Posts Tagged ‘social media ROI’
Online marketing activities preovide marketers with a wealth of metrics; actually, too much information. The challenge in deciding which strategies to pursue, increase, modify, or drop, in most cases isn’t a lack of data but an over-abundance of it. Marketers just want the competitive and multichannel metrics they need to make informed decisions, nothing more.
But like any good thing, data simplification can be overdone. As Albert Einstein famously said, “Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
Of course it’s true that, ultimately, any marketing tactic has to show business results (higher sales, lower costs, or some combination thereof). But to argue that marketing strategies and tactics can be properly evaluated solely on that basis is like saying pilots don’t need instruments; after all, at the end of the day, a pilot isn’t judged by altitude or airspeed, but simply by the result of safely landing at the flight’s destination.
Just as a pilot needs instruments to fly accurately and safely, marketers need a broad set of interim metrics to measure their overall web presence and activities. Simply because a specific metric doesn’t appear on a P&L statement or in an ROI calculation doesn’t make it unimportant.
Yet that’s what was argued recently in The 5 most worthless metrics in marketing in iMedia Connection. Now iMedia Connection is a widely respected marketing publication; its posts and stories are frequently spot-on and highly share-worthy, but this article misses the mark.
The post states that marketers shouldn’t “measure anything that you can’t find a direct line of sight back to your financial statements.” But that criteria would ignore many “interim” metrics that, while not directly bottom-line related in and of themselves, are important guideposts to designing and executing financially successful marketing plans—similar to the way a pilot may use GPS or visual landmarks.
Here are the five metrics and why each is indeed not “worthless.”
The post contends that counting Twitter followers is “a completely pointless exercise…Up to half of all Twitter accounts are inactive, while many are just spambots. It is estimated that two-thirds of the Twitter fans of many celebrities and politicians are fake. So we have to ask: Why would someone purchase fakes on a system whose sole function is to communicate with people?”
There are two problems with this argument. The first is that Twitter follower count is misleading because of inactive and bot accounts. But as Shelly Kramer recently wrote, this issue is easily overcome using a tool like Status People, which checks for fake followers and reports, for any Twitter account, the percentages of fake, inactive, and good Twitter followers (the tools reveals, for example, that for the @TomPick Twitter account, those figures are 1%, 6%, and 93% respectively—not bad).
The second is the notion of “purchasing” Twitter followers, which is a bad idea regardless. Just as a college student may be able to cheat in a class by buying a term paper, or even test answers, the result is that the student didn’t really get the benefit of learning in the class, which will have long-term (if not also short-term) repercussions. And it renders that student’s grade worthless.
But that doesn’t make the general notion of class grades or test scores worthless, only those that are achieved fraudulently. The same principle applies to Twitter followers; as long as they are obtained legitimately, the count does matter.
The article argues in his post that “the vast majority of people who click the ‘like’ button will never return to the site of their own accord. If you want to get value out of them, you need to actively do something.” True! But that doesn’t make “likes” worthless generically, it means, as with Twitter followers, that what matters is how the “like” are obtained and what type of ongoing engagement activities are implemented.
As with many web presence optimization and online marketing metrics, what’s important about Facebook “likes” isn’t the number itself but rather 1) how that number changes over time, and 2) how that number compares to competitors’. If your “likes” aren’t growing over time, it calls for rethinking the type of updates you’re sharing and how you’re engaging on Facebook.
And if competitors have significant more “likes,” why? Is there something in their strategies you can learn from? Or are they merely inflating their follower counts through contests similar low-involvement tactics? If the latter, then the “likes” differential truly doesn’t matter much.
This isn’t to say that Facebook should be a central part of every company’s social strategy. It’s a better environment for promoting hospitality, entertainment, retail and fashion brands than for industrial goods. And if you sell an item like adult diapers or anti-fungal cream, you’re unlikely to get a lot of customers to publicly express affection for your products on Facebook no matter how much they may “like” them in real life.
