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‘NOT EVERYTHING THAT COUNTS CAN BE COUNTED’

It’s important to monitor social media ROI
 
We’ve explored the importance of using social media on this blog. We’ve talked about how companies should respond to crisis and when. We’ve talked about being present where consumers are. We’ve talked about monitoring the brand’s page to make sure to curb negative comments in a timely fashion. But, there is another aspect of social media that companies and strategic communications professionals must pay attention to – monitoring the success of social media use.

blogeinsteinTaking stock of social media return on investment (ROI) is a good way to decide what efforts work and what efforts should be kicked to the curb. “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,” said department store mogul John Wanamaker. Wanamaker died in 1922, so the concept of tracking ROI isn’t a new one.

In order to successfully measure ROI, companies should not only focus on how many followers and likes they receive, but also the impact that social media conversations and efforts have on overall sales and product image. That certainly means taking a step back and looking at the big picture when it’s so easy to see immediate gratification through clicks and views. The thought is to not solely rely on clicks and views, but to try and quantify what those mean in terms of increased sales.

blogtableThe CMO Survey took a look at metrics that companies use to measure the impact of social media efforts. They asked companies to share numbers in August 2010 and February 2013 to watch the change in results. Some of the categories were hits/visits/page views, number of followers or friends, sales levels and online product ratings. The results showed that while there was a 14 percent drop in website views, there was a 27 percent increase in the number of followers or friends as reported by the participating companies. An odd category, abandoned shopping carts, leads survey readers to believe that an increase in web mentions and social media followers trended 26 percent fewer shopping carts left abandoned in stores.

A May 2013 Forbes article analyzed the survey results and reported that social media impact has “first-order effects” when it comes to non-purchase behaviors. That includes people talking about companies and brands. That talk generates exposure, shapes attitudes and eventually leads to increased (or decreased) purchases.

We know that consumer talk about brands is a great way to boost brand loyalty and positive feelings about companies. However, strategic communicators and marketing professionals can’t simply stop at tracking how many mentions a company has on Twitter. That number means little to nothing if a company can’t tell what the sentiment behind the numbers is. Is the conversation positive or negative? Companies such as Viral Heat, Twendz, Tweet Feel, and Sentiment Metrics all provide sentiment analytics for Twitter mentions. The old addage “any publicity is good” doesn’t ring true for brands. All it takes is one negative comment on Twitter to be retweeted to friends and by celebrities to send a company in a downward brand spiral.

While companies might not understand the intangibles behind social media marketing, tangibles can be measured that prove the technique can be successful or detrimental. Social Media Today suggests that results achieved by social media come from some intangibles created by social media efforts, including:

  • A positive or negative emotional reaction from brand communications.
  • The acknowledgement of being heard.
  • The feeling of not being just a dollar sign to a brand, rather than a valuable person.
  • The feeling that the brand is trustworthy, transparent and open to dialogue from consumers.
  • The sense of recognition for contributing to the value of a brand.
  • The ability to influence others who share similar sentiments about anything, everything and anyone.
  • The connectivity people feel from human, rather than institutional, communications.

BFG Communications content manager Hal Thomas spoke to a portion of the DMA2011 conference and said, although social media ROI may be “fuzzy,” there are things companies can keep in mind to help measure social media success.

  1. Social media is the vehicle, not the destination, according to Thomas. He further explained that marketing professionals mistakenly think that having a media presence on Twitter or Facebook is “the destination,” when it is really a communications tool that carries a company to a larger goal – profit.
  2. Listen and apply what you learn. Thomas said the number of likes and comments generated on social media sites is great, but what do they mean. Take time to see what posts and thoughts receive the most interaction on social media sites. If more consumers comment on one product over another, it could be a way to notice how consumer preference is trending. That offers companies a direction point when it comes to how they might invest dollars in the future.
  3. Understand how social media is used in an organization. Thomas notes that different departments within a group measure success in different ways and social media metrics will mean different things to different departments. Each measure of success should be based on a department’s specific goals.

Trying to measure the success of social media efforts isn’t for the impatient. Brands must be built on social media blogstarbucksnetworks over time and kept up with constant updates and interactive features that enable a consumer’s voice to be heard. It is only when working ahead for a positive brand image that companies can be prepared to battle the negative that could arise – as a result of anything from a poor customer service experience to a product recall. Over time, companies should be able to track the effects of their social media interaction through a boost in sales, a shift in brand image and an increase in overal popularity.

Are their any brands you believe are monitoring the ROI of social media? For me, just based on the efforts exerted by the social media team and perceived popularity, I believe Starbucks is. They have a reputation for customer service and that extends to their efforts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. And the company listens. Did you know the stirrer/stopper you get at Starbucks was actually the creation and suggestion of a loyal customer? Can you think of any other companies who use social media to their benefit?

CONSUMERS LET FINGERS DO THE WALKING

Social media, opinion leaders drive consumer purchases

Who do you listen to and about what? Think about the last time you purchased a vehicle, why did you choose that one? When it comes to movies, do you base your picks on reviews by professionals or friends? Do you buy your clothes because you saw a celeb rocking an outfit? And, do you have at least one obscure band that is on your playlist? How did you find them?

