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The Dirty Little Secret about Social Media Return on Investment

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show-me-the-money

What’s the social media return on investment?

Ask that question to your favorite social media guru and watch them choke like Tony Romo at the sight of an Eagle. Then watch them redefine the meaning of the word “is”, rearrange the variables in the age old cash-on-cash formula and come up with a calculation that would confuse Einstein himself. You see, they have to do that because the numbers stink. If you were to put one method against the other, dollar earned for dollar earned, you’d have a higher ROI if you sat at Starbucks asking every patron if they wanted to buy or sell. Don’t get this twisted now – I’m not saying no one has ever gotten a client out of social media.  As a matter of fact I know the exact opposite to be true from personal experience. But in the current state, if your primary marketing strategy for your real estate business was to pour all your marketing energy into social media, the dollars you’d get back from your efforts would make you take a serious look at Burger King employment opportunities.

The Dirty Little Secret About Social Media ROI

Dismissing social media as a fad is simply foolish and I’m not attempting to do nothing of the kind. But there’s an 800 pound gorrilla in the twitterstream that no one will talk about. So I will:

Strictly from an ROI perspective, in its current state and reach social media can produce great returns on money and time invested, if the business is marketing to other businesses. The opposite tends to be true for businesses marketing to consumers

Let’s give some examples. If you are a graphic or web designer trying to find clients, Twitter is your absolute best friend in the whole wide world. Nothing else you could be doing instead, will match its results. If you are a mortgage pro who’s looking to establish relationships (hence, referrals) from local Realtor, engaging them on Twitter, friending them on Facebook will be a profitable venture if you play your cards right. Same goes for insurance agents, home warranty reps etc etc. But if you are a Realtor scouring Twitter for consumers that are just waiting there patiently for a nice agent to DM them so they could sell their home … (do I really need to finish?) There are some rare exceptions – i.e. restaurants, coffee shops can do great things in building loyal customers through social media.

Don’t forget the intangibles

Before those of you that completely misunderstood my paragraph above chew my head off, I want to point out the intangibles of social media that though might not be measured in banknotes, are priceless nevertheless.

  1. Brain Trust – The brilliant people that I’ve met on Twitter and the ability to pick their brain about issues, is a paradigm shift, in my opinion. Because of their advice and experience, I can make decisions that will allow me to make more money (or avoid losing)
  2. Top of Mind Awareness – Facebook may not help me in locating new clients, but it sure helps in creating more clients out of the people I already know. Through this amazing tool, I can stay in touch, demonstrate my expertise and ensure that when that time comes, mine will be the number they dial.
  3. Dollars are not the only benchmark – Businesses are brilliantly using social media for other purposes that don’t involve business generation. Providing customer service and building brand equity are two of the many functions social media facilitates and elevates to higher levels.

It’s just the beginning

Finally, remember that we are in the early stages of the game. As the reach of social media grows and becomes even more mainstream the results will come. So there is something to be said about positioning yourself now and grabbing that first mover advantage.

(There. I feel so much better… )

Houston Real Estate Rainmaker and Uberproud Father/Husband (not necessarily in that order). When I'm not skinning cats or changing diapers you can find me on Twitter or Facebook. I blog about marketing, social media and real estate. I might not always be in agreement, but you can rest assured I'll be honest. Oh, and I can cook a mean breakfast...

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37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 11, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Erion:

    Nice post!

    I’m not bold enough to hate on social media on a forum like this, but my actions speak louder than my words:

    I don’t tweet, I’ve got no Facebook, no Flikkr, I have never delicioushed, stumbled or Digg’d ANYthing, EVER.

    Weird, because I’m right in the sweetspot (I think) at 40, I love the net, am surrounded by computers, develop web sites, study and practice SEO until way too late every evening, and I’m a self described expert at AdWords.

    But, I never have (never will?) done any of that social networking “stuff.”

    I do blog, and this is to learn things, and this works! I literally learn something every single day from blogging, it’s awesome.

    Instead, all my efforts go into generating real leads on my web site, which provides a HUGE ROI! Over 100x, dollar for dollar last year.

    You know, that’s just how I roll,

    RM

  2. Erion Shehaj

    September 11, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    One note of caution A.R.E,

    Before Google and Adwords, there were self described classified ad experts and books on how to write the perfect three liner in the daily fishwrap. Don’t hear about them much now, do you?

    Google annihilated the newspapers because it fundamentally changed how people got their info. Although we’re in the early stages, my money is on social media repeating that shift. And when it does, if SEO doesn’t become obsolete, it will be significantly less effective.

  3. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 11, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    Erion:

    Don’t see it that way.

    Google didn’t kill the newspapers, newspaper web sites did. Every major newspaper in the country has an web site edition. They killed their print business themselves.

