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Social Media in Real Dollars

You’ve got a slick website and a killer office/retail space, but you’re not seeing new customers. You know about Facebook and Twitter, but are wary of investing your time into social media, because you can’t calculate virtual money. You aren’t sure what your next step should be. Sure, you know the internet is important, but how do you make it work for your business? Figure out your social media payback in real dollars.

If this sounds like you, it’s time to really look at your marketing plan. It’s time to learn how social media fits in. It can be tricky to calculate a return-on-investment (ROI) for web-based applications. But there are ways to calculate how your time and money is spent, and what impact a Facebook profile can really have on your sales.

First thing first: Social Media

Before you launch any social media campaign, get a baseline. Look at your business’s numbers right now: the amount of foot traffic, web traffic, average customer spending, and how many repeat customers you have. What’s the average length of time between repeat visits from a regular customer? How many new customers do you see each week?

Then launch your campaign

Try to use at least two forms of social media (from Twitter to Facebook, blogging, e-mail marketing, online coupons, etc.- look at what your customer base uses the most) and update them about once a day. Create an exclusive deal that your customers can only access via the web. Keep track of your time. How many hours did you spend setting all this up and updating it? Multiply that by a fair hourly wage, and that’s your initial social media investment.

Monitor your impact

Keep an eye on what’s working. Did one of your Groupon offers rise above the rest? Did your special event, listed on Facebook, bring a lot of traffic to your store on a particular day? Ultimately, you want to know which tactics are working in real dollars – what makes your customers want to show up and spend money? Many services offer trackable results – so know how many people have opened your email, redeemed your online coupon, or used Facebook Places to chick in at your location.

Time to quantify

After 1 month of your no-hold-barred social media campaign, look at your numbers again. Be sure to factor in your initial investment, and how much (hours x hourly wage) it will take to maintain your internet blitz. If you’re not seeing an ROI, you might want to change your tactics. Just start this cycle over again – use a different form of social media, or change the nature of your online offers (bigger discounts or BOGO deals might be better motivation for online users to follow up in the real world).

The biggest use of social media is to generate buzz and good word-of-mouth for your business. These days, it’s easy to network with dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of potential customers – you just have to make sure you’re willing to put in the time, follow the methodology, and calculate your benefits.

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