The point that sentiment tracking is important (thought challenging to do accurately) in providing context around social mentions is well taken, but still: if you’ve got an active social media marketing program going and aren’t getting social mentions, that’s a critical signal that something is wrong. And as with “likes,” if competitors are getting significantly more social mentions than your brand, you need to investigate why.
Actually, the post is correct here that an unfiltered, raw count of backlinks is meaningless. In the post-Penguin world, a large number of link farm or similar low-quality links can be worse than useless—it can actually be harmful.
Still, with proper categorization and filtering, links counts can be quite enlightening. Discovering that a competitor has far more links from industry news sources or blogs, for example, tells you something important about their strategy, and how you may need to adjust yours.
Search Engine Visibility
Again, while it’s true as the article states that “Many performance indicators, including bounce rate, form abandonment, average order value, engagement, and conversion rate, vary from search phrase to search phrase,” telling a client or boss generically that search engine visibility doesn’t matter is certainly not advisable.
Ideally, a website should attract increasing numbers of visits over time for both branded and non-brand (generic) search phrases. Generic visits are driven by SEO activities (content, social, PR, industry, link-building, etc.). Branded search visits are driven by a host of activities that raise brand awareness; again including PR and social, but also advertising, trade shows, sponsorships, speaking engagements, awards, community involvement among others.
Yes, it’s true that in the final analysis, if a marketing activity isn’t positively contributing to the bottom line, a company shouldn’t be spending time, effort or money on it. But there are many interim measures that are vital in guiding marketers, just as instruments guide pilots, to adjust their speed or direction intelligently in order to reach their final destination.
TradePub has just launched its first report in a series for 2012, the Social Media Wrap Up report. Each report will highlight a selection of the best social media posts from leading authors published the preceding month.
The inaugural report includes posts from authors such as marketing agency veteran Drew McLellan; Marc Meyer, digital and social media strategist at DRMG; and author, speaker and SVP of Social Strategies at Social 5150 Neal Schaffer.
The topics covered range from social media strategies and hiring a social media agency to guidance on Tweetchats, blogging and measuring social media ROI.
Again, a new summary of some of the best social media blog posts will be published each month in 2012. You can grab the first free report here.
Ultimately, as Olivier Blanchard has pointed out repeatedly, social media marketing has to demonstrate an ROI (though he acknowledges the questions have to be made more specific). In the b2b world, the “R” is generally leads (website call-to-action conversions) with some monetary value applied to them.
But it’s crucial to the social media ROI debate to recognize that “R” is an end-of-the-process measure. There are numerous in-process measures that may be impossible to tie directly to ROI, but are nonetheless critical in producing that final “R” value.
Consider automobile manufacturing as an analogy. There are an abundance of measures, from machining tolerances on shafts to the temperature in the paint room, which are vital to track during the manufacturing process. The C-level folks may not know or particularly care what these numbers are, but if those values are off, they will affect quality, which impacts rework and warranty claims, which impact manufacturing and repair costs, which impact the ROI of each vehicle.
Similarly, in social media marketing, there are numerous intermediate “process” measures that don’t fit into an ROI equation, but which are vital in optimizing social media efforts in order to minimize “I” and maximize “R.” These metrics don’t represent the goals of social media marketing in and of themselves, but are critical measures to help optimize processes to achieve the ultimate objectives.
Here are 46 intermediate metrics (and two final measures) to help marketers evaluate the success of their social media programs and optimize their associated processes. Most of these are easy and free to track.
