A few days ago I was posed the question ‘Isn’t Social Media just a big waste of time? How do you get a return on investment for all the time and effort you need to put in?’ As someone who loves a Paradox, I decided to answer this question for him via Social Media!!!

People who sell their expertise have a great opportunity to use Social Media to demonstrate their expertise by writing useful blogs, commenting on other people’s blogs, answering questions in groups and forums, and by generally interacting with people. This can take a lot of time so why is it important?

When buying services, people tend to do business with people they know, like, and trust. Social Media enables us to increase our visibility with content and by interacting and sharing valuable content people start to get to know of you. Interaction on platforms like twitter increases the chances of them starting to like you, especially if you start a conversation offline.

As Seth Godin says:

‘Turn a stranger into a friend, a friend into a customer, a customer into an advocate’

Offline media is mainly about broadcasting to your audience. With Social Media you can both broadcast and stimulate interactions with both strangers, friends, customers, and advocates.

The thing about Social Media content online is that it is indexed by search engines like Google. When people have problems they go to the internet looking for answers. Search engine optimisation is just one way. The offline way is asking people you know and trust who they know. Twitter is becoming a fantastic vehicle for getting supplier recommendations. If you want to be found you should not only be blogging relevant content but also feeding it out to twitter followers. Writing for Google SEO is sooooo 20th Century! Write for your followers and if they find it valuable they will retweet it to all their followers and the more it is retweeted the more people that will be alerted to you as a provider of valuable content. The potential reach is just mind boggling!

Anyway, back to the Return on Investment. It is perfectly possible that your online efforts are a total waste of time. People also spend a fortune on telemarketing, exhibitions, advertising, etc. and have little to show for it because they have a confused sales and marketing strategy. If you have the fundamentals in place and you do it correctly then I can attest that online social media does indeed generate leads not just directly from potential clients but also from existing clients and referrals from people who would never be a client.

This brings me to my hobby horse and the crux of the problem people have in getting a return from ANY form of lead generation, not just Social Media – How well do they really understand their target audience and the problems they solve?

The way I see it, if other people are really getting a return and you are not then don’t blame Social Media! It could be that you need to invest in some help in getting your marketing messages right before you start to reap the rewards!

SEO expert Nikki Pilkington (@NikkiPilkington) and a good example of someone using Twitter well, says that you cannot really determine the return unless you track and measure the return. This is good advice and you should be measuring the returns from all forms of lead generation and not just Social Media.

For me, ROI is all about cash in the bank. How much more income will be raised over time and what will the costs be? If you are earning less cash by spending time on Social Media, that needs to be taken into account too.

Another question people ask me is ‘How do you find the time to do all this Social Media stuff. Do you not have clients? The answer is yes I do have clients who pay me enough to invest in getting help to win more clients and add value to my existing clients. My secret weapon is my Social Media assistant Romany Thresher from Direct Assist Online.

The way it works is that I produce all my own content and then Romany and her team check it and makes sure it gets plastered all over the internet! She manages my newsletter production and tells me when I need to comment on blogs. I charge a lot more for my time than I pay for Romany’s time. Also, when it comes to Social Media, Romany is a specialist and does things in a fraction of the time it takes me! I also pay a publicist twice as much for doing the same thing offline and so far Romany is winning hands down in terms of a return – but don’t tell her that!!

I hope you have found this useful and you will feel inspired enough to do as lot more with social media!