Social Media: Speak our Language, Please

twitter-iecon-designreviver.comSocial Media needs to tell the story in the language of CEOs and CFOs. The story CEOs and CFOs want to hear is the story of numbers that go up and numbers that go down.

Tell them the story of how social media will make the following numbers go up for their business:

  • leads
  • conversion rates
  • customer accounts
  • sales per customer
  • revenues,
  • profits
  • cash-flow

Then tell these CEO and CFOs the story of how social media will make these numbers go down:

  • customer churn
  • customer acquisition costs,
  • marketing costs
  • advertising costs
  • employee turnover
  • hiring costs.

That’s the story they want to read in every internal report. The numbers in those reports contain the language that measures, and communicates,  their success in creating and leading their brand to success.

Social media’s true literary beauty is the story of its impact on profits and cash-flows and sustainable businesses, on customer churn and conversion rates, revenue growth and employee engagement as measured with lower employee turnover and hiring costs.

Words like tweets, re-tweets, trackbacks, comments, links, rss feeds, feed readers, news alerts, community members, community forums, conversations, vigilantes, blogtrolls, stalkers, spambots … organic SEO, are the words of an unintelligible language outside the echo chamber of social media experts.

And therein lies the rub. An industry built around the power of conversation, authentic conversation … speaks only in its own language.

The desired audience, client executives who need the power of social media, ask:

  • What do these verbs do?
  • What does a customer do when they tweet? Why should I care?
  • A customer uttered? Uttered, what? Who heard them?
  • Were they in their pajamas?*…
  • Oh wait that’s what you wear when you blog.
  • Do we have a blog? We don’t? Shouldn’t we?

* Sure, it’s a bad cliche’, for us, for those who’ve experienced what social media can achieve.

But, social media presentations rarely, if ever, answer those questions with stories that connect customer conversations with cash-flow, tweets with conversion rates, online comments with revenues, rss feeds with lower hiring costs and reduced employee turnover.   Or, in honoring the principle, of openness and transparency,  show how they connect indirectly, inevitably or in some cases, rarely.

Small business CEOs and CFOs are hungry, anxious, for the power of social media. Social media is the great leveler for small business competing against global brands with an ad budget greater than all the revenues of a small business. True, authentic, conversations with small business and our customers are a naturally occurring phenomena. Social media would easily, genuinely, accelerate the spread of those messages.

Social media consultants, for all that is good and right in your world…(ok, a bit dramatic) connect those conversations with cash-flow and customers, prospects and conversion rates, hiring costs and employee turnover. That’s the language the CEOs and CFOs of millions of small business speak every day. And, they’re the ones who will sign your checks when you speak their language.

* * * * *

Zane SafritAbout the author: Zane Safrit’s passion is small business and the operations excellence required to deliver a product that creates word-of-mouth, customer referrals and instills pride in those whose passion created it. He previously served as CEO of Conference Calls Unlimited. Zane’s blog can be found at Zane Safrit.


Zane Safrit Zane Safrit's My passion is small business and the operations' excellence required to deliver a product that creates word-of-mouth, customer referrals and instills pride in those whose passion created it. Zane's blog is Zane Safrit.

23 Reactions
  1. Katie Langston - Small Business Marketing Wizard

    An industry built around the power of conversation, authentic conversation.speaks only in its own language.

    Really, really, REALLY good point. Speeding social media’s march into the mainstream will require trackable, tangible RESULTS. But it’s the same problem so many of us have when it comes to our marketing: we *hate* to see if it’s really working or not, because if it’s not, we feel deflated, beaten. It’s important to remember that finding what doesn’t work helps us discover more quickly what does.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  2. Thanks for the post. It is true that there are many words in the business world that most people should understand. The more there are tossed around, the better we can all be on the same page and run more efficient businesses. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Zane, Great article!
    I just finished a conversation 15 minutes ago with a PR friend of mine. She was saying that these small businesses just don’t get it yet.

    It is up to US. We must show the conversion numbers, if it is somehow possible.

    The Franchise King, Joel Libava

  4. Finally – something we can pass along to our clients when we are not Zane. Bizzyweb’s Dave Meyer would like this

  5. Well said!

  6. All excellent points. I can’t tell you how often I have this exact conversaion.

    The most common quetion I hear is “How will [insert social media vehicle here] make me money?

    I’d love to see you offer a webinar for both audiences helping is all understand how to measure and make decisions using these new tools.

  7. Good points. I think it’s next to impossible to calculate how each contact you make from social media translates into cold cash. Even though you can’t predict the monetary value that you may gain, a business can’t beat the free marketing you get from these social sites.

  8. Ivana. Great idea. Thanks. I’m crafting an ebook as a first step. But a webinar…I hadn’t got that far in my thinking. Maybe we should talk.
    Amanda, you’re right. It’s social media and not every conversation…is a money-making transaction. And the timeline for Social Media is longer than an ad campaign. The tradeoff is that once the momentum is generated…it’s sustainable. The metaphor would be that of a jet taking off. Tremendous energy is required for takeoff…and then once at altitude it’s simpler, easier, less energy intensive.

