So: how DO you generate sales, results and a positive return-on-investment (ROI) from your social media marketing?

In this part (Part 2/3) of my response to Tyson Report reader questions about social media, that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about. If you haven’t yet looked at Part 1, that would be a good primer:

But back to ROI. I had a lot of interest in this topic, and rightly so. Questions like:

  • ‘How do I measure my Twitter performance?’ – Roger
  • ‘How can you make buying Facebook or Twitter campaigns pay from themselves?’ – Chris
  • ‘How do I effectively calculate return on investment?’ – Sam

Now, I think a lot of people believe social media is one of those woolly marketing activities you ‘just can’t measure’.

Which is completely incorrect.

Actually, with a basic understanding of how social media activity can or does feed into your sales processes, getting a handle on ROI is a relative piece of cake, using Google Analytics

If you act on what I’m about to tell you, you’ll know:

  • How much revenue or value your social media activity brings in over a given period
  • How one social platform compares to another at this

To understand how this is going to work, you first need to understand a vital concept used in online marketing:

The ‘conversion.’

What is a conversion?

A conversion is a customer action that has value for your business.

It’s therefore either an outright sale, or a stepping stone on the way to a sale.

Here’s a very simplistic example for illustration purposes…

Let’s say you sell a product, and one sale of this product is worth £100 to you.

Sometimes you get a sale directly through your website, but more often someone leaves their contact details via a form on your website for you to call them back (which is what we call a sales lead).

Because you’ve kept track, you know that on average, you ‘close’ 1 in 10 of those leads – in other words, for every 10 conversations you have with prospects, one of them actually buys your product.

You therefore have two possible ‘conversions’:

  • an outright sale, worth £100
  • and a lead generated, which is effectively worth £10 to you based on your average closing rate.

You then set up your website in such a way that, after a visitor completes one of these conversions, they are redirected to a specific ‘thank you page’ corresponding to the relevant conversion.

With this page structure in place, you can then use ‘Goal’ tracking in Google Analytics to track which traffic source (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest) is generating those conversions.

More than that, by assigning these ‘Goals’ a cash value within Google Analytics, you can instantly get a picture of how much value, in £, your Twitter activity, for example, generated in the last day/week/month/year.

With this data, it’s then very easy to tell with certainty whether the half day you spent tweeting last month overall:

a) was a total waste of time (back to the drawing board)

b) earned you less than flipping burgers in McDonalds would have done (some big tweaks needed)

c) earned you a better hourly rate than Wayne Rooney (you hit paydirt – keep doing what you’re doing, or better yet hire someone cheaper than you to do the same thing for you)

I hope you can see how getting this in place is BIG.

Some kind of tracking is the only way you can scientifically improve your online marketing results. (If you want more guidance on this, you can get full worksheets and instructional videos in my VIP Membership.)

When you understand what’s going on, you can experiment, from a position of knowledge, and see which approaches yield the optimal payoff for your business.

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – only more responsive or less responsive. Let the market tell you what it wants.

So when people naturally ask questions such as:

  • ‘How can you increase sales from social media and not just traffic?’ – Chris
  • ‘What are the top two proven tips for converting “posts” into payment?’ – Christian

…I would always tell you it is ultimately a question of TESTING what works for your business and your market. But I will give you some general pointers too.

‘How do you sell on social media’ kinda reminds me of that question: ‘how do you eat an elephant?’

The answer?

‘One bite at a time.’

Firstly, social media isn’t a particularly strong channel for selling directly. You’re highly unlikely to sell a £10,000 product with a single tweet, for example. So:

1. Aim for the biggest conversion you can (for many that will be a stepping stone like generating a lead), and ASK DIRECTLY for it!

Too many people try to skate around the issue, because they’re terrified of ‘selling’.

But you HAVE to ask the prospect to take the next step in the sales process with you, CLEARLY and UNAMBIGUOUSLY at some point – or you can’t sell jack!

As I explained in Part 1 of this series, it’s OK to sell on social media, just make sure that selling isn’t all you do.

2. Ensure people who click the link in your ‘selling’ updates are greeted by a landing page that continues with the message and makes it easy for them to say ‘yes’ to whatever it is you want them to do.

One of the basic crimes of online marketing is to direct visitors through to a generic page like a homepage.