The truth is, we are influenced everywhere we turn through different layers of opinion leaders in our lives – those are the people we trust, for whatever reason, to give us decent advice on the things we need and want. Back in the early years of opinion leaders, those people were mostly government officials, industry experts, celebrities and anyone else who broadcast and newspaper journalists thought were worthy of inclusion in coverage and reviews.

blogsmartphonesNow, anyone with a smartphone or tablet can be an opinion leader with a little bit of work. Upload enough interesting content to YouTube, tweet enough in 140 characters and gather Facebook friends through creative methods and you, too, can be an opinion leader. Enough followers through social media means that those account holders reach those followers. It first may be through witty content, and after the user is in favor with followers, those followers begin to trust the account holder for other things.

Want to be an opinion leader? The Wall Street Journal has a few tips on how to use social media to strengthen your leadership skills.

I LikeFirst tip: Stop looking at social media as another thing you have to learn and realize the outlet can help you reach new ideas and a wider audience. Next up, embrace those 140 characters that Twitter has to offer. Twitter is a great way to get out key ideas to a large group of people without burdening them with one more email or phone call. Tweets are short and sweet, millions of Tweeps agree, that’s the way they like their messages. Also, consider joining in some social circles online. Reading what like-minded leaders have to say will give you ideas and also boost credibility through association. Finally, the WSJ says social media can be used to “amplify your voice.” If the thought of blogging, tweeting and Facebooking on top of everyday tasks is daunting, just realize that you can repurpose info you are already sending out. For instance, if you would normally email a link to a new blog or a new idea – Tweet it, post it to Facebook or create a short YouTube video blog to appeal to the masses.

If you aren’t convinced that crossing the digital divide is a great way to influence the crowd, consider this information from a company called Deliotte Digital. Deliotte polled about 2,500 consumers to find out about their purchasing habits and found that smartphones influence 5.1 percent of annual retail sales totaling about $160 billion in projected revenue for 2012.The company took a look at what they call “mobile influence factor,” or the impact of smartphone use on in-store sales.

Deliotte reported that six of 10 smartphone users said they pulled out their phones in store to read reviews and do price comparison and more than half go ahead and use their phones on the way to a shopping excursion. Seventy-two percent of shoppers said they make same-day purchases because of the information and reviews they are privy to via smartphone connectivity while they are shopping.

Deliotte predicts that by 2016, the mobile influence factor will grow to 19 percent to make up $689 billion in sales.

blogblogsSo what’s the best way for opinion leaders to reach an audience? According to Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report, blogs are the way to go. Technorati’s report found that blogs are now the third most influential digital resource for people looking to make purchases. Blogs represent a 31 percent influence, only behind retail sites at 56 percent and brand sites at 34 percent. Facebook comes in at almost 31 percent, YouTube at 27 percent, Pinterest at 12 percent, Twitter at eight percent and Instagram is at the bottom with only three percent.

Why blogs? Bloggers, Technorati said, are usually “honest and sincere” in their reviews of products and consumers tend to believe that the smaller blog community is more trustworthy than the brand overridden Facebook. Blogs offer a space for an exchange of ideas and true community growth.

Let’s flip the switch for a bit. We’ve talked about how opinion leaders can get their messages across in the best possible way. But, as a marketing professional for a brand, who should you target? The general public? Business News Daily suggests that the best way a business can get the most out of using social media is to target opinion leaders who will then pass the message along to their followers and contacts with the perceived credibility of the opinion leader. Business News Daily acknowledges that “it’s a different way of thinking” to move away from believing that reaching the most people possible is the best way to get a message across. Instead, BND suggests that targeting the right folks is the best move.

“People are being more judicious in spending their marketing money, and we found out that money spent to reach out to a large audience would be spent focusing on well-connected, influential members of a social network – such as opinion leaders on blogs, industry leaders, and so on,” said John Bohlmann to BND. Bohlmann is a professor of marketing at North Carolina State University.

Bohlmann suggests using technology to track which blogs, tweets and other media users are resonating with consumers and reach out to them. But, he warns, attempts to connect with opinion leaders can’t be half-hearted or sugar coated.

“You can’t fake your way into social media or it will backfire,” Bohlmann said. “You have to be genuine and responsive to customers.”

Who are some of the opinion leaders you look to, or do you consider yourself one? I find that at least half of the users I follow on Twitter I consider to be opinion leaders. Maybe 25 percent of my Facebook friends have an influence over a decision I might make at any given time. And, I only follow blogs of people I consider opinion leaders. It’s interesting, and telling, to take a look over your social media list and realize the connection.

TIME TO MOBILIZE!

Companies should reach customers where they are – on the phone

The first form of advertising dates back to 2000 B.C. when Egyptians carved public notices into steel.

We create new print and online advertisements every day at the newspaper where I work. Advertising representatives visit with the creative editor to share their thoughts for an ad and convey what clients had in mind. Then the creative editor designs a first version to be taken back to the client. Hopefully, the client loves the design and all is well. If not, the ad rep comes back, visits with the creative editor again, and the process begins another cycle.

