The science of social media ROI

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Last week I presented at a webinar as part of a series looking at the science of social, focusing on social media ROI and demystifying the confusion that surround it. The problem with social media ROI is that it is so easy to measure so many things that we become overwhelmed by measures. We think that everything is important and that everything is a measure of ROI. It isn’t. And it isn’t. Followers and Likes do not make ROI; moreover they stop us from thinking about the bigger business benefit of social.

We need to measure different things for different reasons, not just for ROI. There are three broad areas of measurement that we should be looking at in social:

  1. What’s the business benefit? How does any activity contribute towards our business objectives and how do we measure this? Often overlooked in the plethora of social media specific measures, the single most important ROI piece is to think about the business, how social contributes to it and then how we might measure this link.
  2. How successful are my channels and campaigns? More of a quality measure but an important one for anybody who is in charge of social media. With a clear business objective that we have to deliver against, what do I need to measure to make sure that we have the quality of engagement and interactions to get there.
  3. How suitable is my engagement and content? Finally we get to the range of social media measures that are out there - Likes, Followers, views and the like - these are incredibly useful for the people working in social media and managing your channels and engagements. If they write a blog post that gets 10 times as many views as a previous one, these are the people who should be questioning and querying what has caused this change.

The first, and most important, measure is the business one. Why are we doing this? What business objective is social contributing towards? We should ignore, for the moment, the different things we can measure and focus on what social should be contributing to our organisation. Only when we are clear on that will we be able to establish clear ROI measures. And only when we have these should we think of any of the other measures that we can look at and report on.

The presentation I gave at the webinar included this and some case studies of work we have done at FreshNetworks showing business benefit.

The Science of Social
View more presentations from Our Social Times

The next Science of Social webinar is on Wednesday 20 June and looks at How to Identify and Reward Advocates. You can sign-up here.

Three simple ways B2B marketers can get value from LinkedIn

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When thinking about social media and how to use it for your brand, our initial reaction is often to think about the channels we can use and the conversations we can have. But using social media does not necessarily mean having a channel or joining a conversation. There can often be as much value (and sometimes even more) from listening to what others are saying. For B2B brands LinkedIn is a great example of where social media can be used as much to listen and learn as to talk and engage.

From ambassadors, to market information and even competitor research, here are three ways that LinkedIn can be a useful source for any B2B marketer.

1. Finding ambassadors for your brand

Within LinkedIn Groups and in the Questions and Answers section of the site you will find, if you look carefully, brand champions, ambassadors. People talking about your brand and recommending your product. The Questions section in particular is full of people asking for advice and information - about products and solutions. A quick search for some of your product names will uncover people who recommend you to others. A quick search for names of competitor products will uncover those who don’t recommend you but could.

Identifying these people is a first and useful step. Think next about what you can do with them and how you can build them into real Ambassadors for your brand.

2. Understanding how people talk about market issues

One useful insight for any marketer is to understand how people talk about the issues they face. Whilst they can be mixed in quality, some LinkedIn groups provide vibrant communities of people sharing links and talking about issues. Joining groups about your market and for your customers lets you see the kind of conversations they start, the language they use and how they talk to each other in a professional environment.

3. Learning about what you competitors are doing

Social media is a great way of sharing what you are doing but it is always important to think carefully about who you are sharing with. LinkedIn allows you to control who sees your connections and who you are connecting with but many people leave this as public information. This can be useful - learning who your competitors have been meeting and connecting with on LinkedIn may provide you with insight into who they are talking to and potentially even into who in the market is looking to buy similar products to the ones you have.

Of course, it’s important to think about your own privacy settings on LinkedIn as well!

Location-based marketing should be about more than just vouchers

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Facebook Deals in Times SquareWith the launch of Facebook Deals in the US in November and its imminent launch in the UK, the opportunities for brands to engage in location-based marketing are growing and set to grow more in 2011.

We’ve already looked at the ways in which marketers can use Facebook Places, and the ways in which location-based services can add value to both consumers and to marketers. But with the launch and growth of Facebook Deals, we will see a rapid growth in use of these tools by brands. And, with luck, a growth in marketing innovation - using location to do things and engage with people in ways that have not previously been possible.

But there is a danger that marketers may not move beyond the use of location to target vouchers, discounts and coupons. That would be a real shame.

Facebook Deals and Foursquare lend themselves to easily provide discounts based on a consumer’s location - a voucher for checking in, a discount for checking in a fixed number of times, a group discount if you check in with your friends. All of these are possible and would be of interest to brands. Taking a tactic that is already used offline and both moving it online and bringing in the location element. But this misses out on the real opportunities for brands to experiment with location-based marketing and to engage with consumers in new ways.

Successful brands will be experimenting sensibly with social media in 2011 as part of their social media strategy. And location-based marketing should be one area for innovation. Rather than just discounting or offering vouchers there we will see innovations in how brands are interacting with consumers. They may be allowing consumers to leave a ‘wish list’ in shops for friends - dropping their wedding list in a department store for others to find when they are there, or leaving their virtual birthday gift list in stores around town through location based services. They may allow customers to sort reviews and find services based not just on what is closest, but what others, people like them, or their friends, think of them. Or they may allow consumers to keep a record of when they have visited a location (maybe a gym or swimming pool) and the activities they did when they were there as part of a training diary.

Location-based tools offer a new way to engage with customers. And the successful brands will be innovating with these in 2011. Vouchers, discounts and coupons are just one thing they can be used for. But the best brands will do so much more.

