Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals


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Measuring Return On Social Media

Measuring Return on Social Media Presence

This has been the fear/worry/challenge/competitive edge of almost every company that has any form of social media presence.  From a simple company Facebook page to a fully integrated Social Media strategy.  Speak to a number of agencies or many online marketers and they will tell you it can’t be measured beyond the simple metrics such as number of fans or followers.  Perhaps at the incubation stage and to a degree the baby stage that was correct.  However now social media has grown up a little, into a healthy little toddler things have changed.

In theory you can’t directly measure the impact of a brand TV commercial, but companies do.  It is the same for social media.

Remember the strategy

A lot of talk is around the utopian idea of getting an ROI from your social media spend or presence.  However for some brands this isn’t just a case of pounds in the till Vs pounds handed out to agencies or media owners such as MySpace.  As with any channel development or Marketing activity, you need to understand what you want to get out of your social media presence.  Your strategy may be a simple one that only looks at your impact within the channel, therefore a basic upwards trending number of fans may suffice.  Your strategy maybe to increase UVs to your core website, as such you need to measure the referrals from your social media presence.  Like a TV ad you maye be trying to influence brand perception so you would look at traditional brand metrics such as awareness and consideration.  Some strategies require an emphasis on loyalty or ROI, these can be much more difficult to prove, however not impossible.

Just consider before developing any tactics or implementation, what your objectives and goals are.  Then measure.

Understanding the basics

When measuring against any goals you need to understand what is your norm or otherwise known as the baseline.  You need to look at any pre-strategy figures and work out your norm, or the contribution you can expect without implementing your strategy.  This baseline should be measured over a long period of time to take into account one-off fluctuations, seasonality and peaks – you should then use a trend line and determine your norm.

Once you have claculated your norm, it is easier to determine what the goals from your objectives should be.  If for instance your site has 10,000 UVs a week then to expect a 100% uplift from a strong social media strategy may not be impossible.  However if your site gets 100,000 UVs a week, it may be more difficult to gain a 100% uplift, although not impossible.  This seems really basic stuff but it is often forgotten. I have spoken to Managing Directors and Marketing Directors that think because there are millions of people on social network they should be talking telephone numbers in terms of traffic uplift, sadly it doesn’t work like that.  It may be easier to get a massive groundswell if your activity is in the channel the people use, you could get a massive following on Twitter as the people are already there and its their environment, rather than expecting them to come to you.

Anyway, once you know the norm of whatever metric you want to track you can more easily identify any uplift from your activity.  However it may not be all down to the new strategy, other factors might be in play, that is why it is advisable to implement a good web analytics tool.  Omniture is widely regarded as one of the better packages along with Coremetrics, however if you have your own site or limited budget then Google Analytics may suffice.

OK, but now what?

So you know what you want to get out of your strategy and you have worked out the basics, but now what?  Sit back and watch everything work away and drive you towards your goals or personal bonus.  Not eaxactly.  Sometimes people expect immediate results.  Stick it on Facebook and they will come.  If they don’t see an uplift straight away, the strategy has failed.  Wrong.  Well potentially wrong.  Remember when working in social channels you are entering the end users territory.  You have to earn the right to be there.  Give them something to talk about, make yourself interesting, but don’t make things up.

So what do I do?

Don’t look at things with immediacy in mind.  When you create a coupon for your affiliate network or raise your bid caps in Google you can often see an immediate (or quick) effect.  However you need a longer view with Social and you need to look at things outside of your specific influence.  A great area to explore is Social Media Influence or Buzz Metrics.  There are various tools and service with varying levels of robustness and credibility.  In the UK there are market leaders such as Market Sentinel and Nielsen Buzz Metrics.  There are also some freebie or cheaper tools such as Viral Heat and PostRank Analytics.  These cheaper tools are sometimes less robust or feature on a specific platform such as Twendz.  What all of these tools have in common is that to varying degrees they track what is being said about your brand or site on other platforms rather than just looking at core measures such as visits or upstream and downstream traffic.

The majority measure trends and SoV, some measure snetiment and others rank influence on brands and/or topics.  All of these are important as although your activity may not imemdiately increse traffic, it may improve the sentiment towards your brand, increasing peoples’ perception of your brand and in turn increase their potential to engage or buy.  These tools can also aid your search activity.  As product or brand experts you might think you know what people type in about your brand, however more comprehensive tools help you identify what people are typing or saying about your product.  Giving you more insight into which words you you optimise or focus on in paid search.

But can I make money from it?

Well as I wrote at the beginning of the piece remember what your objectives are.  The short answer is yes, you can make money from social media and yes social media can increase users propensity to buy, however your activity may not lend itself to that.  But various surveys have taken place that demonstrate you can specifically get an ROI from your social media presence.  According to a recent survey by eMarketer, c. 51% of US internet users are likely buy from at least one brand since becoming a fan on Facebook.   When it comes to would they recommend to a friend the number increases to 60%.  That is one indication of an increased propensity to buy.