Even with the time involved in the back-and-forth to create the perfect print ad, I can’t imagine what the Egyptians went through!

Mashable posted an interesting timeline by infolinks that shows the evolution of advertising. Fast forward from the Egyptians to 1472 when the first print ad was created in England that advertised a prayer book for sale. Even further down the timeline, 1835 marked the appearance of automobiles and the idea of billboards.

After that time, the evolution of advertising began to move even more rapidly with innovative trends happening years and decades apart instead of centuries.

Photo | Robbyn BrooksThe first electric sign in Times Square was place there in 1882. Since then, the square has become the IT place for flashy billboards and advertisements.

Photo | Robbyn Brooks
The first electric sign in Times Square was place there in 1882. Since then, the square has become the IT place for flashy billboards and advertisements.

In 1973, Jules Verne used the first product placement when he named shipping companies in Around the World in 80 Days. In 1882, Times Square received its first electric sign. Sears began direct marketing in 1892 when the company sent out postcards and received 2,000 back with orders. In 1905, celebrity endorsements began, followed by “sex sells” advertisements, political propaganda, false advertising, television advertising and infomercials.

Jump ahead, once again to the magical 1994. Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan became household names. Major League baseball players went on strike. O.J. Simpson drove his white Bronco as the nation watched. AND, Internet advertising was born.

AT&T, Sprint and other companies began using banner ads. Pay-per-click advertising also appeared the same year, followed the next year by key word ads and then finally, mobile ads in 1997. The infolinks timeline ends in 2011 at a time when online advertising became the second budget priority for advertisers, worldwide.

Advertising clearly evolves to fit the lifestyle of consumers. We began driving, advertisers figured out how to get their messages across even on the open road. Cell phones became convenient. We can be reached at almost anytime by friends, family – and advertisers.

ComScore data shows that 50 percent of mobile users have smartphones. Showing, even further, the importance of the shift to digital and mobile advertising, 37 percent of website views happen on mobile devices instead of desktops.

Advertising Age interviewed the chief executive of Safeway, the tenth largest retailer in the country, who said the company thinks so much about digital advertising that they hope to be paperless in the future. In 2010, the company spent about $33 million in newspaper advertising. Safeway cut that amount to $20 million in 2012 in order to focus more on digital advertising. The company reported that sales are up, customer loyalty has increased and solidified and online coupon use has also increased.

Looking at how users are accessing information, both on desktops and mobile devices, it is not a surprise that advertisers are seeing success with digital ads. A report by ComScore out just two months ago shows that mobile only users are increasing over desktop site users or combination users. Pandora, ESPN and Twitter are the most accessed sites by people who are using those services exclusively on mobile devices. Also on the list are The Weather Channel, Gannett companies, NBC Universal, Walmart and Amazon.com

ComScore also notes that more than 50 million consumers have tablets and more than 125 million Americans now have smartphones. With that knowledge, it would be fatal for advertisers to ignore the digital market.

Cnet reports that Facebook is proof in the pudding. The social network is forecasted to garner more than $1 billion just from mobile ad revenue this year. That’s according to market research firm eMarketer. The research firm reports that Facebook has become the second greatest ad publisher in the United States. But even greater than Facebook is Google. Google is expected to attract more than 50 percent of all mobile ad revenue this year. Pandora is in third place and Twitter came in in fourth.

eMarketer also shared that U.S. mobile ads increased by about 178 percent last year and should rise by more than 77 percent this year. The projection by eMarketer is that about $27 billion could be spent on mobile advertisements by 2017.

But still, even with the obvious pros to mobile and digital advertising, not all businesses are willing to take that plunge. I’ve seen that on a personal level. Many of the businesses in the city where I work are owned by traditional or older business men and women. The idea of online advertising, to them, is still a futuristic and untested idea. On the flip side, younger business owners believe that they can create their own digital advertising through social media announcements that will have the same impact as online advertising with another company. So far, the way we’ve been able to expose clients to digital advertising perks is to include online advertising as part of an ad package. Exposure increases, page clicks are tracked, but there is still little interest in advertising outside of the print product. Perhaps that’s because advertisers on a local level still aren’t sure what measurements mean when it comes to clicks and views. They hear from customers that they saw an ad in the paper, but customers rarely mention they saw an ad on a website.

National companies have embraced digital advertising with success, but it looks as if it will take time for smaller companies to trust the brave new world of advertising possibilities. But, mobile marketing makes sense. Customization is easy, it costs less to produce digital ads, and they are easier to track. Mobile marketing is also instant. Friends and family can reach consumers quickly via smartphones – and so can advertisers. There’s no lag between the time an advertisement is uploaded to the time a mobile user could come in contact with the ad. Potential customers and clients usually have their smartphones with them most of the day. Also ,since mobile users are skilled at sharing, they’ll likely share good deals and company info they come in contact with.

What’s next? Corporate “Bat signals?” Shadow ads on the moon? What will be the next evolution of advertising?