How to Know If You’re Wasting Your Time on Social Media



Is the time and effort you spend on social media making a difference, or are you just wasting your resources? Plenty of business owners “assume it’s the right thing for them, but they don’t understand what they hope to get out of it,” says Ryan Goff, senior vice president and social media marketing director at Baltimore-based marketing firm MGH Inc. “I don’t think they understand the result.”

Social media experts and retailers who have mastered these virtual worlds say there are a number of steps you can take to figure out what kind of results your social footprint is generating.

Know what you want.
“When we walk in, we ask three questions,” says Rod Worley, president and founder of Grayson, Ga.–based social media marketing company Four Grainer LLC, which focuses on jewelers.

Worley’s three questions guide jewelers to firm up their social media goals. First, he asks them to determine if they’re looking to increase sales or brand awareness. If they have e-commerce capability, he prompts them to decide if one of their goals is driving sales to the website. Then, Worley suggests they consider their priorities: Is it more important for them to find new customers or improve customer loyalty and retain existing customers?

Set realistic expectations.
Patience is key—as is the proper frame of mind about what social media is and what it isn’t. “One thing that’s really important to keep in mind is, it’s not primarily a sales tool,” says Nina Cooper, president of Emeryville, Calif.–based wholesale supplier Nina Designs. “It’s more like being at a trade show.”

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Make it a “social” effort.
“We’re asking people, ‘If you don’t mind, would you photograph that and put it on our wall?’?” says Tommy Glatz, owner of Glatz Jewelers in Aliquippa, Pa. “More and more people are doing that, and more and more of their friends are ­jumping in and making comments on it,” he says, adding that everyone with a smartphone has a camera within reach. “That’s powerful,” Glatz says. Better yet, it gives you a good gauge of your social media impact.

Know your tools.
Consider using some of the more popular digital tools in the marketplace. If you’re big into Facebook, its Page Insights is a tool that can help you measure your page’s performance, including showing you anonymized demographic data about the people who spend time on and interact with your page.  Search giant Google’s prodigious data collection also comes in handy for retailers who want to see who’s on the other side of the screen. Retailers can see what makes visitors come to their website, where they come from, and how they respond to keywords and other messaging.

For working across multiple platforms, Worley recommends a social media management platform called HootSuite. “It gives you a nice, entry-level metric system,” he says. “It can track Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and so on.” He also suggests Bitly, which takes any URL and shortens it. “Then, when you post that into Twitter or Facebook, it measures your social reach,” he says.

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Narrow your focus.
There are a couple things retailers can look at to figure out where to concentrate their resources, Goff says. Start with analytics from your own website to see where people are coming from. If you have a steady stream of visitors coming from Facebook but less than a trickle from Twitter, focus your efforts on Facebook and maybe just post links to your Facebook activity on your Twitter feed.

And don’t forget that low-tech methods work, too. “We always ask first-time customers how they found us,” Cooper says. “Ask customers where they participate in social media. You want to be where they are.”
 

A version of this story originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of JCK magazine.

(Icons: Istockphoto; tablet: Daniel Allan/Getty Images; hand scrolling: Petri Artturi Asikainen/Getty Images)