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Mythbust – "Social Media Has No ROI"

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Did you hear the one about the small business owner who wasn’t engaged in social media because he thought there would be no return on his investment?

Yeah, I did too. In 2007.

And yet, even though we are obviously not in 2007 anymore, a few small business owners still act like we are. Oh sure, they have a personal Facebook page, and they likely created a LinkedIn profile at some point, but far too many of my small business brothers and sisters act as if the game hasn’t changed.

But the fact is, it has. Radically.

Indeed, the advent of social media changed everything in small business, except, ironically, the attitudes of those small business owners who cling to the belief that they can continue to do business the way they always have. (Well, they could, but they may not be in business long.)

Consider the statistics:

  • 68% of all U.S. residents use Facebook
  • 74% of consumers rely on social when making buying decisions (Social Media Today)
  • 62% of Millennials say that “active brand engagement on social media makes them more likely to be loyal customers.”

In business, you have to be where the eyeballs are, and today, the eyeballs are on social media.

Let’s just consider that last stat about Millennials in a bit more detail. Millennials now are the largest demographic generation, numbering more than even the vaunted Baby Boomers at this point. Millennials also have the most buying power of any generation now, too. Given that, the question is then, what is the best way to capture that Millennial buyer?

You know the answer (whether you like it or not): Social media.

Not only do more than 80% of Millennials interact with brands online via social, but just about 40% use social to discover new brands. And, not only that, but they are twice as likely to buy online as Gen Xers or Boomers. Do you see what a potential goldmine that is for your business? There are young customers out there right now, online, looking to spend their money on new brands; brands that they have no association with yet.

That brand could be yours. But only if you rid yourself of the notion that there is no ROI in social media engagement. The best big businesses are using social these days as a way to engage with their customers and build their brands. Why? Because it works.

And that is the other factor to remember. Beyond sales, the other important thing vis-à-vis ROI and social media is the power of this new medium to allow you to create and build a brand. It is truly extraordinary. Back in the day, building a brand – especially for a small business – was a truly challenging endeavor. It took a combination of time, money, and luck to get noticed. Television ads, radio placement, getting in the paper, signage, etc. was no easy or inexpensive task.

One of the beautiful things about social media is that it makes building a brand so much easier and more affordable. Social media allows you to get your desired message out there, at practically no cost (except, of course, your valuable time) and with no middleman. You can:

  • Post content that reinforces your intended brand message
  • Engage with customers in a way that emphasizes that brand
  • Create connections with potential new customers who would be attracted to the brand you are building

The good news is that using social media to engage with an audience, generate sales, and build a brand is not the sole domain of big businesses. You can do it too.

Unless you are watching Lost and still think it’s 2007.



Steve Strauss is the author of The Small Business Bible and a senior columnist for USA TODAY. He also runs the website,, and hates ketchup.

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