Is Social Media Worth it for You?

This is a guest post by Samir Balwani, the founder of Training Social, a resource for those interested in social media training. Techipedia readers can use code Tamar for a 15% limited time discount when registering.

One of the most common questions in social media is – “is it worth it?”. Because of the nature of the marketing tool, each industry differs to the point that people just aren’t sure.

Many would use a blanket statement that it’s useful. They’re being disingenuous. Every industry can benefit from social media. No matter what, there is some way you can use it it. However, the question remains to be answered – is it worth it?

When it comes to profitability, increased revenue, and efficient use of time – the question of “is it worth it”, takes on a life of it’s own. There are two things we must understand before we can define if social media adds value to your business.

1: Opportunity Cost – Every time you spend a minute on social media is one minute you potentially lost revenue. This inherent cost needs to be included in any equations you make when allocating resources.

2: Social Media has Abstract Returns – It’s difficult to measure return on social media. It’s nearly impossible to forecast return on social media. This fact makes it difficult to quantifiably determine where resources should be spent.
Recognizing there is a cost to everything you do – time is money – and that social media returns are not only difficult to measure, but also impossible to forecast is an important first step.


The good thing about social media is that the opportunity cost tends to mostly be time. Whatever you can do to minimize the time you spend learning social media, and making your processes more efficient is worth it.

To determine returns, we’re forced to think in industries. Certain niches are more likely to see greater returns from social media.

High Return Industries

These industries tend to see high returns in social media marketing, quickly. Consumers are actively looking for and want to engage with most businesses that fall into the following categories.

1: Restaurants and Hospitality – Most hospitality establishments already understand that idea of good customer service. They realize how important word of mouth is to you’re their business model. Social media makes the word of mouth marketing that restaurants and hotels already profit from and makes it more efficient.

2: Businesses With Return Customers – Have a business that drives return customers? Social media can help you create a long-term relationship with your consumer that ensures they continue to visit you, and not a competitor.

3: Large BrandsBigger brands have two things that smaller companies don’t: an already built community, and money. These two advantages make creating a high return not only easier, but also more likely.
4: Online Driven Companies – Social media can be used to drive traffic to online websites. Communities, social news sites, and online sharing can be leveraged to build a site following.

Low Return Industries

These types of businesses tend to take a long time to create return in social media. They also often require large investments to create an initial community. Nonetheless, in the long term, social media can be a viable marketing strategy even for these industries:

1: Small Clients / Large Profits – Businesses that only have a handful of clients that are under contract will see a low return in social media. Their communities don’t tend to be large, and if they are, are made up of non-customers.

2: Impulse Bought Products – Products that don’t gain anything from “recommendations” tend to see a small return from social media. Unless the product is a fad, it is doubtful that an online community will impact the buying habits of consumers looking at an impulse bought product.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few and that my generalities are just that. If you know of an industry or “return” that I forgot, please share it in the comments. Don’t forget to just share your thoughts.

Samir Balwani is the founder of Training Social, a resource for those interested in social media training. Techipedia readers can use code Tamar for a 15% limited time discount when registering. Don’t forget to follow Samir on Twitter.

15 Comments

  • January 19, 2010

    laura

    You make some good points. Could I add one to your list? I think e-commerce benefits from social media. It’s a great arena for finding influencers and inspiring client generated content – nirvana to those of us who toil in the social media space. Even better it can be measured.

    Laura

  • January 19, 2010

    Samir Balwani

    Agreed Laura, the e-commerce side is great because of the measurement. I just wish we could cookie users on Facebook and Twitter so I could track their conversions… maybe one day! Thanks for the comment though

  • January 19, 2010

    Nic Oliver

    Hi Samir

    Interesting points. I would add that social media has changed the game for companies. Whereas in the past the communication channels were Business to Business or Business to Customer, social media has really opened up Customer to Customer. Unless a business is certain that their customer-base has an insignificant web-presence, can an organisation afford to not get involved in social media.

    Knowing what your customers are saying about you must make it worth it!

  • January 19, 2010

    Davina K. Brewer

    Depends on how you define worth, sales and profits or more. Your point about small biz/high returns is very valid and yet…some small businesses can establish a stronger web presence (damn SEO) faster and more efficiently via SM.

    And for any business, large or small, some of the best relationships are not always with the customers, but other key players: bloggers, brand advocates, media, vendors, etc.

  • I agree that”e-commerce benefits from social media”

  • January 20, 2010

    Richard Hostler

    Another consideration in the “is it worth it” equation is the impact of potential negative exposure. Even though this may speak to underlying customer service issues that have nothing to do with social media,it is easy to assign the blame for any damage caused to the social sites that provide exposure for negative comments.

  • January 20, 2010

    Erik Bower

    It’s funny, so many years later and most of the Cluetrain.org has come true. There is no firewall between you and your customers. So I think basically every brand needs to have a strategy in the least.

  • January 22, 2010

    Tech

    I don’t think social media is worth it for anyone. It’s rubbish traffic.

  • January 22, 2010

    Web Marketing Company

    The social media marketing now a days play a vital role in the optimization of the websites over the search engines. Specially Google, Yahoo and Msn.

  • January 22, 2010

    blahnik manolo

    Another consideration in the “is it worth it” equation is the impact of potential negative exposure. Even though this may speak to underlying customer service issues that have nothing to do with social media,it is easy to assign the blame for any damage caused to the social sites that provide exposure for negative comments.

    Read more: http://www.techipedia.com/2010/social-media-worth/#comments#ixzz0dLCholyZ

  • January 22, 2010

    manolo

    It’s funny, so many years later and most of the Cluetrain.org has come true. There is no firewall between you and your customers. So I think basically every brand needs to have a strategy in the least.

    Read more: http://www.techipedia.com/2010/social-media-worth/#comments#ixzz0dLNmo9ff

  • [...] Samir Balwani, in a guest post on http://www.techipedia.com, says that recognizing social media as a marketing tool is less important than realizing whether or not it is worth it for your business to use social media in the first place. Does social media add value to your business when “profitability, increased revenue, and efficient use of time” are all taken into consideration? Balwani states that “social media returns are not only difficult to measure, but also impossible to forecast,” so how can you know whether you should invest in Social Media Marketing (SMM), or not? Well, as Balwani suggests, you should consider where your business falls in the categories of High Return Industries or Low Return Industries in the market. [...]

  • February 15, 2010

    Teresa

    Is social media worth it? Definitely. If it gets your message out there and attracts a few, or possibly even great and significant, attention, then your time and effort is certainly justified. At the same time, social media is great for those who are just starting out their small businesses or working from their virtual offices. It gives them the avenue to market their products and services at the level and price they could afford. The fast and wide reach of social media also provides you a wider audience which equals to more networks and opportunities. :-)

    P.S. Check out http://budurl.com/e3mb to see how being well informed can help you succeed while taking that risk and http://budurl.com/nhs8 to find out how else the Internet brings change and success in marketing.

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