The discussions surrounding social media often lead to cynicism, causing individuals to overlook its potential positive impact on businesses. However, determining the effectiveness of a social media strategy and its beneficial influence on a business is essential. So, how can we gauge if our social media efforts are yielding fruitful results? And when is the ideal time to evaluate these outcomes?
Instead of solely focusing on individual social media campaigns, let’s explore social media measurement from the perspective of a business that fully embraces and commits to social media over an extended period. By adopting an integrated social media strategy, businesses can better understand the comprehensive impact of their efforts. If you are among those businesses, you’ll know who you are!
Taking a panoramic approach to social media measurement is crucial. Rather than fixating on smaller, campaign-specific metrics such as traffic from Twitter or the number of fans on Facebook, it is more beneficial to examine how social media initiatives contribute to the achievement of essential business Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These KPIs may include sales, profits, customer retention, and satisfaction rates. To conduct this assessment effectively, it is necessary to provide sufficient time for your social media strategy to develop and mature. Like a fine wine, it needs time to breathe. This will allow for a comprehensive evaluation of both your overall business performance and the performance of your social media campaigns over an extended period.
Let’s draw a comparison between social media and TV advertising in terms of accuracy and attribution. If businesses can invest millions in TV ads and make sense of their impact on sales and brand metrics, they can surely apply the same level of analysis to their comparatively smaller investments in social media. It is important to acknowledge that TV campaigns run for extended durations, and their effects on businesses are not immediately known and may even be overstated. While attribution is crucial, understanding what truly works is a different challenge. Social media embodies elements of both attribution and understanding. While it is conceivable to create models for scoring social media performance or splitting attribution by channel, there must be room for manoeuvring and flexibility when making sense of the data. Measuring advertising campaigns, excluding paid search, lacks absolutes. Social media can be measured more accurately than TV ads, but like TV advertising and public relations, there is still a need for flexibility in attributing results.
Social media possesses the potential to significantly influence brand metrics through word-of-mouth marketing and viral content dissemination on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Digg. These platforms can contribute both positively and negatively to brand favourability, brand awareness, brand recall, and propensity to purchase. The impact of social media campaigns on brand metrics can drive clicks on paid search ads and generate responses to other forms of advertising. The effectiveness of TV ads is already measured based on these metrics. Hence, if they are considered suitable for evaluating TV ads, they should also be deemed adequate for assessing the impact of social media.
Before embarking on the measurement process, it is advisable to take a snapshot of the current state of your social media presence. This involves recording obvious numbers such as the number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, Digg links, Delicious bookmarks, and referrals from social media sites, as well as the existing website traffic. Additionally, it is important to note less obvious benchmarks such as SEO rankings, referrals, customer satisfaction scores, and other relevant business data. Furthermore, documenting ROI benchmarks will provide insight into the costs associated with customer acquisition through various marketing channels, including those that cannot be accurately measured.
Once you have established these benchmarks, it is crucial to ensure that you are following the right path. Numerous social media experts offer valuable advice at no cost, while specialized social media agencies can aid if you lack in-house expertise. Additionally, there are dedicated sites and resources available for measuring social media success. By utilizing these resources, you can enhance your understanding and measurement of social media outcomes.
Now, let’s delve into the ten steps for measuring the effects of social media:
- Traffic: Evaluating website traffic is one of the more apparent ways to measure the impact of social media. However, it is essential to remember that quality often surpasses quantity, although this is not always the case, as many publishers focused on Cost Per Mille (CPM) will attest.
- Interaction: The level of participation from your audience is a valuable indicator of the quality of the traffic you attract. Engaged customers are highly valuable to your business. Interaction can take various forms, such as leaving comments, participating in support forums, and providing customer reviews and ratings. It is important to keep your eyes and ears open to customer engagement both on your website and on other platforms.
- Sales: Tracking sales resulting from organic Google referrals and paid search is an effective way to measure the impact of social media. Consider extending this measurement to other channels, such as Twitter. For instance, Dell discovered that it generated $1 million in revenue from Twitter over an 18-month period. Similarly, Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” campaign on YouTube led to a remarkable five-fold increase in sales.
- Leads: Some businesses cannot process sales online due to the nature of their products or services. For example, the automotive industry typically measures the effects of online ad campaigns through metrics such as brochure requests or booked test drives, which are considered micro efforts within marketing. Similarly, B2B operators face similar challenges. Suppose you are a consultant who spends time interacting on LinkedIn Answers. In that case, you can track the activity and attribute it to the inquiries received about your services. This principle applies across various social media sites. Choose your preferred platforms and measure the impact of your interactions accordingly.
