Thursday, January 12, 2012

Four Ways to Fix Social Media Marketing

My last blog post, "Social Media Marketing is Broken," was a rant, and while rants are fun and cathartic, they are not helpful. (I'm also disappointed to note that rants tend to draw more retweets and visits, so perhaps I should aspire to be the Lewis Black of Social Media.) Since I strive be helpful and create positive dialog on this blog, I'd like to explore four ways social media marketing can be fixed:

  • Don't report fan page increases without reporting engagement level: It's too easy to add fans and followers for the wrong reasons. Run a sweepstakes on Facebook, and hundreds of thousands of freebie hunters with no interest in your brand will click "Like." As a result, your engagement will go down, your EdgeRank will not improve, and your brand's posts will not reach a larger audience. Let's be clear: Increasing your fan count with disinterested fans who do not engage means you've squandered your precious budget dollars.

    If you need a simple engagement metric, look no further than Facebook's recent addition to fan pages, the "talking about this" number. Divide your page's "talking about this" figure by the "like this" count, and you get an easy, free measure of engagement. How does your brand's ratio compare to your competition's? More importantly, how does it compare from month to month for your own page? Investing in strategies that increment your fan count while leaving "talking about this" unchanged means you are NOT engaging more people where it counts--on their walls. (And any page administrator who has glanced at his or her Facebook Insights knows that relying on large numbers of people to visit your wall is a losing proposition.)

    By the way, I used the word "report" and not "measure" for a reason. It isn't good enough merely to measure your fan count and engagement numbers, you should report both metrics to leaders and peers. This is the only way to educate them on the importance of maintaining and increasing engagement rather than obsessing over the easy to monitor but less important fan count total.

  • Don't report on engagement level without reporting on quality of engagement: That simple engagement metric I just suggested comes with one major caveat: It is easy to manipulate. If all you do is post jokes, viral videos and silly questions, you will increase engagement, but probably in way that increases your brand's EdgeRank to the wrong people for the wrong reasons.

    Don't get me wrong, there's a place for posts that help your brand convey more personality on Facebook, but it is imperative you focus engagement-raising tactics on the people who matter most to the brand. If your target prospects and customers are seniors or B2B buyers, it does no good to increase your EdgeRank with viral videos that appeal to younger people (even if it does boost your "talking about this" number).

    How can you report to your boss the quality of engagement? Many Social Media Management Systems can divulge the demographics of the people you're engaging. If you don't have the budget for an SMMS, a simple way to call attention to the people you are engaging and the ways your brand creates engagement is to report the most engaging content posted to the wall each month. If doing so raises difficult questions about the topics you are posting or the audiences you are engaging, that's a strong sign your social content strategy needs tweaking.

  • Don't report on quality of engagement without reporting on brand or business metrics: What good is investing in social media marketing tactics if all you're getting is digital babble without driving any value for the organization? Driving WOM isn't a true business measure if all those retweets and shares don't change minds, spark consideration or alter buying behaviors.

    Remember Taco Bell's "Yo quiero Taco Bell" chihauhua? Of course you do. Back in the late 90s, that campaign became what we'd today call a "viral success." It got lots of people talking and sold 13 million stuffed animals. Alas, what it did not do is sell tacos. The campaign and agency were scrapped after same-store sales dropped six percent. "Viral" and "Engagement" do not equal "successful" if no business value is created.

    Business value can be derived in a number of ways. Short-term and direct business measures include site traffic from social sites and tracking links through to conversation. Longer-term measures are harder to come by but are even more important, because we in the social media arena are in the relationship business and not the direct response business. Using brand measures and media mix methodologies validates that today's social media investments equate to tomorrow's consideration, intent and sales.

  • Make marketing the SECOND most important thing you do in social media: Much of the reason social media marketing is broken is that the medium is not, primarily, a marketing channel. It's a channel for connecting, sharing, conversation, collaboration and sentiment. Your brand may want to connect with customers on marketing matters, but your customers have different goals.

    I'm still amazed at the number of brands that will constantly update their status in Facebook while ignoring virtually everything posted by consumers. Regardless of the intent or quality of your content, your actions are delivering the message that your brand only cares about itself. I'm reminded of one of my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes--a phrase I consider the defining maxim of the social era--"What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say."

    The beauty of prioritizing customer service over marketing in social media is that doing so will actually enhance your marketing. By demonstrating you care about customers, your messages are more likely to be received. Engaging to solve customer problems also increase sentiment. And creating dialog about the issues customers care about increases your EdgeRank, making your posts more likely to get through to your fans' walls.

We can make social media an appropriate and successful medium for marketing--some brands already have--but until we improve upon the metrics and goals in social media, we cannot improve social media marketing itself. The poor grab bag of freebies and sweepstakes that are too common in social media marketing today are hurting more than helping, and it is well past time for Marketing 2.0 thinking to match our Web 2.0 world.

1 comment:

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