Hans Smellinckx, multi-channel marketing expert

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August 05, 2012

Earning money with social media

DollarRecently a lot of discussions are around the question if social media and especially Facebook can be a source of revenue. Can you earn money with having a twitter account or a facebook page? And if it's possible, how can you as an individual or brand drive money to your bottom line.

Question one: is social media meant to be a money driving machine?

Well yes, of course. A lot of people will claim it isn't, but anything you do for an organisation has to bring at least something to the bottom line. You can't just do the conversations. At the end of the year, your CEO or boss will ask one crucial question: what did it do for my bottom line. If you can't prove that it brings it at least something into the till, than the risk that your budgets are stopped or heavily reduced is becoming reality. A lot of people still think it's a hype, well, wake-up, start thinking in terms of conversion and less on "pretty apps".

But the conversations will allow people to do repeat business... so you should only focus on conversations? well, again not, yes being closer to your target audience will bring in repeat business. But by the time that you have a good amount of fans or followers, you'll need more than just the conversations. On top, this will only be generated by a small amount of your fans, so you will still need additional revenue to make profitable.

So one of your ROI metrics must be revenue if you want to survive on a long term. And it works, look the company I work in at this moment, we are close to a million in revenue, driven purely by social media.

Question 2: can I win with 500 fans?

No, as in any database driven approach, you will need a good amount of people. E-mail marketing is becoming profitable in my eyes if your database is above 500.000. Lower than that is playing with figures and hiding the reality, above 500.000 addresses will bring in a good revenue stream. The same exists for social media. everything under 30.000 fans is playing with figures and your company's money, you'll need to get as soon as possible above 30K on fans on facebook. On twitter, it's a different story, esp. for the Belgian market.

Twitter's audience in Belgium is primarily journalists, marketers, consultants and a few brands. So yes, those are also consumers, but not the grey mass. So you won't need thousands of followers to matter. But there again, with 200 followers, you won't have much of an impact, count that you'll need to have at least 5K on fans to start having an impact. And don't only look on Klout to see if you make an impact, because the Klout score has no value in my eyes for european twitter accounts. Any metric that is not country specific has no value, it's comparing completely different landscapes.

Question 3: Am I a bad boy if I recruit followers?

No, not at all. as I explained, you need followers, as a brand and as an individual. Not many brands or individuals have a very public side (we aren't Justin Bieber). So you will need to recruit followers and fans on 2 levels:

  • Your own database: if you have a big e-mail database, than start recruiting facebook and twitter fans by asking them to become fan. This allows you to have a better reach and visibility to those fans as well. And on top, they can have a channel for commenting and giving you feedback.
  • buy fans: oh yes, do it! Only people that have no business sense will now start arguing that that's a bad thing. As I said in the second question, you will need a good amount of fans. You can include it in any advertising you do, but we all know that conversion between a campaign that is purely done ATL, will not drive in thousands of new fans. So you need to buy fans through facebook asu campaigns or sponsored stories (and it works!) or through follow/unfollow campaigns on twitter (and that works as well!). As with co-registration campaigns in the e-mail world, keep tracking those people and look at their engagement, but if you keep a clear eye on the metrics, than you'll have a winning strategy.  

So yes, go out their, buy fans, do conversations and keep a good eye on your metrics and Facebook or any social medium will bring in money and you'll earn money with it. Leaving it out of your strategy from the start will cause that you will say after two years that it doesn't work. Engage and convert!



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You bet Facebook can be a money driving machine. Ever since we started using our Facebook List Funnel in July, our traffic has gone through the roof!

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