Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

If Social Media Isn't Profitable, What’s The Point?

Social-media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have been hot subjects for business owners for the last several years. While many businesses were hesitant to buy in initially, the notion that businesses need a social-media presence has become widely accepted. In fact, a survey conducted by Zoomerang at the end of 2011 indicates that 44% of all small and midsized businesses are now actively marketing via social media. (Of those businesses, 86% use Facebook, 41% use LinkedIn, and 33% use Twitter.)

As the data indicates, the idea that a business should have a social-media presence has caught on. However, creating a social-media profile is just the beginning. And unfortunately, many business owners have no idea what to do next. 

You’re in business for a reason—to make money. In order for your social-media presence to be a worthwhile investment, it must be profitable. But many business owners have no idea how to accomplish this. Here are three ways to begin:

1) Target the right audience.  Do you sell exclusively to other businesses? If so, you’re wasting your time on Facebook—you should be targeting the high-income, professional audience of LinkedIn. Conversely, if you’re selling directly to consumers, particularly younger consumers, Facebook is an ideal channel. Take the time to identify your target market and figure out the best method of communicating with them. Don’t waste time and resources marketing to an audience that simply isn’t looking for the products and services you offer. 

2) Offer exclusive social-media dealsbut don’t spam your followers. Special coupon codes and discounts for your social-media fans are a winning strategy—but only when utilized in moderation. If your presence consists of pure self-promotion, you’re going to be ignored. Engage your audience by providing valuable content, and make self-promotion a relatively small part of what you do. 

3) Use the viral power of social media. The viral nature of social media is what makes it so potentially powerful for businesses, but very few take advantage. Think about the Kony 2012 advocacy campaign that spread like wildfire across Facebook and Twitter in early March—within a week of the video’s posting by the nonprofit Invisible Children, it had been viewed more than 75 million times. As a business, the question you must answer is "How can I give my audience something they’ll want to share with their friends?" Whether it is a contest, a video, an engaging story, or something else entirely, get creative and find a way to convince your audience to share your content. 

You own a business, which means that if an initiative is worth your time and resources, it needs to generate a return. Your social media presence can do just that. Start by implementing these ideas.

[Image: Loban Alex via Shutterstock]