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Social Media: Is It Worth the Time and Effort?

Time Is MoneyTime is money. You’ve heard the expression. Ben Franklin used the phrase in his Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One (1798). “Time is money” refers to the concept of opportunity cost: “The cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. Put another way, the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action.” -- Investopedia.com

Opportunity Cost and Marketing Tactic Selection

Opportunity cost relates to the selection of marketing tactics as well. If you are spending hours every week executing marketing tactics that have no influence over the decision journey of your target audience, consider what opportunities you could be missing. Could you be brainstorming ideas for your next email blast, direct mail or SMS (text messaging) campaign?

To determine if social media marketing (or any other marketing tactic) is worth the time and effort -- and possible expense it will take to use it productively -- it’s important to ask yourself these five key questions:

  1. Does the marketing tactic wield influence in the decision journey of my target audience?

    More specifically, which stage(s) of the decision journey will it influence (“Consider”, “Evaluate”, “Purchase”, “Enjoy-Advocate-Bond”)? If you cannot clearly define a hypothesis for how the tactic will influence the journey, you have reason to pause.

  2. What is my main purpose or goal in employing this marketing tactic?

    Be purpose-driven: Clearly define the purpose of establishing a social media presence for your business. Being there because everyone else is just isn’t a good enough reason.

  3. How much time and how many resources am I willing to dedicate to my marketing campaign?

    Time is the small business owner’s most precious resource. How he or she invests that time should be at the forefront of his or her mind at all times. Social media marketing is by definition social. That means it requires an ongoing investment in time to network, communicate and build relationships.

    • How much time is required to build a fan base on social media?
    • How much time is required to maintain relationships with members of the fan base? Do a little online searching and you’ll find recommendations ranging from 15 minutes per day to hours per day.
    • How much time and money is required to reach a critical mass of fans that can effect a meaningful positive impact on your business?
    • Realize that many of the brands with huge social media followings built those followings through significant investments in traditional media.
    • What are the opportunity costs of investing time here versus other marketing tactics or important business activities?
  4. Who is my target audience and do they desire to interact via social media or other marketing tactic?

    Profitable marketing is about delivering the right message or offer to the right target audience, at the right time, through the right vehicle.

    • Has the target audience already adopted social media, or is it adopting it now?
    • Does the target audience care whether the business has a social media presence? In other words, does the target audience have the desire to interact with the business via social media? In what ways does the target audience wish to interact? (It may not be the type of interaction you’d expect.)
  5. Do I have the resources to deliver my message effectively and does the execution of this marketing tactic have a reasonable chance of delivering a positive return on investment (ROI)?

In my last post, “Social Media: Is It Really Better than Traditional Marketing?” I proposed that having a strong traditional marketing foundation enhanced by social media is a good way to establish a customer base.

First focus on building your own opt-in customer database and implement a profitable direct marketing system. Deliver valuable content through direct marketing tactics such as email, direct mail and SMS messaging and your customers will reward you.

  • The return on investment may be much better: the time required to prepare the email, direct mail piece or SMS message is minuscule compared to the amount of time required to build and sustain a social media effort.
  • You control your own customer database: you can augment it with new information about your customers and segment it to more finely target niches.

Social media is valuable and it may indeed play an important role in your marketing strategy. But before you get in too deep, do your math. If the fruits of your social media labors are going to add up in your favor, great! If they aren’t, think about alternatives. Remember, social media is simply one component that relies on and reinforces the other components of your marketing.

In next week’s post, “4 Powerful Uses for Social Media in Business” I will explore how social media allows you to engage with customers, giving you the marketing insight and opportunity you need to grow your business.

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