Social media marketing must be justified. At the end of the day, social admins must show how their efforts affected a client, or a company’s, bottom line. Testing, timing and targeting are integral in social management, but the real questions remains: How do we give value to the fleeting micro engagements that make up social media interaction?
The Growth of the Social Web
First, consider the world we live in today. The Pew Research Internet Project predicts the Internet, and the way we communicate through it, will continue to become more and more embedded into our everyday lives. As the web grows, so too will the number of users invested in social media networking. In order for anyone (brand or individual) to reap the benefits of social, businesses must establish a reputable (i.e. searchable) presence in their niche or industry. This takes A) time and B) money.
Lets be honest, it’s no secret social isn’t the BEST medium to generate leads, especially in outbound orientated B2B. Not all channels are created equal; and, according to your audience, certain channels will work better for different brands. Nevertheless, a healthy social presence can only improve your marketing efforts. Your social strategy must reflect, and adhere to, the measurable data produced when posting. This data will direct how you conduct future social media campaigns - where ROI really matters.
So, what data should we measure in order to gauge social media’s effectiveness? Well, it’s a good idea to start with individual social channels and their respective engagement indicators. Are your Facebook posts attracting likes, shares or comments? Are your Tweets getting retweeted? If you’re social strategy seems like you're shouting into space, aggressive testing is the best way to optimize your results. Experiment with different types of content (video, pictures, blogs) and rearrange your messaging (syntax and rhetoric) to uncover what “clicks” with your following. This takes time.
Facebook Page Insights and Google+ Ripples are great native features that allow social admins to measure reach, but sometimes that’s not enough. To gain a better grasp on social data, businesses employ third-party applications to monitor, schedule and track social content. Hootsuite, Buffer, and Hubspot are just a few of the popular social publishing tools for deep social insight. Statigram, now Iconosquare, is great for Instagram insight. Another key reason to invest in social tools is automation. By scheduling your social posts, admins can test frequency and timeliness, two key aspects of the real-time nature of most social networks.
Now, for the bottom line. Lead generation, referral traffic and conversion are metrics most online business efforts care about to measure web marketing. A strong social media presence can influence these metrics, but it’s well known that social should never be the nucleus of your sales efforts, but rather a tool for relationship building, thought leadership and customer service. With the exception of budgeted advertising, social media ranks low in generating significant conversion. However, there are hidden, immeasurable benefits to social.
Conversation, or connecting with two or more people to share an idea, is fundamental to social media. Yet, how can we attribute value to a conversation? One point to consider is the idea of social capital. Simplified, social capital can be described as an investment that creates unseen benefits through transparent cooperation between groups and individuals (take a second to read that again). In an article by Rig Dragon, social capital is difficult to predict and measure, but most definitely applicable in social media. Social media, like advertising, creates unseen impressions too important to ignore.
In marketing, we often refer to the customer experience as the ultimate goal of a successful business. Users, new and old, who happen upon your social presence must be overwhelmed by the quality of information they see in order to be affected by your social efforts. On a personal level, the value of transparent community engagement initiated from a social admin cannot be measured empirically, but we all know it does indeed affect those who engage. Just think about it; how do you feel when your favorite restaurant retweets your picture or a brand publically replies to you? Five minutes of fame and appreciation goes a long way.
Think of your social media efforts as a transaction of energy. Reciprocal conversation, online or in person, is rewarding to all parties involved.