In a recent meeting, a customer summed up one of the main reasons for companies not wanting to invest money in social media marketing with: ‘Why would people care about what I had for lunch?’

True enough, a lot of people like to post photos on Twitter of what they had for lunch, or the crazy cocktail they have just ordered. But not everyone, and certainly not most people. Business owners who say, ‘I don’t like Twitter,’ probably believe it is just full of people posting photos of food.

That’s the first hurdle when it comes to convincing your boss to take Twitter seriously – they don’t use it; have no interest in trying it; and assume it is only a waste of time.

Twitter justification 1: It is a great listening tool

You’ve probably seen a lot of social media companies talking about the benefits of social as a listening tool. That’s because it is a great listening tool. There are lots of ways to search social networks and find people based on what they are talking about.

Some companies, like Brandwatch, Trackur and Brand 24, specialise in helping brand owners track sentiment and trends in order to make marketing decisions.

If you don’t have the budget for that kind of service, you can use tools like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Sprout Social and others to monitor your audience in a number of ways. You can create saved searches for specific phrases or hashtags to find conversations you may want to jump into.

See also: How to use trade shows for social networking

Twitter justification 2: It is free

This is something of a false statement. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, right? You still need to pay people for their time to work on social media, and you need to pay subscription fees for any professional management tools you use. But you don’t need to actually pay to publish on social networks.

Let’s forget for a moment that Facebook restricts your content to a tiny proportion of your community unless you pay to boost it. Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn – they are all open and free platforms.

If you come up with the right combination of ideas and attitude, you could achieve great exposure with little investment. For example, you can use it as a tool to build a sense of community around your company’s day to day activities.

Twitter justification 3: It generates traffic

Social channels and traffic

Social networks drive traffic to your site. The quality of traffic from each network does vary. You will usually find traffic from Reddit has a high bounce rate, whereas people clicking through from LinkedIn and Facebook may engage more.

How much you care about the level of engagement and bounces is for you to consider. The main thing to think about here, though, is the benefit of getting your content promoted in as many places as possible. The more people who see and like your content, the more link endorsements you have, and that leads to more visits.

Don’t only focus on Twitter. Don’t assume Facebook doesn’t drive traffic because of Facebook’s restrictions on how many people can see things. They are both great sources of traffic, but so are Google+, LinkedIn and other channels.

Twitter justification 4: It aids SEO by boosting authority

The natural connection to getting lots of links in lots of places is that it boosts your authority. Google and Bing have both stated that they use links in social networks as a ranking factor, but there are circumstances to consider.

If, for example, you have an article that’s being talked about and linked to in both Facebook and Twitter at the same time, this is a strong signal of popularity, which leads to a better ranking position for that article.

That’s fine for one article, while it is being discussed, but it could drop down the rankings once the interest dies down. If you continue to publish content that keeps being talked about, your overall domain (or brand) authority increases.

There’s no single method you can follow to win at SEO. You should work in line with the many search ranking factors. When it comes to social media, don’t just do it for SEO; do it for community building and awareness, but do it knowing that it does play a role in your SEO efforts.

Twitter justification 5: It helps you create relationships

Get more followers and likes. That’s a good thing to do, but what if you can be more specific about the people you reach through social media?

Let me tell you about one client we work for in the technology sector. The client told us about one influential individual with whom they would love to build a relationship. Our social media team researched this person (listening) to find out what kind of content he shares.

We then shared content from the client with this person. He liked it and that led to further conversation, which culminated in him and the client having a meeting. That’s the power of social media.

Twitter justification 6: It is a customer service tool

One of the best things about social media is that it puts customer service under a spotlight. In the old days, customer service was a one to one relationship. A customer sent an email or made a call – the customer service team would deal with that enquiry direct.

With social media, you get a chance to demonstrate your customer service skills to the whole world. A customer asks a question on your Facebook page or your Twitter account for all to see. You reply in public.

This not only aids the person asking the question, it also helps others who may have the same question. Additionally, it demonstrates to the world that you are responsive and helpful.

‘But Twitter doesn’t get us any sales’

Don’t assume all your marketing spend is the same. You can’t treat your social media investment the same as your PPC budget or email marketing campaigns. The return for each is different.

Direct advertising, like print ads, PPC and email promotions, tend to have hard metrics. You should be able to measure some kind of return on that spend, whether it’s sales, enquiries or visits. Measuring ROI for social media marketing is more loose. You can’t measure the tangible benefit of a shop window, but you know it matters.

Regarding ROI, you may find these articles useful:

Tell your boss: Twitter is an investment, not a cost

Some companies are spending thousands of pounds per month on Twitter, let alone social media as a whole. You can forgive your boss for asking why they should do that when there’s no way to measure a return.

Consider Selfridge’s. The world-famous Oxford Street department store employs a team of window dressers to design its windows for each Christmas season. The windows for 2014 were in the planning since November 2013. The team included 500 contractors, the Selfridge’s Windows team and many thousands of bulbs, baubles and custom designs.

Why did it do that? There is no ROI in window displays. People don’t pay to look in the windows. The Selfridge’s marketing manager can’t calculate which window made the most money, or indeed if any of the windows made a difference to sales.

Essentially, Selfridge’s invests many months and many thousands of pounds on faith. Obviously, the windows are so amazing that they garner coverage in the mainstream media and many shares on social media. So, the investment is worth it for the publicity, but does that publicity translate to sales, or would those sales happen anyway?

Twitter is like Selfridge’s windows. You need to invest time and money into it on faith. If you try to match what you spend with an expected financial return, you won’t be happy. But if you do everything possible to make the most of the channel, it will contribute to your bottom line either in the short term or in the long run.

Just tell your boss: ‘The desk you are sitting at cost money. There’s no ROI in a desk, but you wouldn’t want to work without one. You should see Twitter the same way.’

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