This post is part of an informal series: Social Media in 2011.

Social media marketing budgets set to rise in 2011

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Ladder to Sun
Image by Anas Ahmad via Flickr

Social media marketing budgets are set to rise for 40% of firms across Europe in 2011 and budget for social media marketing is an issue for only 18% of brands. These findings come from Meltwater Group‘s Future of Content report, a survey of with marketing and social media decision makers from 450 brands across the world, including the US, UK, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Singapore and Australia. The news is undoubtedly good news for social media agencies, but also reflects a growing maturity of how brands are viewing social media as part of their marketing and communications mix.

Of those interviewed, 40% said that their organisation fully embraced social media, and a much larger proportion (82%) reported that budget was not a constraint. Social media sits alongside more established tactics for those interviews - being the third most popular means of getting content out, after e-newsletters (the most popular) and printed magazines (the second most popular). But with 40% of firms reporting that their budgets will rise in 2011, social media marketing is a growing part of this mix and is challenging the more established media.

This pattern is one that we have seen in 2010 at FreshNetworks - clients moving from traditional print magazines to social media, especially in the B2B market. Engaging customers and stakeholders in social media has grown significantly over the last 4-5 years, and we are now witnessing it taking over traditional methods of communication as opposed to just complimenting and adding to them. Brands are starting to rethink their overall marketing and communications mix and are putting social media at the heart of it.

This study from Meltwater Group supports this trend and reinforces a trend we expect in 2011 for successful brands to dedicate a greater proportion of  their marketing spend to social media marketing. Reviewing existing campaigns and processes and working out how social media can add greater value than what they have already. We have moved beyond social media marketing being experimental and for individual projects alone, and into it being central to a brand’s marketing and communications mix. In 2011 we will see this become more pronounced, see more experimentation, and see more brands able to report, and prove, the value they are getting.

2011 will see social media marketing budgets rise, but it will also be the year when we should expect, even demand, to see more demonstrable value from this expenditure. But that’s the subject of another post in this informal series of predictions for 2011.

This post is part of an informal series: Social Media in 2011.

Three ways location-based services can add value to consumers and marketers

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You Are Here
Image by thejcgerm via Flickr

This week’s New Media Age contains a feature on location-based marketing looking at some case studies of where it has been used well and the opportunities for it as part of the marketing mix. We’ve written before about opportunities that location-based services offer to marketing. From using Foursquare as a small business to the many ways to use Facebook Places, location-based services offer many potentials for experimentation and new ways of communicating with and marketing too consumers.

As I comment in the NMA article, there is “a temptation to think that location-based marketing is the next big thing”. A temptation for marketers to put their efforts into location-based-marketing because it is new and because case studies are emerging of it being used in a way that really adds value to the business. But really we are entering a period of experimentation with these tools. Marketers should be using them strategically and trying them as part of their marketing or broader social mix.

Marketers need to be sensible in their use of location-based marketing. It’s important to think strategically and assess whether or not it can add value or have an impact. In the next year there’ll be more experimentation and more campaigns, some that work and some that fail.

This is an exciting time, there are many ways in which location-based marketing can be used but three clear ways where we should see experimentation are all areas where the services actually add real value to consumers.

1. Help me to filter information

This evening I was looking for a restaurant for dinner with a friend. One of the most important criteria was that the restaurant was near where we were when we decided to go and eat. Location was a significant variable in our choice. Or rather ‘near me right now’ was the filter we wanted to apply. Location-based-services allow consumers to apply a simple but effective filter to information they are searching for - especially when that information is reviews or advice. And it allows them to apply it instantly.

This is very powerful. It helps a consumer get straight to the information that is relevant, and provides a real use for reviews and advice not just as a planning tool but also to influence consumer behaviour in real-time. I like to think of it as there being reviews dropped on streets across the world that my phone lets me read. Secret messages that location-based-services unlock when I am near them and when they are relevant to me.

2. Help me to find people like me

Location-based-services not only know where I am, but also where other people are. Putting these together means that I can easily find people or other groups. And the power comes when you use this to help people connect if they have similar interests or concerns. Online communities are successful where they connect people with similar problems, questions, interests, issues or concerns. And they can be particularly valuable at getting people who don’t know each other to share and discuss - from people who want to talk about a broadband provider to those with a particular medical condition who want to talk to fellow sufferers even if they don’t know any personally.

Location-based-services can take this experience of connecting affinity groups and make it happen offline too. You can find if people with similar interests to you are nearby. Maybe you enjoy softball and want to find out where others are playing one Sunday morning, or maybe you just want to find other people like you. A highly successful iPhone app has done that for a niche market (the gay dating app Grindr) and similar behaviours can benefit many other groups.

3. Help me to organise events, parties and rallies

What’s the simplest way of knowing how many people are at a protest? You could count them all, or you could ask them all to register. But how about getting them all to check-in. This not only gives you a count of how many people have joined your event at a particular location but will give you access to lots more information about them and, perhaps critically, a route to contact them again after the event. Location-based-services, and particular the notion of checking-in, allows a number of existing processes to be both simplified and enhanced.

Could we use location-based-services to let a restaurant know we’ve arrived and are waiting in the bar for our table? Could we use them to gain access to parties, or can we use them as a way to organise and direct political protests or rallies. Location-based-services provide a number of potential organisational uses that need to be explored and experimented with.