A participant in a recent webinar asked me this question: "How is updating my status on Facebook going to get me new clients?"
That's a fair question.
I've received many others in the same vein that all come down to this:
"How will investing my time with social media make my business money?"
I aim to show you. But it won't be easy. Sorry :-)
First, let's talk about "easy" marketing.
Easy marketing is handing a check to a Yellow Pages advertising rep. Easy marketing is sending a pretty post card to 5,000 people you don't know. Easy marketing is blanketing a neighborhood with generic flyers and door hangers.
This is the style of marketing the Green Industry is accustomed to. And it has worked.
Let's not confuse this easy marketing with social media marketing.
I think this confusion is what is holding back the majority of Green Industry companies from adopting social media.
Go back to the original question: "How will investing my time with social media make my business money?"
A single word in that question should jump out at you. That word changes the entire game.
When you place an advertisement or send a direct mail piece, you are investing money, not time.
How do you measure the success of a direct mail piece? Typically by response rate, number of leads, sales, and profit per sale: Money, basically. Which makes the impact of the campaign easy to accurately measure.
Invest money --> Get money
Most companies have the same expectation when it comes to social media:
Invest time --> Get money
Too bad it doesn't work that way (and why would it? That would make it too damn easy).
The route from "time" to "money" is not as direct and easily measurable as people would like. Thus the confusion, frustration and ambivalence towards social media marketing in the Green Industry.
The missing link between time and money
The return on investment of your time cannot be measured in dollars and cents.
On the Web, we are dealing in a different currency: Attention and reputation.
These nonmonetary markets are often referred to as the "reputation economy" and "attention economy". As Chris Anderson writes in his book, Free, "No longer is money the most important signal in the marketplace."
Talk about a shift in mindset!
Here is how we need to think about social media marketing:
Time --> (Attention + Reputation) --> Money
This is a much more indirect route which makes measuring the effectiveness of your social media efforts much more difficult. And that is what everyone seems to want: Concrete measurables.
The problem, of course, is that you can't measure attention and reputation as easily as dollars and cents.
Measuring ROI in a nonmonetary economy
You should see where I'm going and why I said this won't be easy.
Success with social media comes down to this: Capture attention and build your reputation.
If you do this, trust me, the money will follow--and a helluva lot more than what a Yellow Pages ad or door hanger will deliver.
A perfect example to illustrate this is Andrew Keys, a landscape designer from Massachusetts.
@OakLeafGreen, a.k.a. Andrew Keys, is a landscape designer, blogger, and since the spring of 2009, a devoted twitterer. After a bit of coercion from a good friend, Keys decided to give Twitter a try for promoting his organic landscape design firm and subsequently his investment of time resulted in an invitation to contribute to a national gardening magazine (Fine Gardening). Three articles later and Keys now adds "freelance writer" to his resume.
Andrew captured the attention of Fine Gardening associate editor Michelle Gervais and, as a result, his writing for a prominent gardening magazine is building his reputation as a landscape designer.
This will no doubt lead to more business (money) for Andrew (higher quality, as well, would be my guess).
So, how did Andrew capture the attention of Fine Gardening? Did he just post a bunch of self-promoting tweets and get lucky? Of course not.
First of all, he was savvy enough to follow editors of gardening magazines. Second, and this is the key, Andrew gave his attention to others before getting attention in return.
Isn't this how life works? Didn't we learn this stuff on the playground? Givers Gain! It is the same with social media (note the word "social). Only our playground in now online.
Go back to the question I was asked during the webinar: "How is updating my status on Facebook going to get me new clients?"
The answer, of course, is: It won't!
You don't tweet an update and get a dollar dropped on your head from a magical bluebird in the sky.
Social media marketing is a different game than which most Green Industry businesses are used to playing. This is a nonmonetary economy with different measurables. Our currency is attention and reputation. Understand this and you will get the results you are after with social media marketing.