The Real (and Hidden) Value of Social Media

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The most valuable part of social media is driving recommendations and natural and authentic social mentions from your customers.

I've worked with thousands of businesses on their social media marketing strategies, and one of the things that I've noticed is that the focus is primarily on creating their social media assets, posting content on their assets, and driving engagement on their assets.

The problem is that the most valuable part of social media has nothing to do with any of your brand assets.

The most valuable part of social media is driving recommendations and natural and authentic social mentions from your customers. Most of these probably don't take place on your brand page.

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Here is an example.

There is a new restaurant that I just tried and I love it. It is amazing. I want to share my experience with my friends and tell them to go. I log in to Facebook and talk about my experience. I take a shot of the food on Instagram and share it on Facebook. I am sharing my experience, encouraging my friends to go. I am doing this on my Facebook page (or other social media accounts) - the restaurant can't even see it.

This happens all the time.

When I check in to a hotel and share a picture of my room. When my friend asks for a recommendation for an accountant on Facebook and I reply. When my friend shares pictures of her new car, and I start thinking about buying the same one.

These are just a few examples of this concept at work.

The point is that the real value of social media isn't me liking your page only to ignore your updates and posts (unless you want to pay for me to see them).

The real value is recommendations, comments, and references that people make on their private accounts, many of which are hidden from the business.

I was recently working with an agency that manages social media for a car dealership, and their goal was to grow more likes, interactions, and reach for the Facebook page.

They were focused on the wrong thing.

What do they really want to achieve at the end of the day? More people buying cars from that dealership. Is focusing on the fan page the most obvious and effective way to do this? Maybe, but maybe not.

I just bought a new car and I have no interest in connecting with the dealership - and why should I? I'm not a car enthusiast and I'm not interested in status updates about cars.

That being said, how could I, as a customer, help them achieve their goal of building awareness and ultimately acquiring new customers? By talking to my friends about them. When I bought the car, I posted pictures on social networks but never mentioned the dealer. They should have been a part of that conversation, and they could have been if they had suggested it or given me an incentive.

As my friends mention that they are shopping for new cars (on Facebook and in real life), I might recommend the dealership or the salesperson.

Brands Can Drive Huge Value on Social Media by Getting Their Customers Talking

Their objective should be to get me talking about my experience with them - test-driving cars, the excitement of choosing one, the day I take delivery - and including them in the conversation.

What if the sales rep offered to take my picture in a hot car that I was test-driving for me to post on Facebook (and request that I mention the dealership)?

The point is that businesses should focus on being a part of the dialogue and encouraging their customers (and potential customers) to talk about them in natural ways on their social network. This drives awareness and sales and can be much more effective at reaching potential customers on Facebook, especially since brands don't get the best visibility in the Facebook news feed.

But How Do We Measure This?

You can't. It is hidden. Brands don't have access to the data on Facebook profiles, unless the brand is actually tagged in the post. You can build processes like asking new customers how they heard about you, or getting feedback from your sales team.

Since the value isn't immediately viewable and marketers can't point to it and say, "Look what we made happen," many businesses totally ignore this side of social media marketing, even though it can be the most valuable.

Time to reevaluate your strategy. How can you view social media as a "word-of-mouth driving engine" in addition to your strategy of building your page?

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