Social Media Initiatives: Marketing Fundamentals are the Same, Vehicles are Different

May 3, 2011 at 7:15 pm 1 comment

By Mary Ludloff

Whenever you throw a bunch of marketers in a room and say, “let’s talk about doing some social media outreach,” I can guarantee you that there will be an energetic (yelling and gesticulating) conversation with some eye rolling involved. Whenever you throw a bunch of social media experts in a room and say, “Company A does not see the value of their social media programs,” I can guarantee you that there will be an energetic (yelling and gesticulating) conversation with some eye rolling involved. Whenever you throw a bunch of software engineers in a room who have come specifically to talk with you about what you would like to see in a social media analytics tool, I can guarantee you that there will be an energetic (me yelling and gesticulating) conversation with some eye rolling (engineering and product management team) involved.

Why all the storm and dirge? Well, social media has moved from an “interesting fad” to an entrenched channel but the jury is still out on how we marketers are going to “measure success.” A recent Harvard Business Review social media study found the following:

“… nearly two thirds of the participating organizations said that they are either currently using social media channels, or have plans in the works. However, only 12 percent of the companies surveyed said they felt they were effective users of social media. These were the companies most likely to use multiple channels; use metrics for reporting; have a strategy for social media usage; and integrate social media into their overall marketing strategy.”

Here are some interesting statistics that the study revealed:

  • 75% of companies surveyed did not know where their most valuable customers were talking about them.
  • 31% of companies surveyed did not measure the effectiveness of their social media programs.
  • Only 23% of companies surveyed are using social media analytic tools.
  • Only 7% of companies surveyed integrate social media with other marketing activities.

By the way, to read the full report (and I encourage you to do so) go here.

There are a number of treatises written about how to “measure” social media success, and much of it revolves around influence and sentiment, but let’s not forget that marketing planning fundamentals still apply:

  • What are your goals? Increase sales? Influence people? Reduce customer service costs?
  • How are you going to measure success? Increase in volume or higher value sales? Increase in conversation about your brand, products, services? Increase in number of unique visitors, number of page views, time spent on your website or blog? Increase in number of tweets, retweets, likes? Decrease in time to resolve a customer problem?
  • What do you need to capture to measure success and what tools are you going to use to analyze what you’re capturing? Google analytics? Google alerts? Twitter followers, number of tweets and retweets, Facebook fans, Feedburner stats?

Yes, classic marketing planning still applies in this new world! As a marketing mentor of mine used to say, “Poor planning results in poor execution which ends in failure because you don’t know what you wanted to do, you did not identify and capture the appropriate data you needed to measure success, and so you wasted resources, time, and money: garbage in, garbage out.”

Let me be clear on where I stand on the “is social media a valuable (and necessary) marketing tool debate?” Yes, it is. But measuring ROI (the classic argument used against social media programs) in the literal sense has always been difficult for marketers to calculate due to a paucity (love that word) of data.

Look, in the golden, olden days of marketing we used to combine all our lead lists into a leads database (not connected to any other database in the company) and hopefully, flagged how many program “touches” each contact received (not always the case and prone to data entry errors). Keep in mind that there is no one-to-one relationship between a “touch” and a sale unless (and even then I would question it) it is the simplest B2C transaction. For most products (B2C and B2B), there are multiple touch points and in the more complex sales cycles, multiple contacts at various levels of an organization with multiple touch points with multiple messages.

How did we figure out ROI? Well, at the end of every quarter we’d sit in a room with sales operations managers, compare their sales spreadsheets with our prospect/leads and marketing programs’ spreadsheets, and try and figure out which marketing programs had the highest ROI. We would have interesting (again, much yelling and gesticulating) conversations on how to weight program A versus program B because a given prospect that was an influencer in the decision making process for a specific company (size of deal in the millions) participated in both (so which one was more important in terms of securing the deal?) and yes, we would descend to that level of granularity.  Not the most scientific approach.

Here’s what I find fascinating about the current social media ROI debate: it assumes that our ability to measure ROI before the digital days was so much better! Do you know what I love about marketing today? It’s all that lovely data (direct from the source), available in pretty much near real-time (see my post on what real-time really means) that we can mash up with other data sets (also direct from other sources), and look for new and improved ways to measure success. In a recent interview on social media metrics, Jim Sterne (social media metrics guru to marketers) had this to say:

“Social media KPIs are all dependent on the individual organization and its goals. But generally, we are looking at ‘impressions’ or reach. How many people had the opportunity to see the message? Next, we want to track influence to see whom we should be catering to and making sure we treat them well. Then, there’s the question of sentiment – something we may never be able to monitor technically – to help us get a handle on and track brand attitude. Finally, we need to measure business outcomes. Is our activity on social media driving visits, downloads, registrations and sales?”

When it comes to social media programs, the basic marketing fundamentals of strategy, planning, execution, and measurement still apply. What is new, different, and exciting, is that we have so much data to look at and derive insights from. We no longer have a data paucity problem but we certainly have a data volume and noise problem which is why analysis (specifically, exploratory analysis) is so important. But I’ll cover that in my next post.

As you know, our product development team is hard at work on our social media analytics solution, getting it read for beta, and making it generally available. You may have noticed that a number of recent post are focused on marketing and social media and with good reason, as we wanted to talk about the challenges of social media marketing as well as the ways in which you can analyze all the data that is now available to you. And finally, I must add my own plea for saving TweetDeck (my favorite Twitter dashboard) from the dust heap—it looks like the Twitter acquisition is going through. I can only hope that Twitter will see its value and not let it simply fade away.

Entry filed under: Data, General Analytics, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , .

On Social Media: The Real Marketing Transformation Speaking at Privacy Identity Innovation conference (pii2011): Building Trust in a Digital Age

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