Nine Blog Metrics
- • Overall traffic
- • Traffic quality (e.g. bounce rate, average time spent per visit)
- • Most popular posts (indicates topics with highest interest)
- • Search traffic
- • Social media/network-referred traffic
- • Other key sources of traffic (e.g., company website, newsletters, syndication sites)
- • Number of RSS subscribers (regular readers)
- • Number of email subscribers
- • Top visiting organizations (measure of targeting effectiveness)
Six Twitter Metrics
- • Total number of relevant followers (exclude the inevitable spammers and oddballs who seem to be attracted to any active Twitter account)
- • Interaction (@ mentions)
- • Retweets (reflects both level of engagement and quality of shared content)
- • Most tweeted links (i.e., which content is most popular with followers)
- • Influence (e.g., Klout and Kred scores)
- • Brand and mention tracking (e.g., from HootSuite or other social media monitoring tool)
Six LinkedIn Metrics
- • Number of company followers
- • Recommendations on products or services
- • Page views (of LinkedIn company overview)
- • Unique visitors
- • Click-throughs (on product links)
- • Followers by industry, function and company
Five Facebook Metrics
- • Number of Facebook page “Likes”
- • Friends of fans (indicates an organization’s total potential reach on Facebook)
- • Number of people talking about you (the number of unique people who have created content about the company page on Facebook in the past week)
- • Weekly total reach (the number of people who have seen one of the firm’s messages on Facebook in past week)
- • Most popular posts
Ten YouTube Metrics
- • Number of subscribers to the company channel
- • Total number of video views
- • Change in views and subscribers over last 30 days
- • Engagement measures:
- » Likes / dislikes
- » Comments
- » Shares
- » Favorites added or removed
- • Top videos, last 30 days
- • Playback locations (e.g., regular YouTube page, company channel, mobile device, etc.)
- • Top traffic sources
Two Google+ Metrics
- • Number of people / organizations in company circles
- • Number of people / organizations that have company in their circles
- • Note: Google has indicated that it plans to introduce more advanced analytics for Google+ soon
Ten Company Website and Cross-Social-Network Metrics
- • Total social media-generated visits to the company website
- • Lift in direct visits (an imprecise but correlated measure)
- • Lift in branded search visits (another imprecise but correlated measure)
- • Major social network visits by source
- • Traffic quality by source
- • Most-viewed pages by social media visitors
- • Top visiting organizations (all social media sources)
- • Top visiting organizations (by major social network)
- • Lead conversions (all social media sources)
- • Lead conversions (by major social network)
If you’ve utilized the first 46 metrics to continually monitor and adjust your social media activities, the final two—the real return on investment for b2b marketers—should validate and quantify the value of all your hard work.
Social media marketing has gone well beyond the hype stage and is now mainstream business practice. Still, questions remain: how do I use social media most effectively across the enterprise? Which social media monitoring tools should I use? What should I monitor for? How do I use my time and resources most effectively? What social media developments and trends should I be watching?
And of course, there’s the ongoing social media ROI debate: how do I measure this? Can social media ROI really be measured? Influential voices like Olivier Blanchard and Jacquie McCarnan present formulas and methods for ROI calculation, while Steve Goldman contends that social media ROI can’t be measured in isolation, and Jackie Cohen reports that more than a third of CMOs still have no idea whether or not social media marketing is producing any ROI.
What to do? Read on for answers to these questions and more from some of the best minds in social media in some of their best blog posts and articles of 2011 so far.
Social Media Strategy and Best Practices
9 Ways B2B Companies Can Use Location Based Services by Social Media B2B
The always-insightful Adam Holden-Bache contends that location-based services like Foursquare aren’t just for consumer marketers, and supplies ideas on how B2B marketers can capitalize such as through partnerships with non-competitive local businesses, incentives and rewards, and in event marketing (“Are you seeing a lot of your contacts attending certain business events? Whether it’s a local tweet-up or a major conference, this knowledge could be useful to help you plan what events you should sponsor or where you should set up your next booth”).
Is Social Media Really Living Up to Expectations? by B2B Lead Roundtable Blog
Brian Carroll talks with MECLABS Director of Research Sergio Balegno about the disconnect between social media activity and results in the B2B environment, and concludes that “marketers are expecting way too much too soon.” Social media adoption on both the buyer and vendor side is happening with incredible speed; the tools that we’ve developed to track other web marketing activities haven’t kept pace. As social media monitoring and integration with CRM systems improves, marketers will have the metrics and analytical tools to more accurately assess the value of various social media efforts and continually improve them.
