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Social Media Marketing is not its own great tree. It is a branch on the larger marketing trunk, a new way to communicate with your current and potential audiences. It is just as critical to respond to customers on social media as it is to respond to a visitor in your store or an incoming phone call. Google is your yellow pages listing. Twitter is your phone line. Facebook is the sign above the your store. Foursquare is your shop. Pinterest is your bulletin board. Your blog posts are your flyers.

Right now, there are more than 1.15 billion active users on Facebook, 554 million active users on Twitter, 48.7m on Pinterest, 238m on LinkedIn, and 343m on Google+, and the numbers continue to grow. (http://bit.ly/AxQqcm) 78% of consumers online trust in social media as the next tier of customer service. Further, 88% of customers won’t buy from companies who leave social media complaints and questions unanswered. That is the cost of your business, offline.

What are the benefits of using social media? There are visible results when you interact with your customers on social media. Some are brand awareness, great customer service, list growth, and more. Here are four practical ROIs in social media marketing:

(image source: http://bit.ly/13jZB05)

A Good Reputation

Reputation is #1. Your customers have to know yours is the correct solution, and you have to be trustworthy. 43% of Google searches inquire about local businesses that may fulfill the searcher’s needs. (http://selnd.com/QXOUZb) What they find about you must share a positive reputation and showcase your services with accuracy, because 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. (http://bit.ly/16Pzz3K) Your online reputation either hurts or helps. 88% of consumers who search for a type of local business on a mobile device call or visit within 24 hours. (http://bit.ly/VNDU1X) Are those who find you online going to be new customers walking in your door, or just someone walking past it? Social media marketing maintains your online presence, and allows you to control your brand’s image and communication. Have a great reputation on social media, and you create brand advocates eager to share your solution with their friends.

ROI: The better your online reputation, the easier it will be for folks to choose you, and the bigger your customer base becomes.

Regular Customer Base Growth

Your brand advocates spread your company message. They also return on a regular basis. Their friends, impressed by good reviews, will become new customers. The more engaging content, personal service, and consistent communication you offer on social media, the more new customers will come in your virtual door. It will also continue an important relationship with current fans. When you maintain that relationship all around, you create loyal brand promoters. Social media marketing pinpoints that target audience, and drops a stone in the pond. The ripple effects are more customers in your store, more online purchases, or more phone calls for an appointment.

ROI: The more customers you serve well online, the more they’ll promote your brand.

(image source: http://bit.ly/RZMswG)

More Sales

Let’s talk about a company campaign from Kern & Sohn, a precision scales business. Their scales detect weight differences in the same object at different locations on Earth, based on planetary gravity fluctuations. In order to promote their scales, they created a campaign video and sent out a weighed gnome and scale packed into a flight case to a customer. That person took a picture with the gnome, weighed him, and sent him on to another customer. Within a couple of days, the Kern & Sohn tale reached more than 355 million people in 152 countries. By that time, three requests arrived every minute from people who wanted to weigh the gnome. After a single month, 16,386 websites had linked to their web page, which pushed their website to the top of Google’s results for precision scales in all five markets. The results of this were a 21% sales lift and a 1024% ROI. (http://bit.ly/12q3Pfg)

A positive reputation increases traffic, which can drive sales. In order to measure the ROI of sales from social media marketing, you’ll need to collect some data yourself. When you make a sale, find out how your customer heard about your business. Ask your customer where they found you, and if they are connected online. Make sure your social media marketing company sends you customer questions and feedback. They will provide you with statistics such as the number of online sales per month and traffic on your website. You can work with them and with customers to find out where new sales are coming from.

ROI: The bigger your customer base, the bigger your brand, the more sales you’ll make.

Personal Conversation

More customers, more sales, and a good reputation create the perfect mix for personal conversation. The more customers you communicate with on a regular basis, the closer your relationship with them becomes. Customers need to feel the freedom to ask you any questions about your services and products. Great customer service is about solving problems for your customer. That’s why they’re in your store, ready for your answer. When you maintain helpful, intentional service, business relationships will thrive. Your repeat customers will be regulars for years because they trust you. They will also continue to drive the never-ending circle of good reputation, to customer base growth, to sales.

ROI: Personal conversation creates trust in your company, and drives the relationship back to the Good Reputation.

This is a healthy business cycle. Great customer service is about creating relationships with your customers and maintaining them. You will see a return on investment with social media marketing when your reputation becomes great online and offline, your customer base grows, and your sales increase. It all begins with a strong online presence and the right conversation.

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