    Google didn’t do it. If consumers needed to search Google for every news story, the printed papers would still be fine. You have to know what to search for first.

    Twitter, Facebook and whatever else is not going to replace searching for something on the internet.

    Let’s say I need a PDF manual for a old widget. Am I supposed to tweet for it, or search facebook sites for it? Naaa.

    Also, I think you have this nonsense:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mubCkCAEiDQ

    Confused with anything relevant.

    🙂

    Enjoy!

    Rob

    • Erion Shehaj

      September 12, 2009 at 1:35 pm

      If newspaper websites killed their own print business, who killed the newspaper websites? 🙂 I mean they’re still up and everything, just not generating any substantial revenue relative to the costs of generating the content.

      Any business built on advertising (and Search is built on advertising) is built on the ability to attract the majority of the buying eyeballs. Remember what was the main spot to look up things for sale pre Google? The Classified sections of your local paper. That’s where you went if you were looking for a house, a car, a dog or a mate 😉 Once those eyeballs left for the Google provided ease, the game was over.

      Thanks for that video, by the way. Absolutely hilarious!

  4. Tom Lyons

    September 11, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    I have to agree ROI is not the best right now, but the same was true for the internet, and I think we expect the wrong thing from Social Media.

    Internet is now the third highest lead generator for Realtors, right behind Friends and Referrals!

    Now let me point something out. The first two largest lead generators are? Friends(Social) and Referrals(Social), third place Internet(Media). HMMM, Social Social Media

    Let me ask a question out there, when you attend a local social event, dinner party, networking event, do you measure your ROI? Is your goal when you go to a dinner party, to solicit business? However, would you say that business gets done because of the friendship and contacts you make at those events? Sure it does!

    You need to take your online social activities and turn them into offline relationships as well. Through a customer appreciate event, use social media to get the word out, tell people to tell their friends over Facebook and bring them!

    Engagement is the goal, and that’s where ROI exist.

    When you get a lead from your website, I bet your first goal is personal contact on the phone or in person. That should be your goal with your online community as well. Get to meet them virtually then in real world.

    Just my two cents!

    • Erion Shehaj

      September 12, 2009 at 1:43 pm

      @ Tom Lyons

      Let me ask a question out there, when you attend a local social event, dinner party, networking event, do you measure your ROI? Is your goal when you go to a dinner party, to solicit business? However, would you say that business gets done because of the friendship and contacts you make at those events? Sure it does!

      You better! Let me oversimplify this for clarity a little: If all you did to generate business was attending social events, dinner parties or networking events (in some markets that’s all that works) at the end of the month/quarter/year you would need to look at the dollars produced by your efforts, directly or indirectly. Now compare that with sending postcards to your farm area for a month/quarter/year and the results that yields. I’m with you that networking is not a sales call, so measuring the return is a bit peculiar. But measure it you must, because for every marketing decision you make, there’s an opportunity cost of doing something that might be more efficient per ounce of effort expended.

      Makes sense?

  5. Barry Cunningham

    September 12, 2009 at 1:22 am

    Funny thing ..I just commented on Bloodhound Blog about this same very issue.

    Bottom line to me is there a defined ROI? It also depends what you are looking for in such ROI? Is it to build a good list, is it to get the word out about business…or is it to chat with friends and associates.

    I think that really determines if SMM is worth it or not.

    Long since trying to bring the horse to water. If they don’t get it…they don’t get it…why discuss or have an issue with what the competition doesn’t understand?

  6. Ken Brand

    September 12, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Thoughtful stuff. Bottom line, for me, as you pointed out, “intangibles and it’s just the begging” sums it up.

    If I had an identical real estate twin bro and to generate and attract business, we both did everything exactly the same, except, I embraced and employed Social Media and my twin didn’t, I know that I would attract and uncover more listing and selling opportunities, my relationships with my on-line friends would be deeper and more meaningful, my Top Of Mind Awareness would be brighter and I’d receive more referral-recommendations. (But I can’t prove it)

    Lastly, “eureka”, your statement, “if your primary marketing strategy for your real estate business was to pour all your marketing energy into social media, the dollars you’d get back from your efforts would make you take a serious look at Burger King employment opportunities” should be etched in stone, maybe it should be the 11th commandment. Social Media is a tool and a strategy not Salvation.

    Thanks, Cheers.

  7. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 12, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not “against” social media. I’m just not currently for it. Further, I reserve the right to change my mind.

    It’s just not an avenue I choose to generate business from. And I disagree that it’s somehow going to replace search in the future, or even diminish it in any way.

    To me, search is a fundamental, and due to the nature of the web, spread all over the place, search will always be a core functionality.

    Lastly, I look at my real estate business as strictly a business. This comes from my background selling B2B for 14 years.

