We’re engaged! Making social media work for you

We’re engaged! Making social media work for you

We often hear companies large and small say, “We know we should be doing social BUT…” Predictably this statement is followed by:

  • “We don’t have the resources.”
  • “Success is hard to measure, so I don’t know if I can get budget.”
  • “I just don’t think our customers are using social media for business.”

Hello. It’s 2013.

According to a December 2012 Pew report, over two-thirds of adults online use social networking sites. As The Social Media ROI Cookbook says, “Social media is no longer optional for business; it’s a fact of life.” So, yes, you should get on social media. And you need a strategy for how to tackle it.

Critical to the resource question is focus. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. As for return on investment, the real value is in engaging your customers. However, there are an increasing number of ways to quantify what’s happening. (More on both topics below.)

Social media is more than Facebook

At its most basic, social media is collaborative and interactive, a space to exchange ideas and inspiration within a defined network. In terms of marketing, it often starts with the distribution of a message over a channel (or channels). It then continues with user feedback, shares, and commentary. It’s horizontal, inclusive communication with — not at — your target audience.

Prime social media brands currently include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest. At a more general level, social media also includes discussion boards, blogs (internal and external), internal collaborative wikis, and social collaboration work tools.

Social media matters to your brand

According to a recent trend report by Balihoo:

  • 71% of social media participants say they’re more likely to purchase from a brand they follow online.
  • 91% of searchers say they use Facebook to find local businesses online.

HubSpot’s 2013 State of Inbound Marketing also reports:

  • Social delivers 14% of leads compared to just 6% from traditional advertising and 13% from email marketing.
  • 52% of marketers have sourced a lead from Facebook, 43% from LinkedIn, and 43% from a company blog.

There are a lot of eyeballs to win, at a minimal cost per lead. For example, Mashable’s The Most Popular Brand Boards on Pinterest shows L.L. Bean and Nordstrom with some solid numbers:

  • L.L. Bean’s Woodland Creatures board has the most followers (4,689,706) and the fifth most likes (64,273).
  • Nordstrom’s Garden Wedding Ideas board is the third most popular with followers (4,199,549) and has the fourth most likes (84,565) of branded boards.

Unlike traditional media and marketing that’s a lot of opportunity to interact with your customers. Marketing no longer follows a command-and-control model where brands push a single message at consumers with little to no room for dialogue. With social, you can massage your message (and your product) based on customer feedback, and achieve the right targeting without the expense of buying a list. Do it right and interested customers come to you.

Understand what customers want, without reading minds

While ad opportunities exist to help you sell products and services, most companies say the true value of embarking on a social media program is developing a deeper relationship with customers. A  July 2012 survey by Altimeter Group found the vast majority of businesses turn to social media for insights to help meet customer experience goals, rather than to directly impact revenue.

Social media gives you the opportunity to connect with customers one-on-one to find out what they want and what they dislike. This level of personal interaction can quickly affect how you shape your entire customer experience — right down to your primary product or service — to better meet their needs.

Social media coach Janet Fouts states it beautifully: “We have a huge opportunity to have our market actually design the product before our eyes. They’ll tell us how big, how fast, what tools they want, and how they want it delivered. All we need to do is pay attention and deliver.”

Let’s talk numbers

Still looking for something to quantify your effort? Start by measuring:

  • Followers
  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Shares

All this is quantifiable and gives you immediate feedback on how compelling (or not) a piece of content is. It also tells you how many people you’ve reached with your brand’s latest message.

Be sure to keep a close eye on your website or blog’s page rank in search as well. Google looks at social media — including re-tweets, likes, followers, and shares — to help determine if your site should appears near the top of search results.

Plus, new measurement approaches like Twitter’s Lead Gen Cards are popping up all the time.

As for specific, absolutely quantifiable ROI measurement for your social media efforts, it’s critical to realize the game has changed. Media is no longer a top-down discipline, which means the old rules and methods don’t apply. As social media starts to mature, recipes for measuring success are starting to emerge, but use them as guides, not precision tools.

One example: Based on quantitative and qualitative analysis, the July 2012 report by Altimeter Group identifies six primary approaches for how to measure the impact of social media on revenue:

– Anecdotes
– Correlations
– Multivariate testing

– Linking/tagging
– Integrated analytics
– Direct commerce

But even this report cautions: “there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.” So, you’ll need to do some testing to find the numbers and methodology that work for you.

3 steps to launch your social presence

When you’re resource-strapped and want to get your feet wet in social media:

  1. Start small. You don’t need to do everything. Choose just one or two channels to start if that’s all you can support. Facebook and Twitter are easy entries. Then consider a weekly blog post that you cross promote on either or both of these channels.
  2. Create compelling, engaging content. Make it worthy of a share or a re-tweet. Remember, eyeballs matter.
  3. Be consistent. Tell the same story across all channels.

With the media distribution model turned on its head, it’s more important than ever to create compelling and strategy-based content. So, use the social channels literally at your fingertips.

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