People are looking for results. People running businesses are especially eager to find results. If you’re spending precious dollars towards marketing efforts, your expectation is to see a return on that investment. So, when should you expect a ROI for your online marketing efforts? What sort of return should they be expecting from the social media campaigns they are running or the content they are creating?

The answer is not as simple as you might be hoping for.  Online marketing is a different beast for different companies.  Retailers with a concrete product might start to see a return on investment fairly quickly.  Other companies with services to offer, using consistent marketing efforts, will be waiting years.  This might feel like a letdown, but consider this –we are so social media reliant in this day and age that NOT having a strong social media presence will be a huge detriment to your business.

What do I mean by that? It’s something that you have to address and keep current, whether it’s bringing in hard sales or not.

From Social Media Today:

You’ve got your Twitter account going and you’ve made a few good jokes. You’ve garnered a few followers on Facebook. Every day, you put a little time into your social channels. How long until you start seeing some actual sales or conversions? […]Another source, James Parsons of Boostlikes, writes, “The shocking truth is, only 39 percent of small businesses ever see a return on their social media investment. Among them, 57 percent place the value of that ROI at under $1,000. Unfortunately, these days social media interaction is so necessary that you can’t just do without.”

Your online presence is your second storefront or, in some cases, your only storefront.  Whether or not people choose to buy, you have to be open and ready for business.  This doesn’t mean that you should remain stagnant and not try to change your approach.  Set goals, by all means.  Set short term goals and long term goals.  What do you want your social media channels to do for you? What steps do you have to take to make that happen?

Keep in mind that return on investment doesn’t just translate to dollars and cents.  Are you increasing your audience? Visibility? Engagement with customers? Growing your fanbase? These things are important as well. These components translate to success over a greater period of time.

You have to be smart about what these things are worth to you.  I’m saying that social media marketing is valuable, but it’s valuable within reason.  There are several costs that go into marketing online that you have to consider.  These are: man hours, content creation, social media management tools, and paid advertising. It might be worth a few hundred dollars to get your newsletter subscriptions up into the thousands.  It’s not necessarily worth thousands of dollars to do that.  You have to draw the line somewhere and you have to evaluate what each goal is worth to you.

In short, you should be expecting a return on your investment into online marketing.  The point is that you have to understand that this return doesn’t always come in the way that you might be expecting or it may take longer than you’d anticipated.  Building your online presence is a lot like building a brand. You are building trust. You are building a following. You are engaging.  Once you’ve created that base, it’s up to you to decide what your goals will be moving forward.