When discussing the effectiveness of social media, we always prepare ourselves to answer the ultimate, decision-driving question – “When will we start to see a difference in sales?”
That, of course, is the wrong question to ask. Naturally, the strategy behind the entrance to the social media realm can be customized to influence sales as much as possible. Promotions and activities can be designed to drive traffic to homepages and online stores – coupons and codes can be awarded that can be brought right into retail locations. Success in social media, however, can’t be completely summed up in a rise in sales. To quote Abraham Harrison, “It’s about making the firm overall more marketable to clients, which will end up making the firm as a whole more profitable.”
Brands are commonly and correctly thought of as living entities. They require planning and constant TLC, and social media provides one of the most visual representations of what it means to have a “living brand.” Take a moment to visit an active brand’s MySpace or Facebook page or Twitter stream, and you’ll see exactly what I mean – posts, comments, likes / dislikes, contributed photos, re-Tweets – the brand lives through the activity of its fans, followers and customers. Tending to those fans, followers and customers is an act of brand management, and the more a brand demonstrates its level of caring for its customers’ experiences and opinions, the more publicly favorable the brand will be.
The moral here is “don’t let profits outweigh benefits.” Social media isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon, and when given the proper time and attention to develop, the benefits it reaps on behalf of its brand can go much farther than any profits earned by flash-in-the-pan promotions.