When you do this, you are in effect saying to your prospect ‘YOU do the work. YOU try to remember what it was that brought you here, YOU figure out why you should care, and YOU figure out how to buy from us.’

Guess what? People don’t want to do any of that. So they close down your page and they’re gone forever.

These two principles apply exactly the same whether you’re advertising on social media or doing unpaid activity.

On the subject of advertising on social sites, Geoff asks: ‘as people generally don’t use social media to read ads, are we in danger of achieving the exact opposite of what we’re aiming for? i.e. becoming an irritation rather than a ‘go-to’ solution to their problems?’

Well Geoff, our goal is not to be seen as an ‘ad’ at all.

Rather, it is to offer and deliver something so intriguing and valuable as a way of initiating a relationship with a potential customer as to make people glad they saw your message.

If you can achieve that, you won’t be perceived as an irritation, I assure you.

That may sound a tall order, but it happens all the time. Think of Nike football ads like this one (from a dim and distant era when Brazil had the greatest players in the world):

Now, no-one who was into football found that ad irritating.

On the contrary – millions of people have actually SOUGHT IT OUT on YouTube.

Only bad marketing grates!

And by the way, the message from this is NOT that you need a mega-budget to create interesting ads, or that only TV ads are interesting. That’s not the case.

You just need to know what your market really wants, and then work on how you package that up into something intriguing.

Let’s change tack and talk about some other questions and tactics now.

‘How can you make sure you capture all of the people talking about you so that you can create a conversation?’ asks Alan.

Alan, I suspect you’re thinking of Twitter in the first instance, so check out Tweetbeep which will send you email alerts every time someone mentions you (or a particular keyword) on Twitter.

Beyond that, and for other social networks besides Twitter, here’s a good list of social media monitoring tools.

‘How do you recommend promoting a business on social media which they don’t like?  I am involved in the gambling industry, but sites like Facebook etc. don’t like promoting us because betting is a problem for US-based companies.’ asks Simon

I think you have three options Simon.

#1 Create a dialogue

Money talks and often these sites WILL take advertising from gambling-type sites – if there’s enough in it for them. For instance Facebook’s terms state: ‘Ads that promote or facilitate online gambling, games of skill or lotteries, including online casino, sports books, bingo, or poker, are only allowed in specific countries with prior authorization from Facebook’ (my emphasis).

You can’t tell me that Paddy Power is not spending a bunch of money on Facebook advertising/reach in some shape or form. Find an ‘in’ with someone at your preferred social site and start talking to them, or talk to a media buyer (a dying breed but I guess this is one instance where they still have their uses).

#2 Create a ‘bridging’ site or brand

For instance, you could create a sports news website, promote it via social media and capture an audience… which you then control and can expose to the gambling offers.

#3 Forget social and find ‘unorthdox’ sources of traffic

OK, this will be unpalatable to some… but porn sites have a lot of cheap traffic. You’re looking at big audiences but also venues that mainstream brands won’t touch. That combination creates opportunity.

Traffic Junky is one such option - though, since you’ll be paying on a CPM basis (i.e. paying by the view and not by clicks or any other kind of performance), better be sure you have some proven ads to run or are prepared to make changes on the fly.

‘How to promote your website efficiently and effectively via social media?’ asks Cecilia. Follow the advice in this post for tracking to establish effectiveness Cecilia, and in Part 1 for general principles.

And on your follow-up question (‘and when is the right time to do so? As soon as you launch a new product? Or is it better to let it sink a little in case there are small glitches?’), yes, a ‘soft launch’ where a website is available for a period before being actively promoted makes a lot of sense if you could have issues to iron out.

Beyond that though, I increasingly believe that putting effort into ‘launch sequences’ is a very smart thing to do. Read the book ‘Launch’ by Jeff Walker if you want to see how an information marketer does it.

Finally, Paul asks, ‘do you know of a company that trains people in social media? A course or something. We see loads of people offering but wanted to go for a reputable one.’

Social media sites will come and go Paul.

I’d suggest looking for a course that will acquaint you with the basics of online marketing, and how to make it pay. Or, if it has to be ‘social’ learn how to use Facebook Ads and get a profit – because the principles involved in that are timeless and transferable.

It’s difficult to recommend one – so many people have jumped on the bandwagon in recent years. I suggest you scope out a possible provider local to you, subscribe to their email updates, see how good their content is, and size them up.