    Still, having said that, there’s still a very direct correlation with a soc med program and an increase in cash-flows, if only from reduced ad expenses, to start.

    Clare, Click, Katie, Joel, Charles. Thanks.

  9. Zane,

    Interesting take on social media. As others have mentioned, it could be hard to easy show the conversion numbers with some of the social media tools. And we should closely follow what will happen in the future regarding the monetization of the tools. Some tools and companies could disappear or be integrated in other settings due to the economical situation.

    I am using a video email tool there you could see the response rate and follow the statistics in a neat way. Who has read it, how many time, when, and if the message has become viral and forwarded to other parties. With this tool you could incorporate your brand, graphical profile and your message in an integrated way. As an example, I used it to send out a personal note about one of my new posts. I invited the recipients to comment on it and give me feedback. I got both constructive feedback on the post and positive comments on the media tool itself.

  10. Zane,

    I look forward to read your e-book. The important thing is to understand that is not a quick fix, it takes lont time to build a relationship that could lead to a business transaction. Yes, you cut down on your expenses by using free och cheap social media program, but you had to use them in a clever way. Take blogging for example, if you only use it to promote your stuff, convert your PR messages into posts, you are missing the whole point with it. You blog has to evolve and start “talking” with a natural and personal voice so the readers could feel connected with you, your electronical journal and then become interested in your message, know-how, products and services.

    I want to write an e-pamphlet on the concept called the trader principle and why you should base all your relationships on this rational idea. With the understanding and acceptance of this principle, you will be able to have an exchange of values between two parties. And you do a pro-active action in defending the free market in the long run, so we could have access to all these tools, gadgets, etc. in the future too.

    By the way: Have you watched Perry Belcher’s video, How To Make Money With Social Media?

  11. “I think it’s next to impossible to calculate how each contact you make from social media translates into cold cash” -> How I wish there will be a tool for that Amanda but still I am hopeful in the future there will be.

  12. Is one of the problems that everyone now expects instant results which they have been encouraged to do. The same conversations probably took place about TV advertising. One asect about this is managing expectations.

    I think you can track the results, although it takes some thought and time to do it. We have set up a very basic model for our business and we are tracking all the variables to see the impct of social media.

    Great post Zane.

  13. Interesting topic! Arguable points!

    Yes, for sure, those position starting with “C” need figures to track. And we as Social Media Consultant, Social Media Company or self-proclaim Social Media Optimizer will have to prove that it really work and work beautifully.

    Step back, think about it, do you not do social media but yet pitching services to business owners? Do you not know how to do simple analytic tracking? Do you not know how to do a simple page to gather information to have something to track?

    But to compare the above result to a real ROI, that is the part where we still need to improve on. Nevertheless, Zane, that is a great post you got there!

    Have more coming ya!!

    Post out…

  14. Excellent thought for SMO

  15. Great article. Keep it simple and talk to them in terms that matter to them. Another very simple explanation can be found at Heads Up: Video Content Is Rocket Fuel For Inbound Broadband

  16. Hi:
    I just finished transcribing all the interviews for The Social Media Bible, co-authored by Mr. Lon Safko, . I became part of the team virtually; I am a virtual transcriptionist. I only mention this as a testament to the power of social media, or as I like to call this combo, Social Media

  17. Great post. We are so geared to the numbers conversation – viewing our customers through the lens of the P&L/cash register. However, during the tough economy, it is the company that reaches out to the customers to build a relationship; whether in person or via social media, that will stand the test of time.

    Although a slow process (as Martin mentioned) building relationships with our customers helps them remember, refer and return. By opening up via social media for two-way conversation; our employees have a venue to share ideas, our peers have the opportunity to share best practices and our target customers have the chance to help us understand what they need most.

    So maybe you can’t add up the social media points on a calculator but those businesses that don’t reach out via two-way communication vehicles to build relationsips will have a challenge standing the test of time, over time.

    Deborah Chaddock Brown
    Building customer relationships, one make or break moment at a time.

  18. Excellent post and something of which I am a huge advocate. Executives are asking but are Social Media practitioners listening? Part of the challenge I believe is the disconnect between understanding what keeps execs awake at night, the critical importance of bottom line results, business lines, business objectives, what matters in the company boardroom and “Social Media tools” and the attendant evangelistic language. People need to understand how to speak the language of business… after all only a profitable business is going to be able to pay your fee. The mantra of “relationships” “comments” “page hits” etc won’t cut it.

    Now, I am ALL for businesses using Social Media – but it has to be strategic and focused.

    Not all will demand bottom line results straight out of the gate but they do want a business case and some indication of how to measure the success of their efforts – if only to get more budget for more. Regardless, social media practitioners should show that they at least consider bottom line/profit/productivity to show the grasp of business issues.

    If there is less focus on social media tools and more on what those tools are expected to achieve the language will become a dialogue.