The B2B Social Media Landscape: a portrait by Beyond
***** 5 STARS
The social media approach that nobody wants to hear by Hugo Guzman
Hugo Guzman explains the importance of listening and planning before jumping into social media (failures also noted previously here in the dirty dozen top 12 social media mistakes to avoid). He lists nine steps its imperative for companies to take in order to “build enough social karma (yes, I said karma) to facilitate things like guest posting opportunities, retweets, likes, etc.”
19 Social Media Best Practices [VIDEO] by Social Media Explorer
30 Ways to Use Social Media for Business People by SEOptimise
Citing a recent study showing that “94% of businesses actually do not use social media even for the most obvious task it’s good for: Getting feedback”–and another demonstrating that those businesses are less competitive–Tad Chef supplies a list of 30 ways businesses can use social media, among them to get feedback, get attention, debunk myths, forge relationships and build links.
5 ways to use social media to build a crowd for your event by Socialbrite
Tamara Mendelsohn of Eventbrite details five guiding principles for promoting events, including choose the right platform, publish your event to Facebook, and “define success metrics and don’t underestimate the effort required.”
Organizing Your Social Media Strategy by CompuKol Connection
Influence in social media: how to find the top bloggers by blur Group
The most underestimated social media asset by iMediaConnection
Noting that “the proper framework of enablement and empowerment can turn a company’s workforce into the most effective means of advancing the goals of the business through social media,” Lori Luechtefeld details IBM’s experience with transforming its business be empowering employees to actively engage as part of the company’s social media strategy.
It’s Not Your CEO’s Fault He’s a Social Media Moron by Social Media Today
Expand Your Social Media Mix: Twitter Alone is Not Enough by Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang
***** 5 STARS
Deftly weaving in a dinner analogy to social media, Jeremiah Owyang compares Twitter to shish-kabob (bite-sized morsels of information) that are tasty but need to be supplemented by “steak”–infographics, Slideshare presentations, blog posts–and topped off with online video for dessert.
26 Ways to Use Social Media for Lead Generation by Social Media Examiner
***** 5 STARS
Debbie Hemley compiles another brilliant A to Z post, this one focused on using social media for lead generation. Her list of tactics begins with Assets, Branding and Compelling messages and continues all the way through Word of mouth, eXcellence, adopting a Yes attitude, and demonstrating Zeal in your social media activities and relationship building.
Social Media Tools
10 Steps to Finding the Influencers in Your Market by Junta42
***** 5 STARS
The brilliant Joe Pulizzi details 10 steps for finding and cultivating relationships with the key influencers in your market space. For each step, he identifies the overall strategy, useful tools, and helpful tips for execution.
9 Social Networks Your Business Should Be Using by Likeable Media
The Social Media Strategists Power Tools [Consumption] by NewCommBiz
Social Media and Online Video
9 new rules for YouTube marketing by iMedia Connection
Greg Jarboe lists nine helpful rules for video marketing, such as “Rule 1: YouTube marketing is the new video marketing…YouTube gets more than 86 percent of visits to 77 video sites in this country.” (Hulu, at #2, gets less than 4% of visits.) And “Rule 2: You can’t make it on YouTube alone…even with close to 2.0 billion out of the nearly 5.2 billion viewing sessions in the U.S., only 38 percent of all viewing sessions occurred at YouTube.com…45.13 percent of viewers discovered videos by going to a video site (i.e., going to YouTube and running a search or clicking around the featured or related videos). But 44.24 percent of viewers discovered videos embedded on blogs or other websites.”
