As marketers, how often do we hear the $1M social media question? “How do I measure my return on social media? What’s my Return on Investment (ROI)?”

My great friend Spencer X. Smith, business management and social media expert in Madison, Wis., tells a story from his attorney friend Erin Ogden:

“I saw another attorney today at lunch who I hadn’t seen in awhile. He said, ‘Oh, Erin! I am going to be sending a client your way. It is a friend of a friend who I think will fit with you well.’ Now, did he already make that connection prior to lunch? Probably…But now the thought has solidified and the push to follow up is more present than before… And I have found that once you get one referral from someone, you get more. You become more entrenched as top-of-mind.”

Top of mind is one of the most powerful, but under-played benefits of social media. In fact, Smith has written an entire book about the topic with co-author D.P. Knudten, “ROTOMA: The ROI of Social Media Top of Mind.”

Those as old (or nearly) as me will recall the reasons we purposely left voicemails in the olden days during the hours before our contacts would be arriving at work. In Smith’s case, as a salesman, he used the one-hour time zone change during his early morning drive to appointments to leave stories, ideas and notes of insight for the prospects he was hoping to see. For me, it was a way to reach the reporters I needed to engage for press tour appointments, and get their commitments back immediately before the crush of the day, often without even the need for an email or a voice-to-voice call. We were top of mind.

Yes, I could reach 20 reporters (Smith sometimes reached as many as 200 prospects) before the start of the day. But imagine what social media does to this equation: Instead of reaching 20 or even 200 contacts, you can reach hundreds or even thousands of people in minutes , or get private access to the one individual you can’t reach in any other way.

You can learn who’s at Oracle World today and too occupied to visit at all. I have tweeted to an individual who’s failed to answer myriad emails, “Phillipe, I’m in New York on Tuesday with XXX. Can you get together?” or “Rob, I’m not getting through on your phone, are you available next Wednesday?” and gotten a response within seconds from reporters who are too harried to answer their emails or phones.

Thanks to social media, the reporters who’ve been historically known as “vendor unfriendly” I now know well enough to know the days they’re potty training a puppy. On at least one occasion I’ve posted or tweeted, “I’ll be in New York on Wednesday with XXX. Who have I missed?” and received responses from interested freelance writers and reporters who would otherwise not have received a message or call.

Social media, Spencer’s friend notes, is valuable for two reasons:

Social media can be used to listen first. You gain the advantage of finding out what people are interested in before speaking up.Being a relevant content provider (and not just a consumer) on social media is the key to maintaining top-of-mind awareness.

So, in many cases we can reduce or eliminate the time we formerly spent sending emails or voicemails to follow up, check in, or touch base to gently find out “Are you ready to buy yet or not?” We can tell stories through social media to highlight what’s happening in our industry. We can share thoughts on what’s working well, what’s not working well, and let our customer or prospect learn from our experience.

The time we invest to do this produces a “Top Of Mind” return on investment.“Either you’re communicating on social media or you’re not,” Smith remarks. “Share your experiences and share your wisdom, and watch your ROTOMA through social media soar.”

All it takes for you to stay at the top of your connections’ mind on social media is to post valuable content consistently, Smith says, noting there’s no mathematical formula for this, just human nature. ROTOMA is simply about leveraging human nature as efficiently as possible, using the most efficient and powerful top-of-mind awareness toolset in the history of the world. Better yet, the majority of social media is free.

The most powerful ROTOMA tool? 1) Ask a pivotal question and 2) follow through. Here’s a short and true story about how one question lead to the career Smith has today. It’s an example of the recurring theme in the ROTOMA book: the “top of mind” power of asking good questions and then acting on the answers you receive.

Since 1999, Milwaukee’s Summerfest has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest annual music
festival. More than 700 bands perform during the 11-day event each year, and some of the most popular artists in the world have played its 11 stages.

As a kid growing up in Milwaukee, Smith dreamed of being one of the rock stars on that stage, entertaining the thousands of people in the audience. This dream actually came true in 2002 when his band, Myopic Son, formed in 2000, had its first opportunity to play the ‘Big Gig.’ As both the drummer and the booking manager, this was a huge accomplishment Smith is proud of to this day. Here’s how he used the “Summerfest Effect” to build his brand and the brand of his clients.