    I literally do not want a single client from my social network, circle of influence, friends, neighbors, parents on the baseball team, none of it. I do however, normally become friends with my clients, and this is fine with me. Sometimes these clients will spawn off other clients, and that’s ok too.

    Recently, my neighbor two houses over came to me asking for a CMA and wanting me to list their home. I happily produced the CMA for her, but respectfully declined to take her listing.

    I’m not mixing business and friendship.

    Again, as in all posts, this is just me.

    Rob in Atlanta

  8. Elad Kehat

    September 12, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Erion, I wish that you would have backed up your claims with numbers. Because my own numbers say that you’re PLAIN WRONG.

    “But if you are a Realtor scouring Twitter for consumers that are just waiting
    there patiently for a nice agent to DM them …”
    While they’re not waiting there patiently for agents to DM them, most are positively surprised and happy to get a relevant tweet from an agent. The key is *relevant*.

    Here are some numbers for you:
    In demandspot.com (disclosure: I’m the site’s founder) we’re seeing a 30% !!! click-through-rate on tweeted links and 15% reply rate to tweeted offers for help. That’s between 10 and 100 times the rates you can expect using SEM (some tips here: https://wp.me/pCPZo-h).
    Social media already does offer an amazing ROI – to those who figure out how to use it right. Because SMM is relatively new, knowledge of best practices is not yet as widespread as in other forms of online marketing. Give it some time and you’ll see those social media gurus provide some great ROI numbers – or just figure out how to use it effectively before everybody else does.

    • Erion Shehaj

      September 12, 2009 at 1:26 pm

      @Ehad

      Quite frankly, Sir – I don’t give a damn about clickthroughs and reply rates. I can put a link on Digg or StumbleUpon and get tons of worthless traffic. Talk to me about conversion rates and adding dollars to the bottom line. Then let’s put those numbers up against… anything else you can do to generate business and you will see they won’t even come close to matching up — at the current state of social media.

      Nice try, though 🙂

  9. Tom lyons

    September 12, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    I agree you need to understand where all your business comes from. But to me it’s a matter of intent. You can track deals but not cost from a dinner party. The bottle of wine you brought as a gift was not REALLY a business expense it was a gift for a good friend.

    Now a charity Is the same in my eyes, we attend to give back to support. It’s genuine personality that leads to the referred deals. The same applies to social media.

  10. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 12, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Erion:

    I like the response.

    Some day I’ll ask my brother exactly how the newspaper industry came to be where it is today. He has spent his entire career in the Newspaper Industry and is now the Managing Editor (The Boss) of the Charlottesville Times in VA.

    BTW, I keep asking him for a link from their front page to my site, but he just keeps calling me an idiot. LOL!

    Anyway, I think the newspaper web sites are doing fine, it’s the issue of trying to simultaneously manage the print side of their business, which is going the way of the dinosaur. My brother told me at one time that their web site kicks butt and makes all sorts of money but the subscriber side (print) is a cash vacuum.

    As for google, ALL advertising did not, has not and will not go to Google. The revenue for all these ads that run on AG doesn’t go to Google. Google is great, and massive, but they are a search engine who makes a ton in cash from AdWords. (not to mention all their other stuff)(just to keep this simple). Don’t give the entire internet to Google. They are not responsible or every change on the internet and what’s happened to brick n mortars that are now obsolete due to the net.

    Good conversations though. What we gain from it, who knows. 🙂

    Now go place tiny classified ads in thousands of newspapers and GET RICH baby!!

    RM

  11. Brian Brady

    September 12, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Thank goodness that there is another person with the courage to question the efficacy of social media. Greg Swann and I hosted a session yesterday, asking this very question. Many big producers asked the very question you pose here, Erion.

    Social media prospecting is a much better application for solopreneurs than social media marketing but alas, it would require work, measured by results.

    Kudos for a well thought out article

  12. Chris Lengquist

    September 12, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    I have found my little niche blog to be very profitable and almost flying in the face of your argument. However, when I’ve tried to get the same results from other enterprises (such as “regular” real estate) I get very little actual results. So proceed with caution. Though I still love it and still do it.

    And to hammer your point home…there is a pretty well known blogger that makes crapola in Gross Commission Sales dollars and yet everybody reveres this person and this person speaks to groups all the time and it drives me crazy! because this person doesn’t actually make enough money to have any business teaching on this! 🙂

    I’m done ranting now.

  13. Dan Connolly

    September 12, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Okay Chris,
    Who are you talking about? Inquiring minds want to know. Initials will suffice. }:->

  14. Brian Brady

    September 13, 2009 at 12:31 am

    “Okay Chris, Who are you talking about? ”

    Please do identify this charlatan so we might avoid him/her!

