We’ve come a long way in a very short time. The exponential growth of social media has made it an integral part of the marketer’s toolkit. Social media takes up more than one quarter of all time spent online, and is arguably the quickest, fastest way to reach millions of customers instantly.
Recent research from Pew shows that 73 percent of US online adults use a social network. On a global basis, eMarketer estimated that in 2013, 68 percent of internet users around the world used a social network at least once per month, and they expect it to rise to 75 percent by 2016. Not surprisingly, social media was used by 87 percent of marketers in 2013.
The breadth of social media options is growing just as fast as its user base. Channels and products exploded in 2013, with the introduction of Twitter’s Vine, Instagram video, Facebook Graph Search, Facebook hashtags, the rapid growth of LinkedIn Company Pages and LinkedIn updates, and a plethora of new options for Google+, Facebook and Twitter. Keeping up with all the channels and the ever-expanding array of social media options can seem like a treadmill permanently placed on an uphill setting.
Perfection Of Means & Confusion Of Goals
“Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem — in my opinion — to characterize our age.” – Albert Einstein
Plainly, social media is an important aspect of online marketing. But by spending too much time trying to perfect a social media presence — focusing on clever content pieces and the number of likes and shares — it’s easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal: to drive results tied to the company’s bottom line.
High engagement numbers are meaningless unless they eventually contribute to the revenue. For SEOs and social media marketers, the confusion of goals while pursuing the perfection of means leaves money on the table by missing out on opportunities to drive activity that can impact a company’s activities across functions.
Social media can drive value in many channels not directly tied to monetary KPIs, such as client service, technical support, R&D, human resources and public relations. Therefore, business metrics (and ROI) should not be considered medium-specific, but activity-specific.
Twitter activity can affect all the functions listed above — it’s not just a medium to drive awareness of a new product or viral campaign. LinkedIn company pages are a strong employer branding mechanism, assisting in recruiting and public relations. And of course, social (in particular Twitter, Facebook Graph Search and Google+) works in synergy with SEO and help contribute to search engine rankings.
Social media’s value to an organization, whether translated into financial terms (ROI) or not, is determined by its ability to influence specific outcomes. This could be the acquisition of new transacting customers, an increase in positive recommendations, an increase in buy rate for product x, a positive shift in sentiment for product y, a boost in customer satisfaction after a contact with a CSR, or the attenuation of a PR crisis.
In instances where financial gain is not a relevant outcome, ROI might not matter one bit. While the ultimate outcome may not seem to be directly ROI related, the direct impact might be a stepping stone toward greatness. Case in point is how TinyPrints used social media with the intent of driving rank on organic search, which ultimately influences click-through-rates, traffic and sales.
Earlier this year, I outlined metrics from social media and search that include audience size, engagement, sentiment, and conversion. I’d like to take a step back and elaborate on how to drill down on social metrics for true audience and content optimization. By focusing more on business goals rather than vanity metrics such as the number of followers and likes, social media analytics can contribute to a holistic feedback loop for marketing optimization across channels.
As you can see from the chart above, content-level analytics are key to optimizing social. While some content pieces exist solely on the social networks themselves (such as Instagram posts or Facebook status updates), your hardest working pieces of content exist on your own site. Analyzing which types of content are shared on which channels allows you to learn about your audience and adjust your social media and content strategies to better meet business goals.
Then, the audience can be analyzed and segmented and further targeted with content that matches their interests. If you are engaging social audiences beyond straight marketing function, identify specific goals for each function and tie it back to a monetary-based value, if possible.
For instance, identify the cost of a contact to the call center and compare it to the cost of answering that query on social media, and track the number of customer service social media queries. The more specific you can get for each function — whether it’s customer service, PR or market research — the better.
Social media behaviors and channels are evolving so rapidly that pursuing the perfection of means — techniques and practices which often have the lifespan of a Snapchat — can easily cause marketers to lose sight of business goals.
By clearly stating goals tied to business activities on both the website as a whole and individual pages, and using analytics to closely monitor progress against those goals, marketers will be tapped into the source of truth only social media can provide — interacting with existing and potential customers in real-time at a mass scale.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.