- Search marketing: The importance of search engine optimization (SEO) cannot be understated. Social media can have a more significant impact on SEO than initially anticipated. For example, a well-placed story, video, or image on platforms like Digg can generate substantial traffic and secure valuable links beyond Digg itself. Bloggers and major publishers often follow platforms like Digg to discover new and interesting content, resulting in additional traffic and backlinks. The cumulative effect of these links can lead to higher search rankings on Google, ultimately driving ongoing organic traffic to your website. Additionally, platforms like Twitter and YouTube offer opportunities to rank highly for brand-related search terms, contributing to social search optimization efforts.
- Brand metrics: Word-of-mouth marketing and the inherent viral nature of social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Digg, can significantly influence key brand metrics, both positively and negatively. These metrics include brand favourability, brand awareness, brand recall, and propensity to buy. It is worth noting that expensive TV ads are often evaluated based on these metrics. If TV ads can boost activity on search engines, leading to paid search success stories, it is reasonable to assume that social media can achieve similar outcomes.
- PR: Public relations (PR) has undergone significant changes in recent years. Traditional PR professionals have struggled to adapt to the blogosphere, where bloggers hold significant influence. However, if PR professionals cannot control bloggers, how can they effectively manage the opinions of consumers? The distinct realms of PR, customer service, and marketing are merging. Platforms like Twitter have empowered individuals to express their thoughts and opinions to their friends and beyond. Social media platforms have become the most significant echo chambers globally. Measuring the impact of PR beyond tallying column inches and applying arbitrary multipliers is crucial, and this measurement can be extended to social media platforms.
- Customer engagement: In today’s business environment, customer engagement plays a vital role due to the abundance of choices available to consumers. Engaging with customers is one of the most critical metrics for businesses. Customer engagement can occur both online and offline, on your website, and on social media platforms. By actively listening to your customers and letting them know you are attentive to their needs, you can improve your business, products, and service levels. The alternative of ignoring customers sends a negative message and can be detrimental to your business. Research indicates that engaged customers are more likely to recommend your brand, convert more readily, and make repeat purchases.
- Retention: Enhanced customer engagement, coupled with other contributing factors, can lead to increased customer retention rates. In an era focused on optimization and retention, monitoring and improving customer retention is crucial for long-term business success. As you begin participating in social media, observe changes in your retention rates. Over time, all else being equal, these rates should increase. A prime example of this is Zappos, a company renowned for its effective use of social media platforms like Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube. Zappos is on track to achieve nearly $1 billion in sales this year, with an impressive 75% of orders coming from repeat customers. The correlation between effective social media engagement and increased customer retention rates is evident.
- Profits: By reducing customer churn and increasing customer engagement, businesses can generate more revenue from their existing customer base. This reduces the reliance on extensive customer acquisition budgets to maintain or grow profits. It creates a more profitable and efficient organization. Achieving a better balance between customer acquisition and retention is critical, both from a resource perspective and a cost perspective. Many customer acquisition strategies appear to be ill-conceived, disjointed, and ripe for optimization. By plugging the leaks in your customer base and focusing on customer retention, the need to continuously seek new customers diminishes. This approach adheres to the adage that it is more cost-effective to retain existing customers than to constantly seek out new ones.
Cyber and Privacy Insurance
Cyber and privacy insurance is a crucial protection for businesses in the digital age. As technology advances and online threats become more prevalent, organizations face a higher risk of cyber-attacks, data breaches, and privacy violations. Cyber and privacy insurance policies help mitigate the financial and reputational damage caused by such incidents. These policies typically cover expenses related to investigating and managing a data breach, notifying affected individuals, providing credit monitoring services, legal fees, regulatory fines, and public relations efforts to restore the company’s reputation. Cyber and privacy insurance also offers liability coverage for third-party claims arising from privacy breaches or network security failures. It is a proactive measure that enables businesses to navigate the complex and evolving landscape of cyber threats while safeguarding sensitive information and maintaining customer trust.
In conclusion, measuring the effectiveness of social media requires a comprehensive approach. It involves evaluating various factors such as traffic, interaction, sales, leads, search marketing impact, brand metrics, PR outcomes, customer engagement, retention rates, and ultimately, profits. By diligently assessing these metrics and adapting strategies accordingly, businesses can optimize their social media presence, drive growth, and ensure long-term success.