  15. Erion Shehaj

    September 13, 2009 at 1:11 am

    I don’t think personal attacks are called for in this discussion. Everyone is surely entitled to their personal opinion but it should remain such, IMO.

  16. Elad Kehat

    September 13, 2009 at 6:51 am

    @Erion

    You are right to not give a damn about clickthroughs and reply rates in general. It was my mistake that I didn’t clarify what’s being clicked and replied to. So here:
    When someone in your are tweets that they’re house hunting, you tweet back “I can help, how many bedrooms?” and they reply “3, and our price limit is $200K”, that’s a prospect right there. If you tweet them with a link to your listings and they click through then again, that’s a prospect for you.
    This has nothing to do with digg or stumbleupon and worthless traffic. It’s about being relevant and targeted and connecting with people who are in the market right now for what you have to offer.
    “Conversion rates and adding dollars to the bottom line” may vary – according to what you do with the prospect at that point – how good you are at what you do. But you can’t seriously be saying that prospecting is meaningless for your bottom line…

  17. Brian Brady

    September 13, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    “If you tweet them with a link to your listings and they click through then again, that’s a prospect for you.”

    Elad, I would agree with you that that practice is sound but I think you are confusing prospects with suspects. What Erion did a great job illustrating here is that conversion from suspect to prospect is the ultimate goal; that’s difficult to do via Twitter.

    I submit that social media are a great place to find suspects but that you must get them on the phone or in front of you to convert them to prospects.

    Erion, I had a comment that was lost earlier (most likely user error) that applauded you for this article. This is one of the more honest approaches to the pros and cons of SMM. This message is sorely needed from those of us whom have had those successes and failures.

  18. Jim Gatos

    September 13, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    This issue’s been discussed here before. Social Media – Blogging’s NOT a Predictable form of prospecting and as far as I can see and I think I speak for a lot of us, NO ONE has ever gotten rich from real estate blogging and social media except maybe the speakers who go around the country telling us HOW to do it..LOL..

  19. Matthew Rathbun

    September 14, 2009 at 12:09 am

    What does have good ROI? According the the latest Profile of Buyers and Sellers, Sellers found the home they bought online 38% of the time, thru a Realtor 33% of the time, the sign 14% etc… Print media resulted in less than 1% of homesales.

    Open Houses result in a client relationship less than 3% of the time…

    My point is that agents need to be ubiquitous. They need to engage people thru many different venues. A great deal of my production was based on online marketing, mainly because that’s what I enjoyed. However, I also used the tried and true marketing techniques that have survived the test of time. Social Media is just one more way to ENGAGE people. It’s clear on most any survey that consumers use the first agent that they have a substantial conversation with.

    And yes… I did get a client while getting coffee at a Borders’ Book store. He was a new investor and I was able to serve him as a consumer with many, many transactions. SocMed is far from the end all be all, but the demographics and math work very well for my area. Engaging consumers online is the best and most worthwhile marketing that we can do.

  20. Tom Lyons

    September 14, 2009 at 2:20 am

    Exactly Matthew, no one is implying that social media is the only method of marketing, anymore than your website is or Geo farming.

    It’s the agents who use all methods that succeed. Tracking your ROI is what tells you where smart money is spent.

    Social media is hard to measure, the same way any other social engagement is. Do you measure it in time spent and attach a dollar value to your time($100/hr). Add up the time and compare it to deals?

    I don’t think so, no one would do that for a dinner party or a charity event. Both social networking venues. Could you imagine, I spent two hours over at Bill’s tonight, that’s $200 invested in our friendship, hmmm, no deals from Bill this year, clearly Bill is a poor return on investment?

    If however, you are spending ad dollars on social media, hiring an assistant to do your Twitter and Facebook updates. Then you need to measure the result, because your goal was not Social interaction, it was consumer engagement int he same manner a customer appreciation event would be run.

  21. Robert Worthington

    September 14, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Erion, you are spot on Sir. My best friend has closed four deals from facebook and spends an hour per day on facebook. His ROI seems really good at this point. My ROI on facebook has been zero. I do think that some Realtors forget the fact that we still need to phyicalll have our face in front of the customer; not behind a computer screen, after all, hiding behind a computer screen doesn’t list properties or draft offers to purchase out in the field.

  22. Atlanta Real Estate

    September 14, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Robert:

    Very true. The sooner as I can convert them off the internet to “in person” the better.

    In fact, I’m taking a stranger to lunch today that came in off my web site this past week.

    The net is a heck of a collector and screener though.

    RM

  23. Linsey Planeta

    September 14, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    I’m wary of some of the Social Media discussion that takes place. It is no panacea – although desperate agents would love to believe it is.

