Four Metrics for Social Media Marketing Success


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Social media is a growing plethora of ways and means of letting people share pictures, videos, opinions and more online. Social media has become so popular because it makes it easier for humans to communicate. The telegraph, the telephone, and fax machines were the precursors and people found a way to turn these one-to-one communication technologies into many-to-many interaction tools.

The Internet has always been a social medium, putting the power of narrowcast and broadcast into the hands of the individual. Email became discussion lists. Personal websites became blogs. Messaging with pictures to whole groups of people became popular with Facebook. Texting was quickly adopted for those with cell phones and Twitter turned texting into a broadcast medium. Flickr and YouTube filled in the need to share photos and videos.

With the advent of more ubiquitous access to the Internet via smart phones, social media is the natural progression of communication capabilities and has been adopted by many, soon to be most and eventually by all.

Impact on Digital Marketing Strategy

Social media has an impact across all aspects of the digital marketing strategy framework. It can be useful to acquire new customers, turn loyal customers into advocates and everything in between.

Social media is a communication tool just like the telephone. Can you use social media as you would the telephone for prospecting? Yes. Persuasion? Yes. Sales? Yes. Customer service? Yes. Loyalty enhancement? Yes.

Whether you’re working in a business-to-consumer market or are strictly a business-to-business enterprise, social media can be useful and valuable at all phases of the customer life cycle…

Social media can also be thought of as simply another communication channel. In the early 1990’s, many companies felt that they didn’t need an online presence because their customers were not online then. Progressive companies saw the handwriting on the wall and invested in learning about the online world through trial and error. Then as now, it’s valuable to make your mistakes when there are fewer people watching and the learning curve is not so steep. A few resources spent over time will yield more knowledge than those same resources spent all at once, trying to play catch-up.

Whether you’re working in a business-to-consumer market or are strictly a business-to-business enterprise, social media can be useful and valuable at all phases of the customer life cycle as it allows prospects and customers to put a more human face on the organization. Spokespeople are not longer the untouchable celebrity who extol the virtues of your product on the TV screen, but are brand managers and product developers who can speak directly to individuals.

Sizing your investment in social media marketing

How much should you spend on marketing in general? How much should go into direct mail or television or a conference exhibition booth? These are questions of religion and politics.

You know your budgets are based on religion when the top most executives grant the largest piles of cash to those areas they know the best. “I spent 20 years in television and I know it works.” “Direct mail has always been the backbone of this company and we’re not going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.”

These are statements of confirmed knowledge about the way things used to be. Put an ad on TV and watch consumers walk zombie-like into their local grocery stores to buy. Mail out a catalog and watch while order forms with checks in them flood back into the mail room. Those days are gone and a more complex marketing mix is the order of the day.

Most rigid, steadfast, religious top-level marketing executives tend to get moved out to pasture by the next generation who can prove that there is a better way. They are interested in trying new things and are less tied to the tried and true. They are, however, subject to the whims of political budget machinations.

While religion is founded on faith, politics is based on influence and cronyism. Budgets grow for those who are good at communicating with the budget makers in the ways they like best. If the big cheese is fond of spreadsheets, you are advised to crunch those numbers. If the boss likes charts and graphs, a good graphic artist is invaluable. If the person in the corner office is more impressed by the achievements of others, a presentation full of competitive examples will win the day.

Should you increase your investment in social media? Given that we are at the very beginning of the discovery phase of this means of communication, the answer is, Absolutely! The question then becomes, how do you know whether you should decrease your investment in social media marketing?

When additional spend does not yield additional results, it may not be the spend at fault. It may be that the company has forgotten that social media is more about social than it is about media. As with all marketing, spending more money to convey a poor message will not help.

Measuring ROI

There are four main metrics for social media marketing, all of which must be considered to determine the true return; Awareness, Sentiment, Response and Value.

Awareness is the same metric we’ve always used in marketing. Ask a random selection of people if they have heard of your product. Ask them if they can attribute any characteristics about your product. If you’re doing your job, the answer will be, “Of course I’ve heard of KFC. It’s finger lickin’ good!” You grow awareness through reach and social media lets you reach people you might not otherwise. They are the friends of friends who read the tweet re-tweeted by those you couldn’t reach on your own. Then you can segment those who have seen different ads, visited your website or participated in your sociosphere and measure the difference – or lift – in their response.

There are four main metrics for social media marketing, all of which must be considered to determine the true return; Awareness, Sentiment, Response and Value.

Sentiment pertains to how people feel about your brand, your product or even about you. It’s great that everybody is blogging about your latest offering, unless they are deriding your efforts, tweeting about your incompetence and posting video satires about you on YouTube. Tracking sentiment across competitors and over time allows you to keep a finger on the pulse of the marketplace and divine what’s in their hearts and minds.

Response comes in three varieties. Did your foray into the fields of Facebook elicit a social response? Did people Like what they saw? Did they blog about it? Did they re-tweet it from the rafters? Did you get any viral action? Lots of social response? Excellent! A large check box in column A. Column B is for business related response. Did they click through to your website, download the white paper, sign up for the webinar, join the club or subscribe to the newsletter? These are standard metrics used by web teams for more than a decade. Column C gets a check mark in it when you can relate your social media activities to sales. That brings us to the fourth metric: Value.

Top line sales, bottom line profits and customer satisfaction are the final arbiters of the success of your social media efforts. Did your blogging, YouTubing, tweeting and crowdsourcing generate sufficient interest to generate cash, save money on customer support or increase good will enough to make the investment worthwhile?

Follow the Leaders

As with websites in the 1990’s and web analytics in the 2000’s, leading practitioners are telling stories of fantastic success—in very small doses. There are few companies that are doing everything right. There are many companies that have pockets of people who are doing astonishingly well. There are anecdotal stories about agencies who have created the most attention getting viral campaigns (Hello, Old Spice Guy!) and there are customer service technicians who have become social media poster children because they actually responded to their customers who were lost and crying in the wilderness.

But only a handful of companies have taken social media seriously enough to build social communication command centers. They are harnessing the power of this new mode of interaction and are reaping the benefits. Best practices in social media will be revealed over the next few years. For now, the game belongs to the swift.

The key to improving your returns on social media marketing is combining a firm belief in this brave, new method of contact with a committed course of experimentation and discovery, and a resolute dedication to measuring results in order to determine value as you learn.

For further exploration and information:

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  • Get lots of rest and drink plenty of fluids

This article is part of a free e-book for Chief Marketing Officers:
Strategic Roadmap for Digital Marketing
Learn how to engage with customers and create value for stakeholders in a complex digital world. Covers digital channels, marketing techniques, accountability and technology. (No registration required to view/download PDF.)


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