Should your business invest in social media?

For some businesses, investing in social is an obvious choice. They have a consumer or B2B product that is well-used and has a large number of customer complaints.

For businesses like these, we receive high amounts of customers tagging us in their own posts, as well as sending questions through to DM and recommending us in their own comments on other people’s posts. It’s an underrated, unmeasurable, and unrewarded part of my job — community management. Remembering those who engage with us repeatedly and making sure they feel seen. Saying a heart felt thank you when they pass on a kind comment about us somewhere on the internet. It’s something that marketing teams and business owners are usually too busy to do. In order to keep the social community active, the profiles need to look active. Regular posting needs to happen.

Of course, they will outsource all of that.

However, for some businesses the role of social is less clear. The volume of customers may not be in the millions. Following, and engagement on social might always be small. However, each of those lifetime customers might be worth significantly more. Some of these types of businesses will be really happy with a small, active social media following, knowing the important people are being taken care of.

But social media hasn’t been sold in either of those ways. We’re told about the businesses that went viral on TikTok and sold a million products. The people who built their business and brand awareness purely off the back of Instagram. Because of these success stories, businesses expect that their business should be seeing an influx of trackable new customers through social media. And yes, we can demonstrate this in ROAS with an ad campaign using Meta Pixel. However, your business may not be the type of business that gets huge on TikTok, or it might get huge, but not see any direct translation in sales. And that’s fine.

If we look at those actual businesses that got massive on the internet, we’ll find amazing-smelling body butter that has a founder who is posting body-positive, half-nude messages. We’ll find weighted hula hoops. Under desk walkers. £8 dresses. Shadow work guided journals. All fab stuff that doesn’t have a massive amount of longevity and is often drop shipped or white labeled. Say you sell a million products, as a small business owner that’s incredible. But if you already make 11 million quid a month in Tesco per annum it’s a little less impressive.

The issue with the internet is there’s a lot of very loud voices who aren’t business experts, they’re simply over-promising on a social course they’ve created or something like that. They don’t know about complex strategies for the many businesses out there that sell component services, business SaaS, or construction elements. Businesses that have been running for years and don’t have a goal to ‘make it big’, whose first million is way behind them. So they don’t mention them, just keep making promises. It won’t stop your kids from recommending social media as the best way to super-speed your business, though, as they also have social courses and careers sold to them.

For some people, a social media first marketing strategy does work. However, it might not necessarily be the main road to success and it shouldn’t be the only one. If someone comes to me with a start-up, I never recommend organic social as the first port of call. It isn’t ‘free advertising’. Whether you do social or are an expert, it’s time intensive. Whereas advertising is higher-spend lower-time intensity. Things like content marketing and SEO take time at the beginning but have much more longevity than social media. The time you spend on SEO could have direct returns in 5 years.

Email marketing helps to keep your customers repurchasing. And is vital. But, it doesn’t have the chatty get-to-know energy that social has. Your customers might not feel like they have a true relationship with the brand just through email. For sure, not everyone wants that two-way relationship with a business. But it’s undoubtable that some people do. Some businesses of all kinds have evangelical users and it’s smart to reward them.

Your social strategy should align with your customer journey map and your overall marketing funnel.

If you’re a good-sized functioning business, you’re likely going to need email marketing, advertising, social media, content marketing, and SEO to keep turnover strong. So when thinking about which element to prioritise, start with current resources. What are you capable of doing internally? Where do your current skills lie? You might find that you’re perfectly able to do your monthly newsletters and hire someone to do the initial customer journey setup so all your abandon cart emails are ready to go.

Many of the marketers I work with have a writing skill set and are really good at writing white papers, blogs and newsletters, but struggle to keep up with the multimedia demands of social. So for them, they just want social off their hands even if it becomes an expense. It keeps their time efficient. It allows them to set targets for other people who love their job, rather than being targeted on followers and reach when they hate social and don’t feel like it’s their best skill.

There will likely be plenty of people who already have strong personal social media profiles that are full of chatty TikToks and funny memes. They may decide that their strength is in managing their own socials but outsource the desk work to an agency.

And, of course, for larger businesses, everything will be covered by multiple agencies or freelancers.

Remember that whatever marketing you do, it’s usually a slow build. A PPC (pay-per-click) campaign may take 3 months before you start getting a decent ROAS (Return on ad spend). Email lists can be highly valuable and engaged but take years of hard work to grow. Social communities can take years to build, too. Or, you can go viral after a few years but then peak.

So before you hire any marketing function, ask yourself how much is riding on this. Are you expecting the agency or freelancer you are hiring to steer the whole business?

Outsourcing social media, email, or content should feel like a gap is being filled. Your total annual marketing output, including software costs, marketer costs, creative costs, and ad spend (across your entire marketing mix), should amount to 7-10% roughly of your annual profit.

As a £100,000 turnover business, it would be inadvisable to spend the entirety of your £400-£900 per month budget just on social. Spending a lot of money proportionally on it won’t make the results better.

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