The Key To Social Media Success

10th May, 2011

If you want social media to work for you, then you have to be prepared to invest time in it. That’s the clear message you get from reading the latest Social Media Marketing Report by Michael Stelzner (download the full report). The report is the result of research conducted amongst 3300 marketers (1% from Ireland), and it’s the third such report looking at how social media is used in business.

Benefits of Social Media

The report is full of interesting data such as the ten most important questions about social media marketers want answered, and Youtube is the area most marketers, especially big businesses, intend to invest more in. However, the most interesting part relates to the benefits of social media and how these benefits increase over time. These benefits are;

  • Generated exposure for my business (mentioned by 88%)
  • Increased traffic/subscribers (72%)
  • Improved search rankings (62%)
  • Resulted in new business partnerships (56%)
  • Generated qualified leads (51%)
  • Reduced overall marketing expenses (49%)
  • Improved sales (43%)

Benefits Increase Over Time

The report breaks down each of these figures, based on how long the respondent had been using or investing in social media. Respondents could state they were using social media less than a year, 1 to 3 years or more than 3 years.

Looking at how these figures increase the longer social media is being used one thing is clear – if you want social media to work for you, it has to be considered as a long term investment. Because the longer you use it the more benefits your business will reap.

1. Generated Exposure for my Business

This is the point most respondents agreed with. There’s no question that social media creates exposure for businesses. Almost all the respondents who have been using social media for over 3 years agreed with this, and of those 72% strongly agreeing. The best results can be seen when at least six hours or more is dedicated to social media per week.

2. Increased Traffic or Subscribers

While 72% of respondents agreed social media increased traffic or subscribers, this rose to 91% in the group who have been using social media for 3 years or more. Again the best results were seen by those spending at least 6 hours per week on social media.

3. Improved Search Ranking

It might be expected that over time rankings should improve for websites, with frequent links building in different social media channels and Google indexing Tweets and any Facebook updates they can access. 62% of respondents agreed, which rises to 73% for those using social media between 1 and 3 years and up to almost 85% for those using social 3 years or more. Almost two thirds of those who invested at least six hours per week also saw benefits to their search ranking.

4. Resulted in New Business Partnerships

45% of those using social media marketing for less than a year reported new business partnerships, this rose to almost two thirds for those using  social media less than 3 years and almost 85% for those using social 3 years or more.

5. Generated qualified leads

51% of respondents mentioned generating qualified leads as one of the benefits of using social media. However when looking at those who have been using social media for 1-3 years this increases to 58% and again to 79% for those using social media 3 years or more.

6. Reduced overall marketing expenses

At 49% overall this didn’t vary too much between those using social media longer. The cost reduction benefits were mostly seen with the self employed (59% agreed) and small businesses (58%). Those spending 11 – 15 hours per week saw just as much benefit as those spending 36 – 40 hours per week, with those spending 40+ hours seeing the most benefit.

7. Improved sales

Improved sales was a benefit witness by 43% of the respondents. This increases significantly to 72% in the group who have been using social media marketing for 3 years or more.

Why do Benefits Increase Over Time?

This is a much harder question to answer because it can be due to a number of different factors. However, as brands, organisations and small business get used to social media new ways they can be used to offset costs, or achieve more with a smaller investment probably become more apparent.

Increasing web traffic, subscribers or generating more exposure for a business I would take as a given for most brands using social media right. Your putting more content online, and hopefully good content, which should link back to your website. This will attract visitors, likes, comments, tweets and so on.

Most will be interested to see how social media contributed to sales and generating more leads. Both of these categories improved significantly for those using social media 3 years or more. These brands were obviously more clued in as to how social media can benefit their organisations. Social can cover a lot of different parts of an organisation, but understanding what customers want, how to use these tools to support and contribute to generating revenue obviously plays a role. There is no one correct way, as every business and organisation operates differently – thats where the understanding part comes in.

Key to Social Media Success

The one over-riding factor is time. Thats the key to success on social media. The rewards come in the form of new opportunities such as business partnerships, generating more leads and improving sales.  What more could brands wish for, especially in this economic climate. If it wasn’t clear from this article, those looking for overnight viral success, prepare to be disappointed.

Download the full report here.