Social media: Adding video to your digital marketing plan by SignOn San Diego
Erik Bratt expounds on the popularity of video marketing (“video capability was the fastest-growing website feature for small-business advertisers in 2009, with one in five hosting website video by the end of the year”) and the different types of videos businesses can consider using, including screencasts, customer testimonials and video email.
7 Little Known Tricks That Will Get You More YouTube Views by SocialTimes
Social Media Case Studies
The Fantabulous Lists of Social Media Case Studies by Social Media Today
Looking for examples of social media success to emulate? Giedrius Ivanauskas supplies 17 lists of social media case studies such as WOMMA’s Case Study Library and 35+ Examples of Corporate Social Media in Action from Mashable.
B2B Social Media Example: GE MarkNet by Social Media B2B
Social Media Trends and Predictions
2011 Trends: Make Your Corporate Site A Social Media Hub by Business 2 Community
Pam Moore outlines a dozen ways companies can fail at social media marketing, from not understanding the social media “ecosystem” for their industry or hiring the wrong consultant/agency for help to assuming social media will fix a broken business (it’s won’t–it will expose it) and having unrealistic expectations in general.
Social media: What lies ahead? by iMedia Connection
Shelly Palmer predicts that Facebook will face increased competition from better tools, that smart phones will continue to advance and account for a higher share of online traffic, and more in this 11-minute video.
Are These Social Media Trends of 2011 Part of Your Strategy? by Social Media Today
It is the structure of social networks that shapes influence… and the structure is changing by Trends in the Living Networks
Ross Dawson delves into the concept of influence networks to explain why some tweets go viral and others don’t, noting that this is a rapidly evolving area and that research shows “professional blogs are the most influential news media in sports and the second most influential media in politics and national news, while personal blogs are the most influential in entertainment and the second most influential in technology. In general the influence of blogs tends to decay more slowly than other media.”
Social Media Policies and Regulation
10 Steps to Managing Employees on Social Media by Write Speak Sell
**** 5 STARS
Noting that “Well-written (social media) policies prevent public relations disasters and potential legal liability. In addition, when done properly, they also create environments that foster productivity and loyalty among employees,” Kyle-Beth Hilfer provides an outstanding 10-step list to use as a guide in writing a social media policy.
Social Media Policy Unites Social Media Initiatives by Social Media Today
Going down the same path as Who Should Write Your Social Media Policy?, Tim McCord emphasizes the need to create a team when crafting a social media policy and selecting monitoring tools.
NLRB Says Companies Can Not Discipline Workers For Posts in Social Media by iMedia Connection
In news that every company needs to hear thought most likely don’t want to, Chris Boudreaux reports on a recent case wherein the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined that “companies can not discipline workers who post criticisms on social-networking sites.” Chris concludes with: “This clarification by the NLRB is a big deal for a lot of companies in the United States.” Indeed it is.
Social Media and SEO
Why social media optimization is the new SEO by iMedia Connection
Noting that many people now “receive the majority of their news on Twitter or via posts on Facebook and LinkedIn before resorting to a Google search on any given topic…How many times have you seen an article posted on Facebook or Twitter that has either made you click on it, or urged you to suddenly search about the topic? It’s a fascinating process,” Dennis Franczak explains why social media optimization (SMO) is now taking center stage in online marketing and how to go about it successfully.
Jennifer Sable Lopez offers a nine-step checklist to making social media activities SEO-friendly, such as incorporating keyword research and making sure your content is easily sharable across the most popular social networks. She uses the word campaign unfortunately, but otherwise it’s a helpful post.
Why Not Be The CMO Of Everyone? by MediaPost Search Insider
***** 5 STARS
Writing that “every person in an enterprise is potentially an authentic, invested content producer, networker or influencer. Very often, employees in large enterprises are actively evangelizing their brands or products and no one in the home office even realizes it,” Derek Gordon advises CMOs to solicit content from the broadest possible array of contributors within an organization in order to develop more valuable, search-optimized copy.
