All marketing should prove its worth. Social Media Marketing (SMM) is no different.
Unfortunately, in my experience, the majority of organisations are ‘dabbling’ in social media.
They don't have a clear plan or purpose for their Social Media efforts.
Instead, they have adopted the 'mud at a wall' approach with a vague hope that tweeting once a day, blogging every so often and pinning images to a Pinterest board, will somehow raise brand awareness, increase sales and cement customer loyalty.
Is it any wonder then, that many of these organisations are losing faith in Social Media and are asking whether it is worth the effort?
To prevent this disillusionment, organisations need strong evidence that Social Media is paying its way. Proving the Return On Investment (ROI) of SMM is, therefore, crucial.
But where do you start?
Start by following this Ten Step Guide...
Step 1: Start with your vision
Start by deciding that you can and will prove ROI. This is possible if you align your SMM so that it supports the organisation’s overall Vision. Your Vision may be the desire to ‘be No1 in our marketplace’ or ‘To grow turnover by X% within three years’.
With a clarity of Vision, you can choose how SMM will support the three Key Objectives of any business:
Step 2: Map your customer touchpoints
When you are clear about your Vision and Key Objectives, you can start to map your SMM onto your Customer Touchpoints.
A Customer Touchpoint Map describes how and where non-customers, customers and other stakeholders experience your brand before, during and after a purchase.
A Customer Touchpoint Analysis will highlight where SMM could play its part in moving people from being non-customers to loyal advocates (an essential element of long-term SMM success).
For example, you may decide that SMM could help by drive visitors to your website.User Generated Content (UGC) on your website - such as positive ratings and reviews - should reassure those new visitors and encourage them to buy from you.
SMM could also provide an opportunity to build a community of interest around your products and services. A community that continues to buy from you, refers others and provide an excellent source of customer insight.
Step 3: Identify your social media precursors
Just because someone retweets one of your tweets does not mean that you’ll see a sudden spike in sales. The response to your SMM is more complicated than that.
SMM is less cause-and-effect and more like overlapping ripples on a pond. SMM generates interlocking layers of responses. Responses that occur before you see the behaviour(s) you’re looking for - such as increased web visitors, a rise in sales and repeat visitors.
You need to draw up, therefore, a list of your Social Media precursors. These are the actions and responses in social media you will need to spot before you reach your Objectives.
Let’s imagine that you hope your LinkedIn Group will provide a new stream of prospects to your business. Your Social Media precursors would, therefore, include a growth in the number of group members, an increase in discussions and comments and more people adding their own content.
If you were adding videos to YouTube, in the hope of building brand awareness perhaps, you would first need to see an increase in the number of Views, Likes and Comments and so on.
Unfortunately, these Social Media precursors are not financially valuable in themselves,. Nevertheless, you must monitor and track a growth in these indicators before you will have any hope of achieving your objectives.
Step 4: Conduct your social media research
It is only once you have finished your thinking and planning, that you're ready to conduct your initial research. Use the following tools or your personal favourites, to determine how visible, respected and influential your brand is online.
Don't take too long over this initial research. Unless there’s something serious to attend to, such as negative comments in a discussion forum perhaps, move along quickly. At this stage you're trying to form a snapshot of what’s out there.
You can dig deeper later.
Step 5: Collate the information
If you’ve just begun SMM, you'll probably dig up very little about your brand. Obviously, if you have been heavily engaged in SMM you might have lots of material to go through.
Collate your results into whatever format makes sense for you.
Tabulate the number of mentions you found, the number of comments on your content, the percentage of negative versus positive ratings about your products or services, the number of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter followers you have, pageviews on your blog, the volume of traffic from SM into your main site as a percentage of overall traffic and so on.
Step 6: Analyse the information
Once you've pulled your data together, draw out any useful observations and conclusions.
For example, you may be able to estimate the total size of your audience by adding up various ‘populations’ across different SM platforms. Although people will view your content in several places online, you may also be able to tease out the percentage of your offline or ‘real-world’ audience you are reaching.
You should also try and judge the level of engagement and influence you have. You can tell this by the number of (positive) comments your blog posts receive or how many times your tweets are are 'favourited' on Twitter for example.
You could also judge how interesting your brand is online or by how often key influencers mention you. These influencers will be those respected bloggers and twitterers (usually the same people) with large and loyal audiences.
If you're looking for increased visitor traffic, you could also check how much traffic to your website is coming from SM. And if you're looking to SMM to generate sales, you could see how much of that traffic is converting into enquiries, leads and sales.
Step 7: Seek insight
Whatever you do with this data, try not to drown in it! Be focused about what you’re looking for. Remember, reporting is not an outcome. Seek insight instead.
What you are really looking for is what drives behaviour? What types of actions - that you could imitate or initiate - encourage people to act? What type of content does your audience find appealing? Which topics start them talking and which do they ignore?
As examples of this type of useful insight, can you tell how long your web videos should be or which types of photo content to produce?
What you’re looking for is not only the volume of activity but the quality of activity. Or, to put it another way, which type of SMM will create a reaction in the direction of your Objectives?
If you can spot this, you can focus your efforts in crafting the type of content that interests your audience(s).
Step 8: Draw a ‘line in the sand’
When you have collated and analysed your data, you will need to make an important decision.
You will need to choose a point in time or data point that you choose as ‘Ground Zero.’ To put it another way, choose a point at which you’ll describe as ‘Before' and‘Afterwards’.
This baseline will be what you will now use to monitor the ongoing effectiveness of your SMM activity. Only by choosing this, rather arbitrary, baseline, will you have any chance of spotting trends and proving the ROI of your future SMM.
Step 9: Begin your social media marketing
Focused by your Vision, Key Objectives and Baselines, you can now begin, or restart your SMM in earnest.
Launch that blog you've been planning. Start tweeting again. Post your videos to YouTube and ramp up the updates to your Facebook and LinkedIn communities.
If you're like many marketers, you are probably both excited and overwhelmed by the potential of SMM. However, unlike many marketers, you are now better prepared and should spend less time analysing and more time creating. Because content creation is what it’s all about.
Step 10: Conduct regular ROI analyses
At regular intervals, conduct the same social media research as you did before. You should establish a rolling programme of monitoring using the same tools as you did initially.
By conducting regular monitoring and reporting, you will soon build up a valuable database of learnings and insights. You should start seeing trends in the direction of your Goals. Trends that you should see began from the Baseline(s) you created.
As long as you're committed to SMM, invest in it properly and stay the course, these trends should be positive and in the direction of your Vision and Key Objectives.
And, unlike the majority of marketers engaged in SMM, not only will you be tracking your efforts, you will also be proving its worth.