    I have found Facebook as a wonderful way to maintain connections with my existing sphere and both Twitter and Facebook have become ways to expand that sphere.

    What I HAVE noticed is the WAY that my sphere is contacting me. Interestingly enough, about 50% of the time real estate inquiries from sphere or past clients come to me via Facebook rather than email or phone. That’s enough to tell me that it’s a place I need to ‘show up’.

    • Erion Shehaj

      September 15, 2009 at 11:35 pm

      @ Brian Brady

      …conversion from suspect to prospect is the ultimate goal; that’s difficult to do via Twitter.I submit that social media are a great place to find suspects but that you must get them on the phone or in front of you to convert them to prospects.

      It is unfortunate that many folks in the lead generation business dump the entire responsibility for converting the customer onto the agent. Granted that a lot depends on follow up speed and quality but fundamentally, it depends on the quality of the lead first. I have a feeling that what was described as a “lead generation system” would have participating agents spinning their wheels without any actual results. Because they never had a chance to begin with.

      Thank you for commenting as well as the kind words – I am honored.

      @ Jim Gatos

      The efficiency of different media fluctuates depending on the tool. In my book, blogging has an established track record of producing high quality prospects for those that do it consistently and do it right. Whether or not you can generate sufficient prospects to feed your entire business, that’s up for debate. I have had reasonable success with Facebook in generating business from my existing group of friends as have many of my colleagues. I am very skeptical (to say the least) about the efficiency of Facebook in allowing us to connect with complete strangers and generate business from those connections. Twitter is great, but still an infant.

      @ Matthew, Tom and Linsey

      My point is that agents need to be ubiquitous. They need to engage people thru many different venues. A great deal of my production was based on online marketing, mainly because that’s what I enjoyed. However, I also used the tried and true marketing techniques that have survived the test of time. Social Media is just one more way to ENGAGE people.

      It’s the agents who use all methods that succeed. Tracking your ROI is what tells you where smart money is spent.
      Social media is hard to measure, the same way any other social engagement is.

      I have found Facebook as a wonderful way to maintain connections with my existing sphere and both Twitter and Facebook have become ways to expand that sphere.What I HAVE noticed is the WAY that my sphere is contacting me. Interestingly enough, about 50% of the time real estate inquiries from sphere or past clients come to me via Facebook rather than email or phone. That’s enough to tell me that it’s a place I need to ’show up’.

      The question is no longer whether or not agents should “show up” in social media. In my opinion that has been answered by a resounding “yes”. What I was getting at was the ratio of effort that agents should dedicate to new media. Because, let’s face it – When you hang out on Twitter, time flies because it is fun. Same with Facebook. My point was, at the current state of social media, it is an economical mistake to dedicate the bulk of your time to a medium that is responsible for a small fraction of your revenues.

      Great discussion!! Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

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Business Marketing

Simple ways to improve your organic reach on Facebook

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Facebook continues to make businesses and pages pay to play, but businesses still have a shot of improving their organic reach, according to experts in the field.

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Facebook open on laptop with white desk and small potted plant, open to organic reach.

Facebook organic reach is not dead, but you will need to work harder to get eyes on your pages. Here’s a rundown of what experts are saying will help you reach your audience. Facebook is still the top social media platform that marketers use and where consumers tend to look for and follow brand pages. So don’t despair!

Those running Facebook business pages have been seeing ever diminishing returns on their effort at getting their content in front of their audiences and fans, especially since around 2016. Yet Facebook remains the #1 platform for building an audience. Once upon a time, Facebook was incredibly fertile soil to grow our entrepreneurial and creative gardens in, at little to no cost to us. Many businesses are seeing a drastic reduction in reach, meaning that a tiny percentage of people are seeing our posts, even among those who follow our pages.

Have you ever heard something like, “The first one’s always free; that’s how they get you”? This has long been a business philosophy to hook prospective customers, used by savvy marketers and drug dealers alike. Facebook went and took that to the next level, introducing an easy-to-use platform where almost anyone could find and engage with their target audiences of customers, fans, members, and more.

Of course, there had to be a reckoning, and now that Facebook has more than 2.6 billion active monthly users worldwide, they continue to change the rules. Consider the amount of users and the amount of posts being made, and it makes more sense that Facebook tries to narrow the audience for any single post to a reasonable chunk. Otherwise, our brains would explode (okay, my words, not an actual medical opinion). Really, you don’t need to reach everybody, because not everybody is interested in what you’re offering. You need to reach the right people who are going to engage and build a smaller, engaged loyal group of diehard customers.

Community is key
Here are some of the latest tips and best practices to increase organic reach in 2021, provided by Facebook pros. Mark Zuckerburg keeps bringing up the concept of community, and the algorithm favors engagement, not only on Facebook, but across platforms. Nobody wants products and services constantly jammed in their faces.

