By John Squire, the chief strategy officer at Coremetrics where he is responsible for defining the company’s vision, technical strategy, and marketing for online marketing and business optimisation solutions.
There is no doubt the recession has triggered significant change across all organisations, causing many to question established best practices, developed through years of successful operations. What used to be intuitive quickly becomes dated, and it’s easy to lose sight of objectives in an effort to stay ahead of the curve. No where is this more true than in brands’ use of social media.
In recent years the popularity of using social media to interact with customers has grown rapidly and analysts like Forrester Research expect the channels, including social networking, user reviews, syndicated videos and blogs to become the third-largest interactive marketing spend category in five years.
This staggering forecast further emphasises the opportunity social media presents to improve interaction with customers. Innovative use of such tools will result in improved reputation and goodwill, customer loyalty, revenue generation and/or operational savings, and organisational learning.
However, despite the excitement, marketing practitioners continue to struggle to determine the effectiveness of social media. They need to achieve a better understanding of how these new channels compare against other online initiatives and how to demonstrate the impact on key business metrics such as sales, bookings, conversion events.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that often budgets are not sufficiently allocated across channels to ensure a consistent social media approach, leading to an inefficient marketing mix. But despite being difficult, measurement is certainly possible and needs to be done.
So, how can marketers show that social media marketing activity is actually delivering direct value to the bottom line? There are tools readily available that offer unparalleled insight into social media performance, as well as the ability to harness this insight to optimise their various initiatives.
These analyse a social media channel’s contribution to a conversion, perfoming ‘apples-to-apples’ comparisons among all of their impression-based campaigns, including display ads, syndicated videos, social networks, blogs and micro-sites. By using consistent, business-impacting metrics such as sales and conversion events, for example, clients can identify the best performing assets and the best performing channels.
However to achieve this it is crucial to first define and implement the following 5 enduring processes:
1. Establish reliable unique visitor measurements.
Instrument your website completely with a robust web analytics solution.
Having access to granular, accurate, and reliable analytics data will ensure every action, by every visitor, through every channel, in every session is captured and measured.
2. Define how to track and act on the analytics data from new social media initiatives.
The following components should be defined:
• Business goals: which business-impacting objectives will the social media initiative attempt to accomplish? These include objectives such as increased sales, bookings, conversions, increased website visitors, and increased brand awareness.
• Key performance indicators (KPIs): which metrics will be used to measure the performance of the new social media initiative? These include KPIs such as total sales, average order value, new customers, sessions per visitor, and percentage of incoming traffic from any social media network, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc..
• Performance targets: what performance levels will the new social media initiative need to meet or exceed? These include targets such as performance of previous initiatives, industry averages, competitive benchmarking, and forecasts.
• Analytics reports and dashboards: how will stakeholders consume the analytics data from the new social media initiative? This includes considerations of crisp report design, metrics, filters, segments, time spans, reoccurrence, and report distribution.
• Follow-up actions: what marketing mix, budget allocation, or channel and content modifications will be pursued based on the analysis? For example, will we continue to fund the new social media initiative, revise its content, and/or change our strategic objectives?
3. Attach analytic tracking to all social media assets.
For the analytics solution to successfully match unique users who interact with social media assets on third-party websites against visitors to the organisation’s website, the social media analytics tag must be deployed thoroughly across all programs to insure visitors are uniquely identified and tracked across all social media touchpoints.
4. Launch social media initiative.
Deploy the new assets, environments, and programs across the selected the web and make it available to the target audience.
5. Analyse performance results, optimise performance, and repeat.
Continuously analyse dashboards and reports. Compare performance KPIs to targets. Measure the initiative’s impact on business results. Optimise the campaign based on the actions specified above. Then, repeat the process.
Social media offers businesses and marketers unique and innovative ways to develop meaningful interactions and conversations with their visitors and customers. Every day, it seems, new social technologies arrive on the scene, and marketers are eager to take full advantage of them.
Yet, before marketers embrace and implement social media campaigns, they must ensure that an adequate analytics practice is in place, so that they can determine the returns on these investments.
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