Since Summerfest is the world’s largest music festival, he says, it’s obviously one of the most sought-after places in the world to perform. There are also some deeper reasons for someone managing and booking a rock band to want to appear. Here are three:

It’s exclusive. Summerfest is run so incredibly well, and it’s a different experience playing on a huge stage with such great sound. Smith’s band performed on the second-largest stage on the grounds (capacity ~6000), which allowed fans to see (and hear) them in the best possible way. The experience, then, is unique and memorable for bands and fans.

It has incredible networking opportunities. With 700 different bands coming through Milwaukee over 11 days, the bands themselves, their managers, their agents, and all of their support staff are available on site. Since there are no rock band trade shows, this is as close as you can get to a canonical rock and roll “Chamber of Commerce” event.

Everyone wants to play in Milwaukee during the summer. Since those in the Midwest have a finite period of outdoor time every year, the greatest shows happen during the summer. Logistics for a band play a huge role in their touring schedule because of the sheer amount of people, gear, and merchandise that need to travel. Once the Summerfest date is booked, the rest of the summer schedule can fill in around it. A Chicago show the day before, a Minneapolis show the day after, etc.

How Smith won the ‘Big Gig.’ In hindsight, it was simple, he says. He asked. And then he followed through. Of course the band had to qualify in the minds of those responsible for the booking, but his asking the right question prompted the team to provide a step-by-step road map of what to do. From that road map, Smith developed a hierarchical pyramid, and starting at the bottom, worked his way up. The sequence went something like this:

Join a band
Perform for a crowd
Write a song
Record a song
Release an album
Sell tickets to a show
Obtain press and magazine reviews
Develop a formal press kit

As the prospect moves through each step, the peer group becomes more exclusive. This is how the social media arena works, too. There’s another interesting aspect to the Summerfest experience that has stayed in Smith’s mind ever since. It’s the response the booking agent gave when he asked her the question about what a booking would take:

“I get approached by bands wanting to play here all the time. What you asked, though, was different. You asked, ‘What do we do to earn a spot at Summerfest?’ Most bands just expect it to happen. They sign with a record label and their manager calls wondering what time they’ll play. Because you asked the way you did, I’ll show you exactly how to earn it.”

And she did. Smith still uses and recommends the “Summerfest Affect” in his business and for others in the following ways:

Don’t assume anyone will ever give you anything because you think you deserve it. You need to find out what they want and help them get it.

Of particular note to small business: When you trust a third party to do your work on your behalf (like the band managers the booking agent mentioned), things will never go quite as well as if you did them yourselves. “If it’s critically important to the success of your endeavor, you just need to make the time to do it,” Smith says.

And now, even more valuable than the “Summerfest Effect” was the “Summerfest After Effect,” Smith maintains. “Once our band had been vetted by Summerfest, no one needed to worry if we were good,” he recalls. “Even if we didn’t perform well–which fortunately never happened—the person responsible for booking us could say, ‘I’m not sure what happened. They played Summerfest.’”

But by putting on a great show, Smith’s band helped to make the person who’d booked them feel good and look good to their peers. How does this apply to your business? Find a big, daunting goal that would scare most people and find out how to succeed,” Smith suggests. “Don’t stop until it’s done or until you decide it isn’t important anymore. If it doesn’t scare you at least a little bit, then you’re not thinking big enough.”

Perhaps your goal would be speaking at a trade show or industry event. Maybe it’s winning the business of a big-name client your competitors would be too scared to call. Maybe it’s the book you could write from your own experiences in your business. Says Smith, “Think to yourself, ‘What could I do that would separate me most from my competition?’”

For Smith, this business challenge took the form of a keynote presentation gig he really, hugely wanted to win for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. So he asked the Director of Programming, “How can I help you book a great event and give a presentation answering questions your attendees have for you?”

By asking a pivotal question and acting fully upon the director’s requests, Smith helped to solve some specific problems she’d had, and she rewarded him with a slot. Social media, then, is much easier to evaluate when you know what to value and how to assess your results. As Smith relates in his book, it’s all about winning and measuring the greatest business resource of all: The ability to get and stay Top of Mind.

Source: Forbes

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