Social Media success stories, truth or fiction?

Do a Google search for ‘Social Media success stories’ and you will get about 277 million hits. Can websites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest really be the making of a successful business? And if they are, it’s only for the big global companies right?

If you answered ‘no’ and ‘absolutely’ then you have probably been living in a cave for the past 10 years. A study by comCast in 2010 suggests that users of social media spend on average 1.5 times the amount online than those that are not connected. Opponents to businesses using social media say it is a waste of time, that it is a fad, and from my professional experience, staff will spend all day on Farmville and we cannot work out a Return on Investment (ROI) on it so we won’t do it.

I read recently a quote that in my opinion nicely countered this argument. To paraphrase it said that when the telephone was invented people said it was a waste of time, a fad, it wouldn’t catch on… when the fax machine appeared people said it was a waste of time, a fad, it won’t catch on… when email came along people said it’s a waste of time, a….  you get the idea. Social Media is a disruptive technology just like email before it, the fax before that and so on.

As for the ROI, calculating the return on investment for a telephone or email is difficult yet they are perceived to be a necessity of modern business. Companies that do embrace social media have found a way to connect with customers that is richer and promotes collaboration and two-way dialog. I think that the secret to doing this social media ‘thing’ well is remembering that it is a communications tool to connect people to people, not a tool to sell more widgets. Yes a financially quantifiable ROI is important, but maybe social media needs to be measured against a different metric such as customer engagement, what do you think?

KLM Airlines did an experiment with their passengers who used Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare and received 1,000,000 tweets about it, what price can you put on exposure like that? Watch the video below, do you think Air New Zealand would receive similar engagement if they did a similar campaign?

Small and medium sized business can now reach out through the power of social media and engage with literally the whole planet like never before and connect with potential consumers regardless of geographic location. Linda Coles describes the process in her book ‘Learn Marketing with Social Media in 7 Days‘ as this:

  • Engage your customers
  • Listen to your customers
  • Build your business network
  • Find your cheerleaders
  • Do it all over and over again

and guess what, social media lets you do that easily and cost-effectively 24/7/365, yes even in your pajamas! This is of course only part of the contribution to business success that social media offers. There are internal a tools as well that promote connecting, collaborating, communicating and co-operating, but that’s another  posting.

For now I will leave the last word on social media ROI to Hitler, enjoy.

6 Responses to Social Media success stories, truth or fiction?

  1. nadine.eleanor says:

    Nice post Aaron. KLM are amazing with this social geeky stuff. Did you see their latest initiative? “Meet & Seat” – ever end up stuck next to someone unpleasant on a long haul flight? – allows passengers to meet potential seat neighbours through a social platform and even pick and choose to some extent who they sit next to. Imagine that with Air NZ, you’d probably know at least 1 person on the plane anyway through 2 degrees of seperation!

  2. hey thanks for that. Interesting program they have there, those Dutch know how to innovate!

  3. Yuji says:

    I very much like KLM video. As they picked Twitter & Foursquare for this campaign, it’s time to better distinguish, understand & use those social software. It seems that some users of Facebook & Twitter do these well.
    I can’t help feeling somewhat awkward from time to time when in the set text ‘Enterprise 2.0’ RSS, Wikis, & SNS are talked about in the same context & manner.

  4. newyorklander says:

    Great Video on KLM. I like how the company used little surprises, nothing too over the top.

  5. tweettwins says:

    Hi Aaron you ask:

    ‘maybe social media needs to be measured against a different metric such as customer engagement, what do you think?’

    Of measurement – we measure Social Media across a range of non-financial KPI’s, have scores of tools to do so and only one is truly a Social Media ROI measurement tool.

    I have been part of Social Media producing a $4.2 million lead.
    I expect Social Media to produce results. It is just as reasonable to expect a $ value to the communication. Social Media can / does produce transactional resutls with or without pre-existing relationships.

    ■ Engage your customers ■ Listen to your customer ■ Build your business network
    ■ Find your cheerleaders ■ Do it all over and over again

    I cannot refer to the context the original quote is written with, so I comment based on its quote here. This is one of many tactics & strategies. It is only useful in a particular phases of business maturity and in a specific phase of Social Media adoption.

    As one who pioneered in the Social Media industry since 2008, being part of gettng massive results before L Coles started consulting, having much online experience of what works and doesn’t and a strategic marketing / business planning background, I find the above quote a simplistic description compared to my experience of reality.Its sucess is contingent on several variables

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