Should social ring the register?

(Originally published for Triad Advertising. Republished with permission.)

It’s Friday morning. Maybe you are sinking hoops using the Nerf backboard you put up years ago. Maybe you are kicking around your office, thinking about weekend plans, football training camp and… Facebook.

Yes, you still aren’t sure about social. On one shoulder is the guy in blue, insisting that you have to do it. On the other is the guy in red yelling that you are busy enough as it is. It’s Friday afternoon, after all. Perfect time for a rousing debate with… yourself.

You aren’t alone. We know first hand that it goes something like this:

Red: I don’t see how social media can really help most businesses. It doesn’t lead to sales. Any marketing tool that doesn’t lead to sales shouldn’t be used. It’s a waste of resources.

Blue: Facebook isn’t a marketing tool. It’s an engagement tool.

Red: What does that mean? Social takes a lot of time and energy. It diverts staff from real money making ventures to fluff. If it isn’t leading to sales, then why should companies bother?

Blue: It’s important to chat with your customers where they are. Social – in spite of press to the contrary – is still growing by leaps and bounds. People are probably already talking about you on Facebook, Yelp and other sites. So you might as well take part in the conversation.

Red: Why? Having that conversation on social is so public. It can go so wrong. Remember Chick-Fil-A and McDonald's?

Blue: True, but it can also go really right. When you use social as an extension of your customer service, you can move your customers from paying you to loving you. Building that brand loyalty is super important, particularly in today’s economy. Chick-Fil-A – got hammered on Facebook, but their fans were equally vocal in supporting them.

Red: I’m still not comfortable with recommending action that doesn’t have an easily measurable return on investment. People are so busy and it takes a lot of time and effort to make great content.

Blue: What’s the cost of not doing it? A lot of folks do their research before they commit to a purchase. They want to know a brand. What a brand thinks is important. What their friends think about it. If you don’t have that information out there, you could lose sales.

Red: Maybe. But there is a lot of garbage out there on social. Businesses don't seem to focus on what makes them different. They aren’t focusing on what makes their product special.

Blue: True. If you don’t take the time to create great content, you certainly won’t get the engagement and loyalty – and word of mouth promotion – you are looking for.

Red: And why is everyone so focused on Facebook? I see so many brands saying “I have to be on Facebook” without knowing why or what their goals are.

Blue: Absolutely. Not everyone needs to be on all platforms. Does a B-2-B need to be on Facebook? Maybe not. Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest… they might all be better alternatives depending on the industry, the client base. Where are your peeps? That's where you should be.

Red: So… what were we arguing about? Seems like social is like all other efforts to promote your business. You get out what you put in.

Blue: Yeah. Pass the basketball.