Social Media Monitoring
20 free, awesome social media monitoring tools by Socialbrite
Top 20 social media monitoring vendors for business by Socialmedia.biz
J.D. Lasica and Kim Bale review 20 powerful fee-based tools for professional social media monitoring, among them Radian6, Lithium, Alterian SM2 and Attentio. For guidance on how to evaluate these tools, check out 9 Criteria for Selecting a Social Media Monitoring Tool.
Top 10 analytics tools for social media by iMedia Connection
Pam Sahota provides helpful mini-reviews of 20 free social media monitoring tools worth checking out, from Twilerts and Backtype through Proxlet (which, among other features, helpfully filters out those annoying Foursquare checkin tweets) and Trendrr.
Social Media Dashboards by CompuKol Connection
Neil Glassman raises a number of questions to help focus social media monitoring activities (e.g.,”Does your query language mesh with your consumers’ language? Or is it industry language?”) then makes three key recommendations to help organizations really get value out of social media monitoring.
Social Media Metrics and ROI
6 Critically Undervalued Social Media Success Metrics by Convince & Convert
Jay Baer details the half-dozen social media metrics and tools he views as the most meaningful yet undervalued, from the Klout scores of your Twitter followers (rather than just number of followers) to share of voice and inbound links.
Social media metrics: 5 things to learn in 2011 by Ragan.com
Social Media Strategists Look Hard at ROI this Year by eMarketer
According to research from The Altimeter Group, “when it came to social media programs, 82% of respondents reported they would be investing in brand monitoring in 2011, while 77% cited staff budgets and 78% training budgets…Creating ROI measurements tops the list of internal social strategy objectives for 2011, with 48.3% of respondents highlighting that goal.”
3 Ways social media market research can impact your business by ListenLogic
Noting that “Market research is now beginning to leverage social media in a revolutionary way that provides insights and impact across the organization,” Chris Karnes explains how social media listening can be used to measure marketing campaign effectiveness, drive purchasing decisions and inspire product innovation.
6 Buckets of Social Media Measurement by Take a Peck
Jason Peck details six “buckets” of metrics companies should use to evaluate the success of various social media initiatives, including business metrics, awareness (e.g. website traffic, searches for brand terms) and engagement (Facebook likes, blog comments, retweets, etc.).
Social Media ROI for Idiots by Social Media Today
Hmm, not to sure about the title of this post, as idiots are unlikely to get social media ROI. Or even to get social media for that matter. But regardless, Jacquie McCarnan helpfully provides several different formulas for calculating social media ROI, based on different factors such as qualified leads, employee retention, and customer engagement.
Measuring the Stages of the Cyclic Social Media Marketing Funnel by SocialSteve’s Blog
***** 5 STARS
Contending that social media ROI can’t be measured in isolation, Steve Goldner recommends instead measuring its contribution to the business through key performance indicators (KPIs) including awareness, consideration, loyalty and advocacy. His brilliant “Cyclic Social Media Marketing Funnel” graphic makes the post worth a look in itself.
Social Media ROI business measurement by Slideshare
***** 5 STARS
Social Media Research, Facts and Statistics
Gordon MacMillan reports on research from McKinsey showing that “companies that are starting to do it (social media marketing) well are being rewarded for their efforts (e.g., with higher operating margins and market share). More than that, it says those that fail to implement social media could be making a ‘critical mistake.’” He also shares four key steps McKinsey suggests executives should take to move their organizations forward.
Chris Boudreaux cites a study concluding that nearly 9 in 10 large-company CEOs believe social media is important to their business strategies, and that “43% of CEOs say they will ‘significantly change’ their strategies in the next three years to respond to customers’ increased use of social media and mobile devices.”
STUDY: Return On Investment In Facebook Eludes CMOs by All Facebook
Jackie Cohen summarizes and comments on a recent Bazaarvoice / CMO Club showing that “Nine out of every ten Chief Marketing Officers participate in at least three forms of social media promotions, yet many don’t know whether these efforts yield a return on investment…(while) 15.4 percent have a significant return on investment and 20.6 percent have an average return…34.9 percent said they don’t know whether they have an ROI, and 8.6 percent have none.”
