Search Engine Journal developed the third annual version of an infographic on the continued growth of social media, providing statistics across each social network through 2015. It opens with this quote from Gary Vaynerchuk.
When I hear people debate the ROI of social media? It makes me remember why so many business fail. Most businesses are not playing the marathon. They're playing the sprint. They're not worried about lifetime value and retention. They're worried about short-term goals. Gary Vaynerchuk
I'm a fan of Gary V, but I don't believe that quote is accurate, nor does it scratch the surface. I know first hand the challenge of both operating a business and interacting via social media. I'm worried about the lifetime value of our clients and retention of them. We don't manage our social media presence perfectly, and we're a new media company!
I haven't walked into a business yet where employees were standing around doing nothing instead of engaging deeper online with prospects and clients. As we work with clients and provide them feedback on improving their use of social media, we see the challenges they have first-hand.
- Many businesses don't have the luxury of investing in tools and qualified personnel to operate their social media. Tips like optimizing social updates based on the channel and engaging throughout the day or simply out of reach.
- Businesses are challenged with shrinking profit margins and increased competition in their industry. That's not happening because they're not optimizing their Facebook updates. A long-term strategy doesn't matter very much when you need leads now to keep the lights on.
- Businesses are lacking the strategy and training resources to educate their employees on implementing a successful social media strategy. We're developing those programs, but not everyone can afford the investment. I agree with Gary V that not investing can spell doom for a company long-term and that the investment will pay off. But most businesses and their employees are somewhere in the middle right now.
Newly launched companies often reap the benefits of social media. It was ingrained as part of their DNA from the day they launched their business. In fact, their business may even have exploded online because they were an early adopter. Those aren't the majority of businesses, though. Most companies are legacy firms that had successful sales and marketing strategies in place for decades – and social media wasn't part of the mix.
I love speaking to traditional, legacy businesses. In fact, I just did a keynote presentation with business leaders from finance and energy companies. I didn't criticize them for being short-term thinkers – they're not. What I did, instead, was have an honest dialogue on consumer and business buyer behavior that requires them to adapt.
One way of thinking about social media is to equate it to traditional sales and marketing. If there's an industry conference where your prospects flock, your business would invest in a booth and send your strongest team to the event. Your marketing team would be hard at work providing the collateral necessary and branding your station to attract the passers-by.
At the event, your sales team would engage in meaningful conversations with customers and prospects. They would handle basic questions from curious attendees. They'd network intensely to maximize their time and reach at the event. And they'd invite likely prospects to in-depth conversations over drinks and dinner.
Regardless of the type of event, it's doubtful your sales professional would just stand there wait for someone to ask them a question, or jump out at each prospect to repeat an offer over and over. The same opportunities exist in social media. But social media provides a global industry conference that's year round, running every hour of every day.
Of 3 billion internet users globally, 2.1 billion have social media accounts with 1.7 billion active users
Your customers are there. Your prospects are there. The research they're both seeking is there. And your competitors are there. Virtually every customer journey incorporates social media, from awareness through conversion, nowadays. Recognizing that is key to businesses investing in an increased social media presence, adapting to the challenges it brings and adopting strategies that increase business results.
Here's a look at the continued growth of social media, worldwide, through 2015: