You've done it. You've managed to convince management to give you some budget to apply to social media. You've built out a plan and have been executing, but you're running across some challenges of the fiscal nature.

Management won't ok the spend for your engagement platform or additional people or other resources. It seems as if the well has dried out for additional funding for your initiatives. In this article, I'll go over common objections and solutions for getting more budget freed up and applied to your social media campaigns.

What does social media do for your organization? This is a fair question for management or the powers that be to ask. It's supposed to do something, right? What's that something, and how does it relate to the business?

One of the big problems with most social media experts is how they communicate with "suits" on what they're doing and what kind of impact they're having. One of the hottest arguments is on this whole "ROI" discussion, and it's really a reflection of a failing of social media practitioners to speak suit language.

If you throw too many non-business relative metrics at a suit, they'll get frustrated and throw out ROI as an example of a business relative measure that they're familiar with. If you get stuck in an ROI argument with your upper management, it's because you failed to deliver them a measurement that matters.

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So what matters? Businesses invest money for any combination of 3 desired results:

  • Increase revenue
  • Decrease costs
  • Increase customer satisfaction

You can appeal to upper management's early adopter side to hook them initially, but you'll need to show impact on one or more of the above in order to sustain or increase a real meaty budget. Hope only goes so far before you gotta show them the money; money you help earn, money you help save, and customers that are more satisfied. You can show these results on a short time scale or a long one, but you have to link them somehow. Slam dunk social media stats look like this:

  • Social media was utilized to introduce us to 3 eventual hires this year. Had we used a recruitment agency, this would have cost us $60,000. (Cost savings)
  • Twitter generated 10 new leads last year, 1 of which closed at $20,000. (Revenue increasing)

A perfect understanding is not necessary, but if you can provide some stats or proof around how social media supports important business functions, it can go a long way. For example:

  • 15% of our new customers this year mentioned following our blog. While we can't be sure to the extent that this influenced the sale, several of them mentioned content from the blog as primary drivers for contacting us. Tom Selleck of Acme Printing wrote, "Been following your blog for a while, and you guys seem like the experts in cloud printing solutions. Can you have one of your salespeople give me a call to discuss your solution?" (Revenue increasing)
  • After implementing our engagement platform, we were able to engage customers who were complaining about our service extremely fast. Last year, we had 4 tweets complaining about our service get over 20 retweets, resulting in poor brand experience. Since implementing the platform, we've had none. We've also found that supporting a customer over Twitter averaged only 4 minutes of actual support vs our call center's average of 12 minute service calls, so we're likely reducing call center costs by intercepting customers on social media. We engaged 296 customers since implementation. (Increasing customer satisfaction, decreasing costs)

Now that I've painted an ideal picture of tying social media outputs with business-relative goals, I'd like to outline a few pitfalls that you should avoid:

Impressions are not impressive

Quite frankly, compared to other methods of advertising, your impressions stats are going to suck. Your tweet potentially went out to 20,000 people, so you want a pat on the back? A billboard on a popular road could do a half million in a week. Still want to be measured on impressions? Radio, newspaper, and other channels are going to whip your butt. Impressions by itself is a terrible stat, because it lacks appropriate context. Great marketing engages the right person at the right time at the right place. Impressions as a stat doesn't guarantee ANY of those. Could be the wrong person, could be the wrong time, could be the wrong place. Strive for better than just impressions by adding context.

What does an impressions stat with context look like? "200 of our identified prospects read our newsletter and clicked through to a blog post." This kind of statistic still sucks because it doesn't tie back to real business results, but at least it offers some relevance and a real world SIGNAL in the click throughs.

Don't F with ROI

Want to be ridiculed behind your back by your MBA overlords? Make up your own acronym for Return on Investment (ROI). ROI is something very specific and measurable. It means something in strategy documents and is a universal statistic for pencil pushers to use to speak about the same thing. If you mess around with what ROI means, you're just like that aunt who makes up her own shorthand abbreviations. lolthxbnothx (LOL, thanks, but no thanks). You have 2 other avenues that you can go down if you don't have direct return attributable to what you do. If you don't directly impact the bottom line, you can show how you save money or increase customer satisfaction, but for god's sake, don't screw with ROI. Don't make up a stat like Return on Engagement, Return on Impressions, Return on Relationships, or any others.

Don't make your own goals

If you were to look at your boss' compensation plan, you'd be hard pressed to find him/her being bonused on "website traffic", "retweets", or Squidoo lenses. They are incentivized to increase revenue, reduce cost, and increase customer satisfaction and they have a finite amount of resources to accomplish those goals. Your strategies that you present can be measured by other means, but you have to eventually tie it back to a measurement that really means something.

Summary

This post was born out of frustration I had from hearing 2 sides of the social media results story from people who weren't speaking the same language. Social media provides a powerful platform and new approaches to contacting customers, advocates, and other interesting people, but without some form of tracking, it can become a bit of a money/time pit. At the same time, I see great impacts from social media that seem to come out by accident, and then the strategy isn't changed to match observed results. If you thought your social media was going to get you leads, but then it turns out to improve customer retention, you need to re-evaluate impact and spend accordingly. By understanding what impacts you're having for your organization, measuring to the best of your ability, and communicating those impacts, you'll get the green light from upper management.

A shameless plug for our blog, here's how to setup goals in Google Analytics (a great part of tracking social media success): http://www.topdraw.com/blog/how-to-set-up-goals-in-google-analytics/