How much does Social Media cost companies in 2011? by MackCollier.com
***** 5 STARS
Mack Collier very helpfully provides social media consultants, and companies looking to hire them, with pricing benchmarks for common types of projects. For example, ghostwritten blog posts cost anywhere from $50 to $500 per post, with most providers charging $100-$250.
Amid all of the hype, conferences, and rapid adoption of social media marketing by organizations from sole proprietors to the Fortune 100, there remains an undercurrent of skepticism. This surfaces in posts like Social Media Skepticism, 5 reasons why social media skeptics maybe right and Business social networking: where’s the ROI?. It’s why posts like 20 Ways to Generate ROI from a Corporate Blog have to be written to help people who are “doing everything right” but still not seeing business results from social media make adjustments to their efforts. It’s why a search for “social media sucks” on Google yields almost 12 million results (so much for my SEO on this post, oh well).
It’s true that social media remains in many ways a sort of wild west. Many of the participants are shady, self-proclaimed experts are sometimes snake oil salesmen, and paths are still being created. Yet there are also an increasing number of social media success stories and the picture of what social media success looks like is becoming clearer. And there’s no turning back; social media has changed buyer expectations and behavior. Despite the dangers and potential pitfalls of social media, businesses will continue to expand and refine their social networking efforts.
Here are six reasons why social media skeptics have a point, and six reasons businesses must and will continue to embrace social media marketing anyway.
6 Reasons Social Media Sucks
1. It’s full of self-promoters. No question. Certain aspects of social media (such as the ease of building a large following on Twitter—if you’re not picky about things like quality or relevance) are like helium for those with already overinflated egos. Facebook can be a wonderful platform for sharing information, but also a playground for narcissists. These people aren’t shy about telling you how wonderful they are (it’s amazing how many Twitter handles and profiles, for example, include terms like “guru,” “expert” or even “god”), or treating social media as a direct sales channel rather than a mechanism for sharing valuable insights and information. The great thing about social media, however, is: you don’t have to follow, friend, “like” or in any way encourage such folks if you don’t want to.
2. It’s more of a place to interact with peers than to engage prospects. Again, no argument, most of the activity across social networks is of the birds-of-a-feather variety. Marketers follow other marketers, PR pros hang with other PR pros, engineers interact with other engineers. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (see below) and it’s the biggest part of what makes social media activity enjoyable. Problem is, few CEOs or general managers are excited about the notion of paying employees to essentially spend their time engaged in online water cooler chats with cohorts at other firms. Ultimately, both sides need to come to an understanding, with management conceding that not all of that peer interaction is a waste of time and employees focusing primarily on achieving business goals through social media activity during work hours.
3. It’s an easy way to waste a lot of time. It can be. The more active a person is in social media, the more time it naturally takes up (e.g. because there are more blog comments to respond to, more Twitter followers to check out, etc.). Then again, almost any activity, improperly management, can be a time sink. The key is to prioritize between networks and spend the time on each wisely.
4. It means giving up one’s privacy. Not an unreasonable concern. Facebook in particular is notorious for privacy issues. Google settled a lawsuit last fall relating to its Google Buzz service. I’ve always found Foursquare a bit creepy; turns out there’s actually an app named Creepy that aggregates “GPS coordinates for any user (of geolocation services like Foursquare, Twitter and Flickr), pointing out their most frequented hangouts on a map…Essentially, it’s a stalker’s dream app.” The solution? Be careful and thoughtful about what you post online. Always assume the entire world can see anything you do on line. If you wouldn’t do it in front of your mom, your pastor and your boss, don’t do it online. That award you just won for your last brilliant email marketing campaign? An excellent thing to add to your online profiles or post a status update about. Last night’s extracurricular activities? Probably better shared over a beer with your buddies than with the world on Facebook or Twitter.
