Even as social media has become the most heavily explored and discussed marketing tactic, marketers have struggled to understand its true value. Many organisations have had difficulty defining their social strategy and therefore have trouble understanding the explicit and implicit results of their social programs.
Most surveys of practicing social marketers have aligned its value with brand building, thought leadership, customer service and other important, but difficult to measure, „soft‟ benefits. When the question is what is social media good for?, direct sales usually ranks toward the bottom. However, this ignores the increasing degree to which social media enables customers themselves as a channel for sales, PR and customer service.
Typically, the companies that have seen the greatest rewards from social media have approached it in phases;
- First, as a listening platform to understand the lessons of relevant conversations and determine where they are taking place.
- Second, as a place to encourage interactions with existing and potential customers around activities of value to them (service, discovery, fun, etc.)
Finally, as a sales channel that acts as much to enable and accelerate purchase through complimentary channels as to sell directly.
Organisations seeking to measure social media impact can do so in a number of ways.
1. Social benchmarks
One of the hottest topics in analytics is the question of assigning value to the measures of social media success offered by social platforms. Primary among these are the Facebook fan, the Facebook “Like” and the Twitter follower.
The best analogy for social followers is the less glamorous house email list. As the opt-in gives way to the “Like” or “Follow” the same truths hold fast; these are valuable customers or prospects who want to know what your brand is doing, what products you‟re premiering and what value they can achieve from the relationship. And, just as in email marketing, those brands that treat their followers with respect, and as their most valuable segment, will reap the rewards.
2. Action and interaction
Friends and Followers are worth tracking, but it‟s perhaps more important to ask (and optimise) against what they‟re doing once they‟re part of your brand‟s social family. Are they sharing your messaging? Why or why not?
This is one of the more obvious ways of measuring social media. Remember that quality often beats quantity, though not always.
Some companies simply cannot process sales online, because their products or services do not allow for it but benefit greatly from the word of mouth power of social media.
5. Social & Search
- Holistic planning and execution of social media, organic search and paid search delivers increased exposure, awareness, engagement.
- Increasingly it is being demonstrated that alignment between search and social media activity serves to drive both consumer insights and enhanced digital performance
- User query information and rising topics identified in search can be leveraged to inform social monitoring strategies
- In turn insights gleaned through social monitoring and engagement search to inform paid search keyword and messaging development, as well as organic search strategies
- Search and social efforts should be planned and executed in alignment to create a virtuous cycle of shared insight
6. Search marketing aides Social Upsizing
The SEO factor cannot be overstated. Social media can be far more powerful in this regard than you might initially imagine. For example, a well-placed story / video / image on a site like Digg will generate a lot of traffic and a nice link from Digg itself, but the real win here is that it will generate a lot more interest beyond Digg. Bloggers and major publishers are following Digg‟s Upcoming channel to unearth new and interesting stories (Sky News now has a Twitter correspondent). One link and 20,000 referrals from Digg might lead on to 40,000 referrals and 100 links from other sites. The long tail, in action. 100 links means that your page might well wind up being placed highly on Google, resulting in lots of ongoing traffic. Remember too that you can use sites like Twitter and YouTube to claim valuable search rankings on your brand search terms („social search optimisation‟).
- Search and social media work harder together!
- Proprietary Group research indicates that users exposed to relevant social media are 2x more likely to conduct searches maximising the interplay between SEO, SEM and Social Media following earned, owned & paid media approach
7. Brand Monitoring
Word of mouth and the viral factor (inherent in sites like Twitter, Facebook and Digg) can help shift the key brand metrics, both negatively and positively. These include brand favourability, brand awareness, brand recall, propensity to buy, etc. Positive brand associations via social media campaigns can help drive clicks on paid search ads, and responses to other forms of advertising.
8. Customer engagement
Customer engagement is one of the most important of all metrics in today’s business environment. Engagement can take place offline and online, both on your website and on other sites, particularly social media sites. Customer engagement is key to improving satisfaction and loyalty rates, and revenue.
A positive side effect of increased customer engagement should be an increase in customer retention. This is going to be a crucial factor in the success of your business in the years to come.