Do they offer a guarantee? Are they focused on BUSINESS RESULTS – not just the nebulous concept of ‘engagement’?


If you like what you see, book their course.

I hope you’ve found this Part (Part 2 of 3) interesting – please leave me a comment below if you have.

Part 3 will be along in a few days time, when I’ll be answering questions about specific social media platforms, including:

  • ‘How do you find industry relevant PR people on Twitter?’ – Paula
  • ‘Should we have/focus on a LinkedIn company page?’ – Karen
  • ‘Should I bother with Google Plus? (And if so, what are the best tactics?)’ – Rosie

Until then, you might like to read Part 1 of this series (‘Basic Principles & Strategy’) if you haven’t already done so.

Are you getting a satisfactory return from your social media marketing?

Reading between the lines of the top questions asked by Tyson Report readers about this topic last week, I suspect the answer is either ‘no’, or ‘I don’t know’…

Well, let’s see if we can fix both those things over the next week or so, as I break down my responses to those questions into three broad themes:

  • Part 1 – Basic Principles & Strategy (this post)
  • Part 2 – Getting Results: Sales & Return on Investment
  • Part 3 – Specific  Platforms & Tools

Today is Part 1, so let’s talk about basic principles and strategy. Please leave me a comment below if you find this helpful or have further follow-up questions based on what we talk about.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Elizabeth asks: ‘how can social media be used to better service the business, than a TV commercial or a newspaper ad?’

Now, you may instinctively feel that ‘it’s obvious’ that you should be using social media. After all, ‘everyone’ is ‘on it’ these days, right?

But actually Elizabeth raises an interesting issue. A lot of small businesses have just jumped into social media because it seems like the thing to do, and hey – it’s free, right?

And you might say, ‘well Robert, you encourage this because your primary giveaway is to do with social media marketing.’ Which is true… but I know I attract a lot more people if I offer information about social media (I’ve split-tested it!). Once I have your attention, I can point out the things you really ought to focus on, BEFORE social media.

You see, social media sites are just tools. They aren’t a strategy in themselves. And, like any other marketing channel you could name, it’s not a given you should invest in them.

And make no mistake – even if you don’t dip into your wallet, it’s never free to maintain a social media presence, because it takes your most precious resource of all…


If you spend 30 minutes a day updating social media accounts, five days a week, and can’t definitively tie that activity back to at least £820 worth of actual BUSINESS per year… then you’ve spent more than THREE WHOLE WEEKS of your year working at less than the UK minimum wage.

And that’s just thinking about revenue – never mind profit. Not too good if you’re a business owner.

Like any other marketing activity, time spent on social media must justify itself, and in Part 2 I’ll explain how you can find out whether your social media activities are paying or not, using web analytics.

Social media platforms also stack up poorly in comparison to opt-in email marketing in another fundamental way: you don’t own them and you can’t control them.

If you have a Facebook business page, you may now be only too aware of this.

Remember all those preciously acquired ‘fans’? Well, Facebook changed the rules of the game and you typically need to cough up to reach them now, with the average ‘organic’ (i.e. unpaid) reach on Facebook posts now hovering around the 2% mark.

Little wonder that readers like Geoff are asking ‘is time spent updating your status really worth the effort, or should we forget about news-feeds and focus on the paid advertising?’

The bottom line, Geoff, is ‘yes’… or at least it’s ‘yes’ UNTIL you get a lot of other stuff sorted first.

As with SEO, a marketing strategy built on ‘free’ social media activity is a house of cards – whereas, if you can get your sales processes to work profitably with paid advertising, there is no limit to what you can achieve. Seriously!

So, if ‘unpaid’ social shouldn’t be your top marketing priority, what is?

As Sean Clark and I discuss in our recent podcast, The First 6 Steps To Marketing Any Website, your first steps should be:

1. Web analytics – understand and measure what is happening at your website.

2. Data capture – of email addresses at minimum.

3. Pay per click advertising – reliable traffic source allowing you to tweak your online marketing/sales processes until they actually work.

4. Opt-in email marketing – still the backbone that helps you build relationships and market pro-actively.

5 and 6. Either social media or SEO, depending on your situation.

Listen to the podcast for the full lowdown, but in a nutshell, your social media activity should always, always be secondary to what you do at your main website hub and through your own opt-in email list (which you own and control 100%).