5. It’s just another avenue for spam. Sadly, yes. Twitter was riddled with tweet spam early in its ramp up phase, though the service has added tools and made other significant strides since then to combat spam and p*rn on its network. Google “Facebook spam” and you’ll get 246 million results. LinkedIn has had problems with LinkedIn group spammers, though the business social network has responded by creating new group management tools to fight spam. Yes, like email, social media sites and social networks can be sources of spam. Having learned from email, however, most networks (as a matter of survival) have taken spam-fighting into consideration from the start and make their tools more sophisticated as spammers have developed new techniques.
6. It’s hard to measure the ROI. Maybe or maybe not, the social media ROI debate continues. But in general, measuring the ROI of social media with any precision is problematic because social media far more often influences a sale than leads directly to one. Still, as Jennifer Kane noted at the recent OMS Minneapolis event, correlations between social media activities and sales can be measured—and correlations are good data.
6 Reasons Social Media is Essential Anyway
1. Social media has become a vital element of SEO. Links from authoritative websites are still of course an important signal of authority to the search engines, but social media links now play an increasing and essential role in these calculations as well. So much so that Rand Fishkin now places page-level and domain-level social signals among its top three search engine ranking factors. Michael Gray has written about which social signals the search engines use and Lee Odden has put together an outstanding presentation on how to use social media for SEO. With more than 80% of consumer purchases and 90% of b2b buying cycles now starting with search, this may be reason enough to embrace social media.
2. Your buyers are there, and they expect you to be there as well. According to recent research, one-fourth of all online time is spent with social media. Nearly 60% of American spend time on a social network at least once per month. YouTube reaches 36% of all business decision makers (more than 10 times the figure for Forbes.com). And 93% of business buyers believe all companies should have a social media presence.
3. Social media produces high-quality leads. Based on research from MarketingSherpa, my own experience and that of clients I work with, while social media activities don’t usually produce a high quantity of leads, they do result in quality leads–the kind that convert, and buy, at a higher rate. It makes sense; while social media is more about branding and PR than lead generation, those who follow your brand in social media are much more likely to look favorably on your company and its offerings, understand the value, and to have engaged with your company previously than leads generated through most other sources.
4. It’s a critical and cost-effective tool for gathering market and competitive intelligence. Gone are the days of conducting expensive surveys and focus groups to find out what your prospects are thinking. It’s no longer necessary (or at least not as necessary as it once was) to spend thousands of dollars on analyst research reports to find out what your competitors are up to. The buyers in your market are telling you all of this now, through social media. They are talking about their challenges and looking for answers on LinkedIn, in blog posts and comments, on Twitter, Facebook, and dozens of industry-specific social media forums. It just takes listening.
5. It’s an excellent way to find business partners. Remember all of those peers mentioned in point #2 near the top of this post? Turns out all of that cohort networking isn’t such a waste of time. Increasingly, business gets done by networks. Both individual consultants and companies generate opportunities where they provide only a partial solution to a customer’s needs themselves; they need to bring in one or partners who have complementary skills in order to win the deal. Those partners are very likely to come from their social media network, where a level of trust and familiarity has already been built up. It’s a bit like the much-maligned “old boy networks” of years gone by, but much more open and effective.
6. Social media is the new PR. Journalists increasingly rely less on wire services and more on social media (more than 75% say they use social media to research stories) and online newsrooms for story ideas, sources and research. Effective PR has always been about building relationships with reporters and editors, and social media is now how these relationships get built. A PR program that relies exclusively on traditional phone, online wire service and mail tactics is no longer effective.
So, every negative thing you’ve heard, read, or even said yourself about social media is probably true. But that doesn’t matter. The benefits are too compelling. The key is to listen, plan, and monitor activities to maximize the value of business social networking while avoiding the trolls and pitfalls as much as possible.