Social Media Ruined Everything

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Bringing Accountability to Social Media Participation

Social media took Internet marketers by surprise. The channel presents immense opportunities and significant challenges — something that remains difficult to master for many, particularly as it relates to performance and the bottom line of businesses on the Web.


Conditioned to understand performance in very specific ways, social media changed the analytics paradigm. The measure of success has changed from established metrics like “conversion rate” (in all its various forms) to far more ephemeral indicators of performance. We’ve added “followers,” “likes,” “retweets” and “impressions” to our language, and the result has been a loss of focus on what is truly important to the success of an organization — profit. It’s time to bring some accountability to social media participation.

Issues with Social Media

One of the major concerns is that Web businesses have only had a compartmentalized view of their social media marketing campaigns. They have no understanding of how something such as the rate of posting on Facebook might influence frequency of purchases by first-time visitors or the most loyal of customers. Or how retweets by an influential blogger might spur membership.

Today, more than ever, it is essential to have an integrated view of how customers are engaging in today’s active but rather fragmented multi-channel social media environment. Website Magazine has covered several premier social media monitoring and management tools (see Social Media Dashboards in WM’s October 2011 issue) and these solutions do well to help marketers monitor and manage social media participation. Where they often fall short is in their failure to provide insights about what works as it relates to conversion.

Information management software company Endeca released results of its 2011 E-Commerce Analytics Survey recently and found that 61 percent of respondents admit they are currently making decisions based on half or less than half of data available to them. To make matters worse, nearly half of the survey respondents reported that they were using multiple tools (at least three ore more) to support business intelligence (BI) decisions. This, perhaps more than any other recent data, indicates there is a substantial need for information to be extracted from the disparate silos (from any marketing channel — performancebased advertising or social) and streamlined into a unified and simple-to-understand view.

If you’re not on top of your game when it comes to your enterprise’s specific social media participation goals, you’ll be lost in a sea of competitors all clamoring for attention and loyalty from the same audience — and have nothing to show for it.

What should you be tracking, monitoring and analyzing? In short, how common indicators of social media performance influence conversions on the website.

It is important to understand these metrics so you can indicate if social media participation (and what type of participation) results in profit. How do you do that?

Is the aim to increase distribution? Track fans and followers, along with the number of mentions and number of social bookmarks. Is “interaction” the objective? Track the number of retweets, comments, likes, and shares. Are you looking to build influence? Monitor your share of the conversation versus that of your competitors.

Let’s look more closely at the core social media metrics to be tracked.

Community Growth and the Sales Impact

While highly active and influential social community members can outperform thousands of inactive members when it comes to distributing messages in some instances, the size of community does matter — if only as an indicator to prospective followers. But we’re not just building a community on Facebook or Twitter — we’re trying to turn a profit. Ultimately, what should be tracked alongside a social media following is how it corresponds to the number of sales or leads occurring on your website. Having a ballooning social media community but flat-line sales means more needs to be done to drive visitors to the website.

User Activity & Membership

Growth of a social media community is important, but nothing says social media dominance like a corresponding increase in registrations on your own websites. From likes and comments on Facebook to retweets and direct messages on Twitter, a high level of user activity on your website indicates not only a capacity to engage your audience off the site, but also converts users on a destination you have full control over — your website.

General Sentiment & Loyalty

Perhaps the most difficult metric to measure (if it is a metric at all) is that of sentiment — the tone of the mention — i.e. is the comment positive, negative or neutral. Those responsible for social media tracking and analytics find sentiment analysis useful, particularly when applied to customer service. For example, if you know with precision how many negative comments were responded to on Twitter and see a measurable reduction in phone-support costs, social media participation has provided some valuable benefits.

Don’t let social media ruin your Web presence. While time is the primary investment you will make as it relates to social media success, bring in some accountability to participation by aligning that with the greater objective — revenue.

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2 comments

Steve Rugg 09-30-2011 1:31 PM

Social Networking and social networking is only a fad for now, I assume as many it will shake itself out. Many successful companies have stuck with traditional marketing and has implemented some of the Social Networking concepts. Like anything else it will take time. I have to agree with the your headline, as it has confused many clients so much they are not doing any marketing to speak of. We have seen the statistics however, how many companies who jumped ship and stopped catalogs, newspaper, radio and TV die horrible deaths and quite rapidly. The concept that you can make friends on line and convert them to high paying clients or a pseudo sales force is very luring!

ptaylor98 09-30-2011 1:42 PM

You correctly identify interaction as the key to success in social media. As a power Twitter user @ptaylor98, as well as Google+, I have successfully built a following of 10,000, and I funnel users to my websites and blogs through my social posts. But spam does NOT work; it is the interaction and communication with users that makes them want to follow me. I reply to every message and @mention I receive. It's about people, not products.

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