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Spread of ideas concept illustrationMany of us are tweeting and posting updates to a host of social media sites. But, how many know just how big (or small) our audiences really are?

Let’s face it. Every time we post something, it appears for a fleeting moment in time, as other posts continue to flow. I’ve always questioned the rationale of using social media as a major marketing tool for any small business or nonprofit organization. You can’t reach your targeted market segments using one channel alone.

I just read an interesting Stanford University study entitled, “Quantifying the Invisible Audience in Social Networks,” that indicates we are underestimating our social media reach! In fact, half of (study) users want to reach larger audiences, but they are already reaching much larger audiences than they think. And why? Because we don’t get enough feedback to know the size of our reach.

As this study focused solely on Facebook, the results show that users manage to reach 35% of their friends with each post and 61% of their friends over the course of a month. That’s not a bad return on time investment.

Yet, there’s still more research to do. A lot of people use Facebook for personal reasons which may not give us a clear picture when we use it for business purposes.

As far as using other social media sites, we don’t yet have a measurement tool to gauge how many of our “followers’ actually read our posts, updates, and tweets. So, when it comes to building brand awareness, acquiring and retaining customers (donors, volunteers, members, etc.) and other business objectives, we are still in the dark. That’s not to be confused with how many followers, friends, or connections we have, but how many of our communications are actually reaching our target audiences.

Until then, I recommend using a multichannel marketing strategy. It wouldn’t be sound marketing to put all your eggs in the social media basket anyway.

Are you using social media marketing exclusively? What have been your results?

Are you using a multichannel approach that includes social media marketing?  How are you measuring success?

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