Fairly often when I talk about social media and its role in a PR and marketing effort, people ask me this question: If I invest my money in social media marketing, how many leads will I generate or products will I sell?

Whenever I get this question, it hits home that there’s a fundamental misunderstanding about what social media marketing is – or is not. As I try to explain, what social media does most effectively is create brand recognition and keep your name in front of the people you’re trying to reach. And, of course, through that process it should definitely have an impact on your sales. But it can also be an unseen impact, not just direct-response sales or leads.

So, what do I mean by an unseen impact? I was just discussing this with Jay York, our senior social media strategist, and he had a great way of explaining it. Years ago, the popular TV show “Seinfeld” was often referred to as a “water cooler show” because the morning after a new episode aired people would chat about it with their co-workers. So, even those people who never watched an episode of “Seinfeld” learned about the Soup Nazi, puffy shirts and an eccentric holiday known as Festivus. They became part of our culture at that time … and still are!

The same water-cooler-type moments hold true with social media. When people see something on social media that strikes their fancy, they’re likely to mention it in real life to friends or associates. It could be a restaurant, or a book, or a new store that opened in their neighborhood.

How does that water-cooler-type moment help you? Even if the person who saw it on social media isn’t a buyer at that moment, when they mention it to a friend who is in the market for that product or service, there’s a good chance that friend becomes a customer. But guess what happens when you ask this new customer how he heard about you? His response will be: from a friend.

In these cases, you won’t be able to make a connection to your social media campaign, yet your social media campaign is what prompted the sale.

This is what I’m referring to when I say the “unseen impact” of social media marketing.

So what’s the takeaway to keep in mind?

  • Social media has the advantage of being – social. People who follow you on social media will often share your interesting posts or tweets with their followers. Then those people can share it with their followers, and so on. Ideally one or more of your followers who shares your post has a really large following of their own (which is why we like to identify “influencers” for all of our clients’ campaigns). In this case, the number of people who see your post through this sharing process has now exponentially increased and somewhere down the line you’ll have new customers as a result. This all ties back to your social media marketing, but there’s no way you’ll ever know it! That’s one reason it’s short-sighted to think that your social media followers are your entire customer base. It’s so much bigger than that.
  • Social media won’t change the sales process. When it comes to spending money, the average person makes a quicker decision about buying a $20 toy for their child than they do about a $20,000 home-improvement project. If you’re selling a big ticket item, social media is a way to build brand equity with prospective customers and a way for prospective customers to learn all about you and decide whether they want to do business with you. That’s why the quality of your posts is so important and needs to be professional, as you’re continuously building trust and credibility with your followers (and their followers) whether you realize it or not.
  • Social media and the billboard effect. If you think about it, social media has something in common with a billboard. No one expects that every person who drives past a billboard each day is going to become a customer. (You can’t even click on the billboard!) But some of those people the billboard message reaches will become customers. Reach is something we look at with social media, too. The more people you reach, the better it is for your company – much like with that billboard. All those people see your posts again and again – like the drivers passing the billboard – and when the time comes to do business, you’re the one who comes to mind!

One of the great things about social media is you don’t have to pay to use it. But, you do need to keep it active on a regular basis, so there is an investment of time even when there isn’t one in dollars.

If you can’t devote the necessary time to it, you might consider finding a professional whose job it is to make you look good by taking the time to post quality content and interact with your followers.

You’ll benefit from what social media has to offer – building your brand and keeping your name out in front of the people you want to reach – even when the impact is unseen!


P.S. If you’d like professional help with your social media, as well as getting quoted in the press and being interviewed on radio and TV, give us a call. This is what we’ve been doing for our clients for 27 years. To learn more, please call us at 727-443-7115 Ext. 231. We’d love to hear from you!

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