Everyone seems to have an opinion about the use of social media in business. Recent research conducted in Great Britain by MBA candidate Scott Addison revealed that currently social media’s primary use is for intelligence gathering and prospecting, with very little effort to engage in a direct, two-way dialog. There was limited understanding of the role or purpose of social media and a lack of clear objectives about what the businesses wanted to achieve. For businesses that have embraced social media, the identifiable benefits included increased visibility, enhanced reputation, or potential to be seen as ‘thought leaders’.
About three years ago, Cain Ellsworth initiated a consulting division, Growth & Profit Solutions. We wanted to get the word out about the new services we were offering and, as a smaller CPA firm, our marketing budget was limited. We decided to explore the opportunities that social media might provide in helping us achieve our objectives. The first thing that we did was to initiate this blog. The blog has helped us gain credibility as consultants by providing great content on a regularly scheduled basis and positioning ourselves as thought leaders. We decided that we would publish one blog post per week that focused on profit improvement, change, and leadership. Based on the comments we have received from clients and prospects, we feel our objective to gain visibility for our new service offering has been achieved. Since initiating our blog, we have also linked our blog to LinkedIn, facebook and Twitter accounts – different platforms and different followers.
The first question I’m always asked by peers is,” What’s the ROI on your social media efforts?” It’s a logical question and one I wish I could answer with a list of leads and conversions. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Not yet anyway. What we do know is that our blog has driven traffic to our website. People are checking us out that would never have visited us before. It gives us an opportunity to engage them in conversation about our firm, our client service philosophy and the solutions that we can provide. We feel that social media is providing us another marketing channel to find prospective clients, and more importantly, for them to find us.
I believe the potential for ROI for social media efforts will grow over time. As more and more businesses embrace social media, there will be more opportunity for two-way dialogues that will open up a host of possibilities. As the next generation assumes leadership positions in their companies, we are confident that social media will take on an increased importance in the conduct of day-to-day communications and marketing. After all, it will be the “iPhone generation” that will determine when and in what form we conduct business in the future. We will either have to adapt to this new way of doing business or face the risk of being trivialized.
What about you? Have you started using social media as a marketing tool for your business? Where have you had the most success? What is your biggest frustration with social media? How will social media continue to impact your business?