What is “Social Media Success”?

I recently had a debate with one of my peers in the world of Social Media, whom I respect a great deal, about what is considered a “success” when using Social Media in business.

He runs a very successful Social Media agency in the US, as well as running a very successful online application that aids users in content curation within their Social Media environments (an application that I use, myself). In his world, it is all about managing his clients Social Media presence. Strategy, content marketing, etc., is their bread and butter and they do it very well. They work with their clients for as long as the client is willing to pay for the services.

I, on the other hand, am a Social Media coach. I generally work with my clients for anywhere from 3 to 6 months, teaching and training them on how to set up, use and grow their Social Media presence. I establish what their needs are and what they want to get out of it and then guide them down the path. I am a strong believer that any business owner should have a vested and active interest in their Social Media presence. I started out doing the Social Media Management thing, but got frustrated when I realized that my clients often would not supply information for me to create and share content and, in fact, had very little interest in what Social Media would do for them. “I know I need it, but I just want someone else to do it for me.”

The real frustration, especially when it comes to small businesses with tight budgets, it that the moment you suggest doing something new (such as Facebook advertising) that costs money. I would always get the same comment; “Social Media is free! Why do I need to pay?”. It’s then that I would try and educate the client on how Social Media works and how it would benefit them to go one route or another. Even more frustrating is the business owner who expects miracles from their Social Media presence, but never has the time to discuss content or direction of that presence.

So, back to what is “Social Media success”. My friend asked about some of my clients and I pointed out several of them that I was especially proud of. As usual, he was brutally honest about his opinion. He was far from impressed and gave their Social Media presence a failing grade, sighting them as completely unsuccessful. There was clearly a benefit to having an Social Media agency look after their presence, versus having them do it on their own.

Most of the pages I showed him were tourism based operations (very seasonal). My oldest client has managed to go from zero “likes” on his Facebook page to over 10,000 in only a few years. My newest client just pushed over the 600 mark in less than 6 months. In both cases, these companies have had amazingly successful seasons and have raised their visual profiles and bookings, online, considerably. Most of all, they have become very recognizable businesses in their own communities, by actively promoting where they live and work. What I enjoy seeing the most, however, is that they are having fun with their Social Media. Both the businesses rely on visuals, so FB is a focus over things like Twitter, but they are always experimenting and trying new things. Best part? It’s all been organic. No online advertising, at all.

How can this not be considered a success? Sure, they are not as pretty as some large company that pays an agency to create slick looks and campaigns, but the ROI is still┬áthere. They invested X amount of time and they got Y amount of return, of which the latter is significantly higher than the former. Does having thousands of followers and specifically strategized and planned content, mean that you are successful with Social Media, or does having your followers come back to you with a comment saying “Love that picture! Cannot wait to come visit again!”, reflect your success?

From my stand point, Social Media is not a success because you used this formula or that strategy. It is successful when you get your desired results by doing things that your followers like to see and in a way that you enjoy providing it.