This is a conversation, not a one-way portal into your customers’ brains and wallets. A constant barrage of salesy content, urging people to buy buy buy, grows real tedious real fast. “If you build it, they will come.” Only instead of a baseball field in the middle of nowhere, work to build a community.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you creating conversations?
  • Are you using your platform to act as a resource and provide helpful or inside information in your niche or area of expertise?
  • Are you asking your audience what they want and would like to see more of from you?
  • Are you taking current events and trends into account, reacting to local/national/world news at all, and creating timely posts?
  • Are you using a variety of post types (photos, videos, links) and taking advantage of Facebook’s built in post tools?
  • Are you taking data into account for what content people are responding to favorably and when?
  • Do you ever invest in Facebook ads or boosted posts for important content or events?

Find the answer to these questions to reevaluate your strategy, work on promoting a dialogue with your audience, and ideally you will see more engagement on your pages, fruitful interactions that ultimately lead to loyal customers and bigger sales.

Create Conversations
Zuckerburg himself comes back to this point repeatedly in his regular updates on the state of all things Facebook and how the algorithm works, saying Facebook will “prioritize posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.” Not every industry lends itself to deep thoughts, but it can be simple enough to engage your audience with community questions. People love giving their opinions or talking about a shared interest.

Community questions can be fun, lively, and create fun interaction between your audience and the business. A simple This or That question posted on one of the background color templates can get the conversation started. If people don’t have to invest a lot of time to answer, then great! Depending on the industry, these can be easy one-offs: Red wine or white? Beach vacation or mountains? TikTok or Reels? Mac or PC? Harley Davidson hogs or Kawasaki crotch rockets? Early bird or night owl?

Hot takes, unpopular opinions, are another way to get people chatting. I’m not espousing trying to stir up controversy here, unless that is appropriate for your business, but people get emotional as all get out for something as simple as pineapple on pizza or beans in chili. What’s a popular or common opinion in your field? How can you introduce a hot take to get people chatting? For an entrepreneurial page, you could put out a hot take on a cluttered desk, or making lists, or standing desks.

Sure, these conversations may start out superficial, but who knows? When people begin interacting on your page more, they begin seeing more that you post, and that’s when you can introduce something a little weightier, asking them to share their expertise or advice on a relevant topic.

Become a resource
Whether your business is a science journal, digital marketing, interior designing, or a Texas Hill Country resort, your business and your audience is unique. Real estate agencies have become good at this, so we’ll use them as an example. If you are selling or leasing properties in Austin or San Francisco, sell the area. Don’t only post the properties you’re selling or agent profiles. Post those, yes, but also post industry news and local attractions.

When people are interested in moving to a new city or a new neighborhood or investing in opening a business there, they need to know why the area is attractive. What is the business climate? What are the financial perks associated with living there? What is the area known for (local restaurants, live music hiking trails, swimming holes, no traffic)? Has the area made a list for quality of life, affordability, great job prospects in X industry? Sharing blogs, articles, infographics, videos, and photos highlighting any of these can help your page serve the interests of your target audience. This is a good thing.

Ask your audience
This is a simple tip for keeping things closer to your audience’s interests, helping you identify areas where your page may be lacking–and opportunities for growth, and keeping the conversation going. Be careful not to overuse this one, but it’s an important tool.

  • Try a simple question, such as “What would you like to see more of on this page?”
  • Create a poll, which is much faster to answer, and helps you narrow answers down to what you really want to know.
  • Similar to the community questions, ask them to share something that has helped them. A classic example would be “What is the best entrepreneurial advice anyone has even given you?” Or “Please share some tips to fight procrastination.” Or “What is the top time-saving tool you use in your business (or for scheduling)?” Having your page followers (and hopefully others) chat with each other this way is helpful for them and for your organic reach.

Take current events and trends into account
This one’s simple: Read the room. This goes both ways. If there is renewed interest in, say, downtown lofts or sea shanty dances on TikTok, can you use this momentary heat to bring interest to your page? On the other hand, if there is a natural disaster, tragedy, or financial crash that has caused great suffering in an area? That’s a good moment to review your scheduled posts and delete or postpone anything that could be unintentionally triggering or offensive.

Some types of businesses are better suited to jumping on the latest trend. Do you have a bar or restaurant with a fairly young, social media savvy crowd? Go ahead, Photoshop that Bernie-Sanders-in-mittens image sitting on your patio (only if you can do it as the trend is hitting). Are you targeting an area that has recently been hit by extended power outages? I’m sorry to tell you, but this is not the time to promote that popup restaurant where diners experience eating in the dark.

Mix it up and use native Facebook tools
Of course you want to stay on brand, but please don’t get caught in a rut where all of your posts are one type. Consistency is one thing, but beware that this doesn’t turn into monotony. Assess where you can change things up. Add photos, videos, links to relevant blogs and articles, or community questions. Different people respond differently to different types of input. Use all the tools at your disposal to generate interest, draw people in, and get them reacting to and engaging with your page.

Facebook and all social media platforms have built in tools. They want you to use them. Often, this is a Facebook effort to capitalize on a similar, competing app. Trust me when I say, you will get brownie points (higher reach) when you take the time to use these native tools. Facebook Watch, Facebook Live, Facebook Stories, even using a background color template from the Facebook options, are all ways to show Facebook you’re paying attention and want to optimize the tools they are giving you.

Use provided data
You need to be able to look for patterns, evaluate the factors that made a particular post popular, and know when your customers and followers are likely to see your page and interact with it. Facebook provides a number of insights in the platform, but there are numerous external marketing tools you can purchase or sometimes use for free (depending on how many pages and platforms you are running, and how in-depth you want your data to be).

Posting willy nilly is not the most effective way to be. Decide what data is useful to you and make time to study it, and be willing to make changes to your content strategy based on the data. Like many other aspects of marketing, expanding your organic reach is a mixture of art and science, a balancing act of intuition and cold, hard numbers. Use them.

Consider paying to play
I know, I know, this story is about organic and not paid reach, but the fact is strategically paying for a Facebook ad or boosting a post to highlight a launch, event, special deal, or other important news will bring more people to your page. If the other tips, tools, and best practices referred to here are in place, once they find your page, you have the ability to keep their attention through organic means.

Keep on truckin’
These tips should help you expand your page’s organic reach. More importantly, they should help you build and support a community, earn loyal followers and customers, and generate positive buzz about your business. Keep working on becoming a resource and sharing helpful information. Have fun with it and experiment with new media and types of posts. Know yourself. Know your audience.

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Business Marketing

Buffer’s four-day workweek experiment: Boost or bust?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) After trying out a four-day workweek last year, Buffer is moving forward with the format going into 2021, citing increase in productivity and work-life balance.

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Man working in office with headphones on, making use of flexible four-day workweek.

The typical five-day workweek is a thing of the past for Buffer, at least for now. The company has decided to implement a four-day workweek for the “foreseeable future.”

Last year, the company surveyed its employees to see how they are dealing with the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic and the anxiety and stress that came along with it. They soon learned employees didn’t always feel comfortable or like they could take time off.

Employees felt guilty for taking PTO while trying to meet deadlines. Juggling work and suddenly becoming a daycare worker and teacher for their children at the same time was stressful. So, Buffer looked for a solution to help give employees more time and flexibility to get adjusted to their new routines.

Four-Day Workweek Trials

In May, Buffer started the four-day workweek one-month trial to focus on teammates’ well-being. “This four-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first,” said Buffer CEO and co-founder Joel Gascoigne in a company blog post.

“It’s about being able to pick a good time to go and do the groceries, now that it’s a significantly larger task. It’s about parents having more time with kids now that they’re having to take on their education. This isn’t about us trying to get the same productivity in fewer days,” Gascoigne said.

Buffer’s one-month trial proved to be successful. Survey data from before and after the trial showed higher autonomy and lower stress levels. In addition, employee anecdotal stories showed an increase in worker happiness.

With positive results, Buffer turned the trial into a long-term pilot through the end of 2020. This time, the trial would focus on Buffer’s long-term success.

“In order to truly evaluate whether a four-day workweek can be a success long-term, we need to measure productivity as well as individual well-being,” wrote Director of People Courtney Seiter. “Teammate well-being was our end goal for May. Whether that continues, and equally importantly, whether it translates into customer and company results, will be an exciting hypothesis to test.”

Trial Results

Company Productivity
Buffer’s shorter workweek trials showed employees felt they had a better work-life balance without compromising work productivity. According to the company’s survey data, almost 34% of employees felt more productive, about 60% felt equally as productive, and only less than 7% of employees felt less productive.

However, just saying productivity is higher isn’t proof. To make sure the numbers added up, managers were asked about their team’s productivity. Engineering managers reported that a decrease in total coding days didn’t show a decrease in output. Instead, there was a significant output increase for product teams, and Infrastructure and Mobile saw their output double.

The Customer Advocacy team, however, did see a decline in output. Customer service is dependent on customer unpredictability so this makes sense. Still, the survey showed about 85% to 90% of employees felt as productive as they would have been in a five-day workweek. Customers just had to wait slightly longer to receive replies to their inquiries.

Employee Well-Being
With more time and control of their schedules, Buffer’s survey shows an increase in individual autonomy and decreased stress levels reported by employees. And, the general work happiness for the entire company has been consistent throughout 2020.

What’s in store for 2021?

Based on positive employee feedback and promising company results, Buffer decided it will continue the company-wide four-day workweek this year.

“The four-day work week resulted in sustained productivity levels and a better sense of work-life balance. These were the exact results we’d hoped to see, and they helped us challenge the notion that we need to work the typical ‘nine-to-five,’ five days a week,” wrote Team Engagement Manager Nicole Miller.

The four-day workweek will continue in 2021, but the company will also be implementing adjustments based on the pilot results.

For most teams, Fridays will be the default day off. For teams that aren’t project-based, their workweek will look slightly different. As an example, the Customer Advocacy team will follow a different schedule to avoid customer reply delays and ticket overflow. Each team member will still have a four-day workweek and need to meet their specific targets. They will just have a more flexible schedule.

Companies who follow this format understand that output expectations will be further defined by area and department level. Employees who aren’t meeting their performance objectives will have the option to choose a five-day workweek or might be asked to do so.

If needed, Fridays will also serve as an overflow workday to finish up a project. Of course, schedules will be evaluated quarterly to make sure productivity is continuing to thrive and employees are still satisfied.

But, Miller says Buffer is “establishing ambitious goals” that might “push the limits” of a four-day work week in 2021. With the world slowly starting to normalize, who knows when a four-day workweek might reach its conclusion.

“We aren’t sure that we’ll continue with the four-day workweeks forever, but for now, we’re going to stick with it as long as we are still able to hit our ambitious goals,” wrote Miller.

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Business Marketing

Should your content management system go headless?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) You may be familiar with your typical content management system, but had you heard of a ‘headless’ model? Let’s dig into it together.

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Person using content management system with hands on keyboard and small bit of desktop visible.

At some point, you have probably worked with a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal. If you haven’t already, you at least know that this computer software is used to manage website content.

But, have you ever heard of a headless content management system before? We didn’t. So, we set out to find out what it’s all about and how beneficial, or not, it can be for your company.

What is headless CMS?

Unlike your classic CMS, headless CMS is a back-end only content management system. It decouples where your content is stored and authored (body) from the front-end where your content is displayed (head).

This CMS isn’t tied to a particular output like a web page. Content is transmitted as data over an application programming interface (API). It’s a content repository that delivers content seamlessly to any device.

Benefits of Headless CMS

More versatile
Headless CMS isn’t your classic “monolithic” CMS so you aren’t constrained to an all-in-one system that might work for websites but not mobile devices.

Content is consumed by customers in more than one place now. Headless CMS provides a more versatile way to deliver multi-channel content to websites, Android and iOS apps, and even IoT (internet of things), like a smartwatch or in-store kiosk.

Businesses will benefit from this because only one back-end is needed to manage and publish content for different services and products.

No need for specialized developers
Developers aren’t tied to a specific programming language or framework. A developer can choose between using Javascript, PHP, Ruby, or any language they prefer.

If you already have a talented developer, you don’t have to scramble to find someone else who specializes in a specific system or language you are moving to. Your current developer can do the job for you in the best way they know-how.

Better Security
Security is important. Not being married to the front-end, headless CMS has a security advantage a regular CMS doesn’t. Usually, content provided to a headless CMS is read-only, and the admin portion lives on a different server and domain.

With the back-end detached from the presentation layer, there is a smaller target area to attack. Also, layers of code can be used to hide the content-delivering API making it safer than a traditional CMS.

Real-time collaboration
With two separate systems, content editors and web developers can work concurrently. This shortens a project’s timeline and helps get your product and services to market quicker. Also, content editors don’t have to spend more time creating the same content for each system. Designers and developers can take care of that.
Downsides of Headless CMS

As with anything, headless CMS isn’t perfect and isn’t for everyone. It has its disadvantages.

More technical
Little technical involvement is called for in a traditional CMS. As a result, the tool can be picked up quickly by almost anyone.

A deeper understanding of CMS, coding languages, and front-end technologies is needed when using headless CMS. You must have a developer that can build the web or app just for you.

Increased maintenance
With the body separated from the head, there are two systems to maintain. Implementation and maintenance could potentially become complex.

Bigger price tag
Building a system from scratch costs time and money. With a traditional CMS, there is one account, and, most likely, one payment. With headless CMS, you’ll have multiple payments for the CMS, a developer, and the infrastructure running your website or app.

Your custom CMS also isn’t coming from a pre-built content management system. All that hard work takes time (and patience) to get it done right.

Conclusion

Headless CMS lets you create a unique user experience and allow for cross-platform publishing, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all content management system.

Before you jump ships, take inventory of all your content needs. Does your content need to be published on different platforms? Will a simple stand-alone website work for you? Only you can decide what works best with your business, but we hope this information helps.

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