Before you all clamber out and create or refresh your Facebook page, Forrester outlined a stark statistic.  More than one third of online users visit at least one brands social media presence, yet less than half rated the experience rated their experience as having a positive influence.  One method that the likes of Starbucks and Dell use within their social media presence is exclusive offers and promotions.  It is this sense of providing something special for fans that makes the experience positive and influence future buying behaviour.


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Attention Planning – Social Media

Attention Planning

There is always a mass of hyperbole surrounding social media and branding.  This can be due to lack of understanding, the fact that few hard measures are put in place or just the fact it is in the interests of some marketeers to keep the mystique around these subjects.  Whilst both areas may not be as simple to analyse as an immediate ROI from a PPC campaign, or coupon redemption through DM, there are ways to measure their impact and effectiveness.

This post looks very simply at some of the methods of measuring social media campaigns and in a way, branding campaigns online in general.

Social Media sites

Desirability

This is the section that traditional ATL or brand advertisers would call consideration.  Essentially it is the measure to ascertain if people actually like your brand or not.  Traditional advertisers will run surveys, perform focus groups or take a spurious number from a third party research house.  However, these are sometimes the route of the reason why we never truly know the impact of our activity.  How many times have you been asked to take part in ‘research’ and declined the opportunity.

There is a (relatively) quantifiable way of doing this online.  Tapping into the social media cloud around your brand, you can see how people view your brand, both positively and negatively.  This can be done through buzz metrics (reputation management) which effectively analyses all the commentary your brand receives through social media channels.

Awareness

The central point for any brand has to be has your target audience seen the brand and are they aware of it?  These are important (although not necessarily critical) questions to answer prior to your campaign, as it is easier to raise awareness if there is existing rapport.  As users become increasingly sophisticated and engaged with your brand, campaign materials will be spoken about, distributed by users and eventually searched on.  Again as a brand you need to extract these conversations, it not only allows you to evaluate awareness, it also allows you to understand impact and perception.

A great example of a campaign that has generated large levels of awareness is ComparetheMeerkat.  The TV ad aired and created a stir.  A microsite was available that was then promoted via the majority of online channels, social and other.

Compare the meerkat

Frequency

The old rule of traditional advertising was developed in the 1970s by Krugman.  He stated that you need to expose your target to your message three times. What? Why? and the payoff.  Essentially this still rings true.  Potentially even more relevant in social media.

Be aware when developing campaigns or activity for your brand you need to have a sufficient campaign base and content to maintain users engagement and buy-in.  Users aren’t willing to see and review the same content on a regular basis, they are even less likely to be interested in distributing this to their friends.

Engagement

This is quite simply how deeply entrenched your brand is within the consumers’ minds.  How often are you referenced in blogs, on forums or other social media platforms.  This is how many times are you commented on, how long were the conversation strings and were the messages postive or negative.  The ultimate and potentially more difficult to measure is did the activity spark other activities.  A great example of this in action can be found on YouTube, where users in the YouTube community post video responses.

Pay-off

With more media becoming available at an accelerated pace both online, in print and on broadcast media with the advent of digital TV and Radio, users attention is becoming more and more difficult to obtain.  Key measures to see if you have grabbed the attention are simple methods such as click-throughs, UVs and repeat visits.  This indicates your content is engaging enough to offer users some form of pay-off.

Another measure (depending on your content) is time spent interacting.  Generally in brand building (social) campaigns the longer users spend on site, the better.

Spread

Traction is key here.  As an advertiser you can only target certain media channels, it would be impossible to target all possible channels.  Therefore organic spread is a great measure of success.  Your campaign needs to spread from mailbox to mailbox if it is to progress.  Perhaps more importantly does the campaign spread from social network to social network?  Another great track is to see if your campaign gets bookmarked on social bookmarking sites such as Digg or Stumble.

Reach

Remember you need to track your campaign.  Remember review how many people have seen your campaign and are they in your target audience?  Reach is important and the more people that see your campaign the better.  However it would be better to sacrifice some numbers in order to maximise your reach within your target audience.

Summary

Whilst none of the points raised in this post are as complex as rocket science, they may seem obvious, many organisations forget these principals when placing their brands in social media.

They often believe just because they are established brands or are well known, they deserve their place in people’s everyday social networks.  If that was the case the job of the Internet Marketeer would be a very simple one.  However, social media has made the landscape more complex.  You must have a reason for being in social media and above all track what you are doing.

To enable this, you need to set out some clear objectives that can be measured.  In my opinion I would also suggest employing a reputation management specialise.  Somebody along the lines of Market Sentinel that could also analyse the benefits of all your activity on SEO and overall marketing efforts.