Small business social media marketing fails to provide good ROI. Pic by davidz

"Does your small business have a social media marketing strategy that takes time and effort but fails to deliver a positive ROI (Return on Investment)?" Most small business Internet marketing campaigns are in the same boat!

If your business puts more time, effort and money into its social media than the returns warrant, then it's time to take stock. Don't be afraid to make bold changes regarding social media strategy.

Like any business activity, social marketing needs to provide some sort of return - there's little point in wasting resources on it simply because that's what everyone else is doing. This article will contrast the growth in social media with its poor returns, and discuss how you can get more for less from your Internet marketing budget.

Business & social media

According to a recent report by email marketing company Vertical Response, who surveyed 500 small businesses:

  • 90% of small businesses are on FaceBook
  • 70% are on Twitter
  • More than half have a blog
  • 25% spend 6- 10 hours a week on social media
  • One third of small business owners and managers wish they could spend less time on social media

The stats also indicate that the amount of time spent using social media is increasing each year. And, four times as many small businesses have increased their social marketing budget - as opposed to those who decreased it.

Doesn't something strike you as odd about these figures? Businesses are increasing their engagement and spend on social media, while wishing they could do the opposite (spend less time on social media).

The only time any business owners wants to do something less, is when (s)he doesn't feel like it is bringing in a tangible return.

So why is everyone jumping on the social media bandwagon?

I believe it is because:

Social media marketing is driven by small businesses' fear of losing competitiveness.

Yes, building social influence is important, but the process of building social influence is not trivial. In addition, building social influence is not the core competency of small businesses, so the amount of effort that is wasted on ineffective Internet marketing is very high.

Ultimately, a poorly implemented and ineffective social marketing strategy is a waste of time and money.

Small business social media returns

Many small businesses are scared of losing competitiveness if they aren't well represented on the popular social networks like FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. So they invest time and effort (and a bit of money) to grow their "social influence".

To put this into perspective, according to the latest research report by Forrester:

"Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers"

They arrived at this conclusion after analyzing the primary sales drivers for eCommerce and found that less than 1% was driven by social media.

Social media evangelists will point to the fact that social media offers many indirect and intangible benefits, and they are absolutely correct. But 1%, really?

Modifying your small business marketing strategy

I am not advocating that small business dumps social media marketing. But, I think someone has to put their hand up and ask why everyone is diverting resources into something that hasn't been shown to provide great returns across the board for everyone (of course, there are plenty of individual examples of social media marketing success).

Given that the majority of all Internet traffic still originates with search and that mobile will outstrip PC Internet access in the next year or so, my advice for small businesses with limited budgets and resources for Internet marketing is to do the following:

  • Focus on building a high quality content based Web presence (i.e. a blog, whitepapers, video, podcasts, etc)
  • Integrate social media into your content creation (i.e. share buttons, tweet about new posts or interesting facts)
  • Ensure your content is accessible using responsive Web design

In other words, make your content a platform from which to engage socially and on whatever device your customers choose to browse with. It's the content, the message, that will drive your social influence.

By focusing on creating high quality content, not only will you build a sustained source of high quality organic traffic from the search engines, you will also be in a position to build authority and trust that leads to social influence.

Once you have social influence, you are able to leverage it to drive business growth and sales.

Does your company have a successful social marketing strategy? What do you do that makes it more successful than other companies? Alternatively, do you feel like you are floundering when it comes to Internet marketing and social media? Share your marketing tips, ideas and experiences in the comments.