I hope this goes some way to answering Alan’s question: ‘how to be strategic about social media?’

Now, once you do get to step 5 or 6 and you start to think doing ‘free’ social media, your basic strategy should be as follows:

  • Create and/or share content which has value in the context of your niche
  • Pro-actively interact with people in your niche by joining conversations, liking, following, retweeting
  • Do both with regularity to grow your footprint and influence

The ‘value’ part of the equation is what small businesses most often get wrong.

As I said in ‘30 Social Media Hacks’, if all you do is shout about yourself – YOUR business, YOUR products, YOUR offers – no-one will want to listen.

People care about themselves and their needs, not yours.

So if you do nothing but flood your social channels with desperate-looking ‘buy now’ messages, you are actually turning off potential customers and getting further away from a relationship.

At the same time, you CAN and SHOULD sell on social media… it’s a matter of getting the balance right.

Let’s talk about how you provide value first. What is value?

You provide value when you help the other person get what THEY want.

This might be information, news, or resources that help them professionally, in their business or job, or satisfy personal needs, interests or desires.

Brainstorm the type of value your ideal customer would like and that you can provide. You don’t need to interpret it super-narrowly:

  • If you sell handmade furniture for example, talk about interior design in general, about easy furniture care, about the materials you use and what makes them special.
  • If you’re a personal trainer, the value you can provide probably isn’t just related to exercise per se, but also to diet, wellbeing, and the active lifestyle.
  • If you’re a pest controller, don’t just talk about how people can protect their homes and outbuildings from pests, but give tips for homeowners in general.

The key is to pinpoint your ideal customer, and understand what’s important in their lives.

Create your own valuable content around those ideas and share it, and/or collect and share other people’s useful content in the same area (here’s a list of tools to help you do it).

If you do this consistently, then not only will your following grow but you will earn the right, in the minds of your connections, to promote yourself directly from time to time.

Because they appreciate your useful content, they’ll be receptive to hearing more of what you can offer (and frequently they will come to you for help without you even asking!).

Want a rule of thumb?

Limit directly promotional activity to no more than 20% of your output on social media sites.

So to answer Christian’s question, ‘can social media really penetrate the target consumer on a start-up or no budget?’, the answer is yes – but if you aren’t prepared to spend money, better be prepared to spend time.

Personally, I see that as a false economy. And it’s one reason why I increasingly believe the best way to play social sites from here on out will be to master paid advertising on these platforms.

But let’s say you’re out there doing this – posting, tweeting, interacting. ‘How far should you engage in non-specific ‘chat’ in order to develop business relationships?’ asks Steve.

The first point I’ll make is that in Part 2, I’ll explain how to track return on investment from your social media activities. Once you have this in place, then if all the time you spend chatting makes a profit, keep chatting! If not, stop.

The second thing I’ll say is that if you’re doing this for business, you should always be friendly, helpful and polite. You wouldn’t go to a networking meeting and be sullen and rude would you?

Beyond that Steve, my advice is to do whatever you feel comfortable with.

You will never find me sharing pictures of cute animals or peppering my tweets with ‘OMG!!!’.

If you do, I don’t criticize, but it’s not me. Does that make me come off like a cold fish to some people? Maybe… but I know the ‘cute animal’-style of communication probably turns off as many people as it turns on.

If you’re honest about who you are, and are sharing material of value, then over time people will appreciate it. And if they don’t? Forget ‘em. You’ll find your own ‘tribe’.

These basic concepts – providing value but doing some selling too, and not trying to please everyone – hold true no matter what social platform you’re looking at.

But naturally the question pops up: ‘which channels are the best for my business?’ (Sam).

Here’s the first golden rule: you can’t do them all.

For best results, master ONE platform first.

That’s why when I saw Paul’s question:

‘We do Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. What other social media would be best to next jump on to, bearing in mind we want to push more people to our websites?’

…my first thoughts are a) there is a real danger of spreading yourself too thin and b) are these paying off for you?

If there are only one or two of you in the business then I doubt jumping on to another social site is actually the right thing to do, because either the ones you’re using:

  • Aren’t making you money – in which case they either need more focus, or abandoning altogether.
  • Are making you money – in which case you’d probably be better off doubling down on them, rather than diluting your efforts.

