Monday, May 3, 2010

Are We There Yet: How To Recognize When Social Media Marketing Is Working For You

Clearly the staggering numbers of users logging into Facebook, Twitter and various other social networking sites (around 250 million daily and over 405 million registered and active) creates a virtually untapped marketing gold mine for small businesses. Unfortunately, because this new method of communication is still so young, there are still a lot of unknowns… the largest one for small businesses being: how to accurately measure what social media marketing is doing to improve your business.

The most efficient way to begin to measure social media ROI is to begin measuring engagement and retention. Engagement is the first—and probably most exciting—indicator of your social media success. Seeing people comment, request and “retweet” your material (or just take an interest in what’s going on with your page) not only shows you what’s working, it’s also indicative of what content to add or change. For example, a large reason for this particular blog entry (besides the fact that it’s a popular topic in public relations) is a Miamore Communications’ reader’s question on the subject in our last post. What I’m doing is both gauging what matters to Miamore’s audience, and showing that reader that her interest is important enough to us that we’re striving to provide relevant feedback. This sort of engagement and communication is the very POINT of social media, so to achieve the ROI you seek—don’t miss these opportunities where available. Which leads to my next topic… customer/subscriber retention.

See, once you have content that brings people in, your next—and more important task—is keeping them interested in what you have to say. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you start to see a positive trend in the number of CONSISTENT followers/commentators. Unlike traditional marketing, advertising and PR, social media is fundamentally built on conversation. And conversation is built on two emotions: varying levels of satisfaction, and various levels of dissatisfaction. This is the most basic way to plan and measure social media marketing strategy. (Note, while we’d all like to be discussed favorably, be aware of the opportunity that lies even in negative social media publicity—i.e. a bad product review. This affords you a chance to disprove any negative comment and, most importantly, show in the public arena your commitment to service and your customers’ needs/concerns).

In sum, social media success is not about numbers, but about communicating and engaging. Seeking hard numbers, or direct sales, to measure social media ROI will only leave you behind. Because the success of social media marketing isn’t all that much unlike measuring ROI for public relations, advertising or other marketing initiatives. In essence, it is measured by the recognition that comes back to you. Will that lead to sales? Of course. Can you gauge social media by dollar measurements? Not at all.

Think, for example, of the millions spent in television advertising; an equally difficult medium to measure ROI. The big indicators of “success” are not only spikes in sales immediately after the launch of an ad but, equally important, resulting water cooler conversation that keeps a brand front of mind (“Did you see the Budweiser commercial last night?!”) The same standards should be applied to your social media outlets—keeping in mind that the rule of thumb for social or any marketing strategy is patience. Plan to invest at least 6 months to give it time to breathe and grow.

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