Here’s a stat you should know regarding the executive use of social media: somewhere between 61 and 68 percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs don’t use it at all. Or, as CIO Magazine has pointed out: “Most CEOs Still Don’t Get Social Media.”

This underscores a major problem with social media in many organizations: its bottom-line value is hard to prove. In some organizations, its bottom-line value might be hard for people to even understand. The CEO stat reflects that: the person with the largest amount of responsibility for the bottom line is, in 7 out of 10 cases, avoiding social media.

It’s a fraught exercise to do anything for a business without tying it to some form of business objective because otherwise, you create a priority vacuum. There, people are just checking boxes and accomplishing tasks — but those tasks may have very little value towards your actual growth and revenue objectives.

For social media to get attention as a powerful force within your company — which it can be — there are a few key rules you need to follow. None of this will be drastically different than what any marketing consultant worth his/her price can tell you. This is about understanding why you need to act certain ways on social media, then figuring out how best to do it within your organization. In short, it’s about aligning understanding, strategy, and execution.

Actually Be Social

Most businesses, upon arriving at a social channel, completely forget the first word of the term, i.e. “social.” To quote Neil Patel in Forbes:

What is social media about, really? It’s about the social. But social with who? Your users. To be effective, you’ve got to understand who they are, what they want, and how to get it to them.

Many orgs think of social this way:

  • Blast out content about yourself
  • Periodically RT or share from a popular person
  • Collect and report on impressions
  • “We have a social strategy!”

In reality, it needs to look more like this:

  • Share content from yourself and others in your vertical/industry, even including competitors periodically
  • Do Twitter chats and LinkedIn groups
  • Respond to conversations
  • Respond directly to customers
  • Constantly read articles about best practices in social and on new channels and tweak what you’re doing

In short, social is about conversations and moving ideas forward. It’s not about everyone rushing in, yelling about their product, and moving on. That’s actually what social ads are for, oftentimes — but that’s a topic for a different post.

Understand the ROI Implications

Even though social media isn’t a ‘traditional’ business channel — i.e. publishing or trade shows — it can be really effective. One study showed that skilled social media users are 6x more likely to exceed their quotas. Visually:


That graphic is from 2014, yes — but similar information exists as recently as July 2016. Sales professionals who use social media are 79% more likely to attain quota than those that don’t, for example.There are numerous examples of people using ‘social selling’ — yes, selling on social — to crush their quotas.

Now let’s do a quick math and probability exercise. (Don’t worry; it won’t be hard.)

Let’s say you predominantly sell your product in the United States. 58 percent of the adult population of the U.S. is on Facebook. Now, that’s not 100 percent, no. But 6 in 10 is a better probability of 4 in 10. And while all the U.S. Facebook users haven’t liked your page and may not see your content, but social media has a huge invisible audience. You may share something and, because someone who has liked your page shares it, a totally new person sees it. If what you shared was cool/interesting (which everything should aspire to be), you may gain a new interested customer via this “invisible audience.”

Organic social use (i.e. not social ads) and ROI is all about customer experience. You’re developing relationships with customers. Maybe they buy a ton from you down the road, or maybe they buy one item or service. It honestly doesn’t matter at the relationship-building stage. What matters is this, visually:


There are hundreds of charts online about customer experience has gained in importance in recent years. The one above, from MarketingSherpa by way of additional research, has a good tie back to the bottom line. Notably, customer experience leaders are outpacing the market (or the S&P 500 Index). Customer experience laggards are falling behind. Those numbers will only grow — in both directions — over time.

Social media is a huge part of that.

Changing how you think about business terms and ideas

This is the hardest part for most organizations, but for social media to matter in your business, this has to happen.

To start, consider this quote from an article done by UPenn’s Wharton School of Business:

Employers also often underestimate the cost of layoffs in immediate financial terms, as well as in the lingering burden it places on remaining resources — both financially and emotionally. “There is definitely a huge problem in HR generally that the stuff that is easy to put on a spreadsheet outweighs the stuff that isn’t,” says Bidwell.

Ignore the word “HR” for the moment and replace it with “marketing” or whatever department you sit in. Would you say the last sentence is still true? “The stuff that is easy to put on a spreadsheet outweighs the stuff that isn’t?”

If that’s true in your business — it’s true in many — then you probably have a hard time getting going with social media as a business advantage. Why? Because you’re probably creating those ‘spreadsheet metrics’ for executives around things like impressions, likes, and shares. That’s typically called “social media engagement.”

Hard truth: it doesn’t really matter that much. The posts on social media with the highest levels of engagement? They still get 99 percent of their traffic from paid, not organic, reach.

If customer experience is relevant to your business, find a metric within social that tracks back to that. Monitor that. Report on that. An example might be: “New customer leads acquired via social,” divided by channel. Another example might be “Customer service issues addressed,” again by channel.

Track, monitor, and report those metrics. Now there’s a tie back to the business.

Baby Steps

Facebook got to 500 million users in six years. By contrast, it took about 35 years to build the highway system in America. Digital tools scale quickly. When something scales quickly, there are a limited number of rules around it and people are rushing in to define best practices and processes at every turn. To an extent, that’s what happened with social media — and that’s why “how to do social media right” and “how to tie social media to business goals” are still major stumbling blocks for companies, even 12 years after the founding of Facebook.

There are a series of steps you can take, some outlined above. You can always call us for more information or ideas, too. We love helping brands find ways to leverage social for growth.

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Alive Agency