But returning to Sam’s question, the platform to try to master first will of course depend on the kind of market you’re going for. Instagram has a very different demographic and feel to LinkedIn, say.

Since Sam’s business is about helping overworked SME owners, I’d suggest she starts with LinkedIn or possibly Twitter.

Choosing the right traffic source for your business can be difficult, and it’s something my VIP Members and I discussed in detail in our ‘Traffic Webinar’ a few months back. I won’t make a habit of releasing this content outside of my VIP Members but I do think it will help a lot of people so I will share it here:

If you watch the video above, you’ll notice how I talk about your choice of traffic source depending to some extent on your personality too, so when Sandra says ‘I never know what to tweet or totally how Twitter works therefore tweets are few and far between. Facebook, to me, is easy by comparison’, the answer is obvious to me!

If you have a natural affinity for a particular social site, and your market is there, then don’t overcomplicate things. Go for that one. As a solo business owner I just don’t think you can or should do more than one social site really well.

Of course, if you don’t already know which social site is best for your market, it’s time to do some research.

For example, Simon asks ‘is there a resource anywhere which lists the relevant popularity of social media sites for different countries of the world?  For example, what is the order in India, South Africa or Australia?’

The international picture has changed and become more ‘winner-takes-all’ over the last few years, with local players edged out by the big guns we’re all familiar with in most markets a Western business would probably be going for. For instance, Orkut used to be the big player in India, but it’s now been well and truly superceded by Facebook and the rest.

This is a chunky presentation but should give you everything you need to know Simon:

Simon continues: ‘other points fall out of this: should a blog post contain local language content and are there plug-ins for WordPress to contribute to these alternative blog sites?’

My first port of call would be Google Analytics, which will give you an indication of where people are visiting from and in turn tell you how much time and effort is warranted on this. (If you don’t have web analytics like Google Analytics on your website, drop everything and get it installed!)

Many web browsers – notably Google Chrome – do a decent job of translating websites anyway these days (you can see some stats on share of browser market here).

But if you want to take it further, then yes, you can consider a WordPress plugin. I’ve not had call to use any myself so can’t comment on which is the best but here’s a useful list to start you off.

Don’t forget – in a few days time I’ll be answering more readers questions in part 2 of 3, this time on results, sales and return on investment…

We’ll cover questions like:

  • ‘How do I measure my Twitter performance? – Roger
  • ‘How can you increase sales from social media and not just traffic?’ – Chris
  • ‘What are the top two proven tips in converting “posts” into payment?’ – Christian

Stay tuned for that, and please leave me your comments or questions below!

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by Robert Tyson

Episode 39 of The Small Business Marketing Report is a podcast all about… podcasting! And more importantly, how you can start one for YOUR business. Once you are over the technical hurdles (which really aren’t all that high), podcasting can be a fantastic promotional tool that raises you above your competition. You can become your own […]

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by Robert Tyson

Most of us are familiar with traditional seminars for information and sales presentations, but the online equivalent – webinars – can be equally as powerful. And webinars have the added potential benefits of letting you reach people anywhere in the world, present to large numbers of people inexpensively, and do it all from the comfort […]

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Should your promotional emails be long or short? It’s a subject that arouses incredibly heated debate. A while back a survey of marketers I was party to threw up the following comments in favour of short emails: “Short and to the point… you’re working with split seconds to get attention” “Short single paragraph” “Short, friendly, uplifting (‘funny’ […]

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by Robert Tyson

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Strategy… what strategy? Let’s face it: the average business owner doesn’t have a clue how to approach online marketing. And to be fair, the whole landscape can seem baffling if you’re not a marketing anorak. SEO, social, email, content, video, paid advertising, analytics… what should you prioritise, and where do you start? Fortunately that’s exactly […]

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Do Your Social Media Efforts Make You Money? Find Out…

by Robert Tyson

I think a lot of people believe that return-on-investment from social media is one of those things that is just ‘impossible to track’. Cobblers! It’s actually very EASY to track whether you’re making money from Facebook or Twitter – or just wasting your own valuable time… You just need to have (the free software) Google […]

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SEO: The Huge Misconception Most Website Owners Have

by Robert Tyson

Most website owners that I encounter have got completely the wrong end of the stick when it comes to Google and SEO… Want more help with your online marketing? Become one of my VIP Members.

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