Steady effort wins the social media marketing race for optimal ROI

“It’s been three months, and my social media broadcasting effort is still not paying off.” Time to stop? Absolutely not. With the entire world heading to the Internet, shutting down a new social media and Web marketing program if the ROI does not appear within the first three to six months may not be as smart or cost-effective as one would think.

As I’ve mentioned, social media is “new” media – not a fad or a newfangled trend, but a new way to communicate, promote and publicize – and it’s only going to grow from here. It’s another channel of marketing to use for marketing, and an exciting and ever-developing channel at that!
 
As Terry Isner wrote, social media must align with traditional marketing methods to achieve the best results. Promoting and publicizing your firm or attorneys via social and Web (aka “new”) media is a very cost-effective marketing technique, but, for it to continue to be so, it can never stop. The consistent build and curation of content is necessary for its success.

New media must be taken advantage of (on some level, at least to start) and be addressed as a long-term investment or a standard marketing line item that increases over time. Not investing in a social media program or overall Web presence that involves a combination of broadcasting, search engine placement and advertising, as well as image control and thought leadership (on behalf of your “brand ambassadors”), could end up being detrimental to a business. Again, as more and more people continue to use the Internet to read more about a lawyer or law firm that comes recommended or search for a legal support in a local community, not having a robust presence will do more harm than good.

In fact, stopping any PR/marketing effort, in general, is really the worst thing any business can do. The rule of thumb is that, when business is slow, marketing and publicity tactics have to increase. Smart business operators and leaders know that an investment in marketing during slow and start-up periods will pay out “over time” – and new media investment is no different.

Yes, social media is still more or less free and still very new, with not a lot of hard or time-tested data on “true ROI,” but we all need to face the reality of the situation. It’s new media, and investing in a presence now is a must – the Web is not going away any time soon, if ever. Now is the time to get started – while it is still relatively free to use and while we can still experiment and play with tactics to figure out what will provide the best ROI.

The only large cost associated with social media is that of labor – the time it takes to produce social media and handle its daily tactical programming. A social media or Web media marketing program is not a DIY type of task or project. It should be handled in the same manner as any traditional marketing or public relations effort: by a PR/marketing professional who knows its ins-and-outs.

Remember the days of buying mailing lists? We were lucky if 50% of the list or email addresses reached their targets, and then we had to sit and wait in the hope of a 3- to 6-percent ROI.

What about salespeople? How much did you invest in that new salesperson over the course of his or her first year or two, before the ROI kicked in?
Investing in social, digital and Web public relations, marketing and advertising is no different. The investment (in comparison to traditional marketing or public relations) can be the same or less. The more time and energy that you put into a social/Web media effort, the higher and faster the ROI. No, not in three months or even six months, but perhaps a year – even two. Yes, that long. But, if you think about it, PR/marketing in general has always been a long-term investment. Remember that all new media takes time to develop. Newspapers and magazines, direct mail, radio and television were once considered new, too.

There is no “quick fix” for any sort of marketing. I was involved in the fitness and weight loss industry in the ’80s and ’90s as a trainer, instructor and marketer. The clients/members who “invested” in long-term fitness programs (the kind of program that fit their specific situations and abilities, of course) were the ones who succeeded and continued to succeed. Fast results always back-fired (renewed weight gain, injury, etc.). These people also had to invest time and money (in various ways) to get results. The return on investment did come, but only with time. The same rule of thumb applies to social media participation and usage.

A strong social media presence for your personal and/or business brand is a necessary line item that all businesses now must invest in on some level. Over-thinking and rushing “ROI” will only inhibit success in the end. Keep the efforts going and I promise, as the Internet and social media channels continue to develop and build, you will see the ROI – and be more than pleasantly surprised at that. The Internet is not going away, and the generations that will take over our current practices will only continue to drive business through this vast communication channel. It’s up to us to set them up for success in the future.
 
Remember the fable about the hare and the turtle? Don’t be afraid to be the turtle! Steady … steady … there’s absolutely no quick fix in any area of marketing, and that includes the use of the Internet and social media. Plan for the long haul, and ROI will show up.

Laurie Pehar Borsh

Laurie Pehar Borsh is a 25+ year B2B and B2C public relations and promotions veteran who merged her traditional skill set into producing and managing digital publicity and public relations campaigns and projects for clients in the early part of the new century—the dawn of social media. As a social media publicity producer, Laurie’s mission is to help clients cut through the clutter of the overwhelming “new media beast” with better strategies and best-practice tactical plans to ensure a continual return on investment.

Comments

I've found Facebook a bit of a challenge, but the exposure when mixed with a blog is good way to develop relationships as well as gain top of mind exposure. Good post.

Thanks for your comment, Kevin. With regard to using your blog as a content source for Facebook (and other social media networks), you are right on the money there.

In terms of using Facebook successfully, I have to say that attorneys, law firms and a myriad other legal professionals definitely need to be more involved on Facebook and look at it as an “unending” B2C marketing and publicity platform. The ideal is a combination of a Facebook page for the firm and Professional Profiles of the attorneys (professionally branded and networked only – no personal family content on these) that are tied to the firm’s page. Think about it: Attorneys and law firms deal with consumers (and, naturally, consumers within the businesses they represent) every day. This is why I believe Facebook is necessary for law firm marketing and public relations/communication in general. Consumers are on Facebook looking for information – products and services (and that includes legal services!) all day long. For the most part, the 1 billion-plus consumers on Facebook will stay in that network to have the opportunity to reach out directly to a vendor or service provider. That’s what Facebook was originally built for!

When you think about it, Facebook is an intimate and highly engaging way to get in touch with an entity to build trust at the onset of a client/attorney or client/firm relationship (and I would think that this would be important to any law firm or legal professional, since it pertains to developing new business). Most, if not all, Facebook members will trust someone they know (via their own or a friend’s network) on Facebook more than they do someone they can only find by, say, looking for legal representation via a Google search or Yellow Page advertisement/listing.

This is why I truly think that Facebook is an opportunity that so many attorneys, firms and other legal professionals are missing out on and have avoided simply because they do not know how to use and leverage this social media network. Compelling and consistent content is key (i.e., blogging), but so is building the right audience, and there are a few ways to do that. We’ll talk about that more in upcoming conversations.

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