently out there. Some day they will retire and our generation will start to take over, but for now? They are in charge. They have the money. They make the decisions about whether or not they want to invest in social media, and they are the ones that will not be using it.
That’s the key, my friends. You’re trying to convince them to invest in something that is designed to build personal relationships, but what you’re trying to convince them to invest in is something that wouldn’t work on them at all.
So you’ve got to be prepared to prove it to them. Show them case studies. Point them to local businesses who successfully use social media to perk up sales on slow days. Point them to large companies that frequently social media only coupons. Point them to Twitter celebrities who frequently crash web servers when they mention a product or service on their feeds. The evidence is out there, and frankly if you really are any kind of “social media expert” you know where to find it.
Businesses will not invest their hard earned capital into a venture that they cannot justify will turn into some kind of positive cash flow for them. Contracts are not signed simply because someone walks up to a CEO and says “You need this. Trust me.” Social media is no different. Besides, if you aren’t passionate enough to convince a business that there is value in social media, how in the HELL do you think you’re going to be passionate enough to convince others to pay attention to said social media if the business invests in it?
Is it frustrating? Sure. Is it something you’ll get a lot of push back on? Absolutely. If you really think you’ve got what it takes to make it as a “professional” social media consultant, though, it’s something you’re going to have to deal with.