There’s no shortage of social media marketing activities for companies to pursue. Beyond the core of LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, there is a long list of platforms for networking, promoting and sharing content.
The struggle for many firms is not knowing which ones to use, it is determining what success looks like.
As it turns out, there is a good path to follow. Data from The Hinge Research Institute shows that high-growth firms are much more aggressive in how they use selected social media marketing tools than their average-growth counterparts. As the chart below shows, the key differences lie in their use of blogging, search engine optimization techniques, LinkedIn and Twitter.
The research also shows that high-growth firms experience greater effectiveness when using these tools. Sure, greater usage can certainly lead to more effectiveness. But the flipside of this conclusion points to what makes them effective: setting tangible objectives and strategies.
Objectives Lead the Way
There are many programs built around the objectives of recruiting partners, employees or funding sources. For the high-growth firms, the objective tends to focus on lead generation. According to Hinge research, more than 77% generate new business online and 15% get more than a third of their leads that way.
As it turns out, there is good reason for these firms to pursue online and social media marketing: firms that generate at least 40% of their leads online grow four times faster than average-growth firms.
The Hinge study also found that profitability rises along with lead generation. If a firm gets 60% of its leads online, it is likely to be twice as profitable as one generating less than 20% of new business online. It simply costs less to do online marketing – and to do it well – than the traditional trade show or advertising programs. The savings drop straight to the bottom line.
What about the amount of budget spent on online marketing? The research provides some guidance again, with 66% of firms planning to increase their online marketing budget by an average of 56%.
Think of Online Marketing
What else to the high-performing firms do besides starting with objective identification and arriving at some sense of budget allocation? They look at their overall online marketing efforts, not just social media. They know that content is central to it, and build programs in which blogs, social media, email marketing and other elements all work together. Often times they follow a structure that looks something like this:
- Create. Content is the core of online marketing and it requires key word research, client research and web analytics. Plan time and money around these activities
- Promote. Here’s where the social media piece comes in. Pick the tools that audiences will use. Complement their use with search engine optimization and e-newsletters, for example, to drive them to your website
- Convert website visitors. Conversion doesn’t have to mean getting a new lead. Anytime a visitor takes a next step in your process, you have converted him. It may be signing up for an email or downloading content. Your website needs to encourage that.
So when the request comes in to “get us on Twitter” or something similar, take a step back. What social media tool to use should be a question asked after more strategic ones around objectives, resources, content and a website strategy that fulfills these objectives.