We live in an online world where Facebook is your town square, Twitter is a local group of opinion leaders, and LinkedIn is your virtual Rolodex. Many platforms exist and your business is trying to find out what works best. At Community CarShare the majority of our growth still comes from word of mouth and traditional forms of promotion, but an increasing amount of sales are coming from online marketing driven by social media. Every business should be monitoring whether, and to what extent, to be part of social media.
A common question asked is, “what is the return on investment of social media?” Any responsible business should be asking that question, but ultimately the question is best answered with your gut rather than your head at this point. Sites like Klout.com, Google Analytics, and the ad section of Facebook will give you lots of data, but it doesn’t paint a complete picture of the true worth of social media. When your BIA sends you an invite to this month’s networking meeting, do your rush to quantify the value of attending? I’m guessing not, so base your decision to get involved on Twitter, or other platforms, based on questions such as: Will this help improve my brand? Can I get better customer engagement? Etc…
I can best illustrate the benefits of social media involvement with an example. For years we have been working with our insurance company to lower our minimum driving age and this summer succeeded in having it lowered to 21! This was great news for us but, in the rush of our summer, business expansion only had a chance to compose one tweet about it in the first few days of receiving the news. A few days later a prospective member approached me at an event; turns out the message had spread so fast that it went beyond our immediate network and was being repeated back to us in a very short time frame.
In the end, that one tweet was re-tweeted over two dozen times and has been our most broadcast message of any we’ve composed. If you compare what we invested (the time to compose a 140 character phrase) with what we received then you can understand why we’re enthusiastic about the ROI that social media can bring to your business.
That being said, Facebook likes and Twitter followers don’t necessarily translate into sales. So while you’re working to build your platform, don’t be afraid to branch out and tap into other established networks. We’ve used online deal sites like Groupon and WagJag, and have considered others like Living Social. Those deals have offered great returns because they give access to an already established network of several hundred-thousand people depending on which site you choose.
As always make sure you know your target audience and do some research on the particular demographic of each site and its potential successes/failures to avoid disappointment. Is your business based on a membership service? Then these deals are a no-brainer because you’ll have an easy chance at a repeat customer. Pick a site that works best for you and go for it.
Our experience at Community CarShare is that social media has helped drive word of mouth advertising, allowed us to engage with a community of interested people, and brought in new business opportunities that would not have been possible before. Studies show that social media adoption is currently in the “early majority” so it’s not too late to jump in. Define your goals, pick a few platforms, and follow us @GrRiverCarShare or on Facebook if you’d like!
Matthew Piggott is the Member Services Coordinator at Community CarShare. He enjoys using social media to find new CarShare members, and also to ensure they have good service once they join.