President of WebTalent SEO WebTalent SEO
Prior to starting at a social media marketing agency, I was a corporate sales executive. Throughout my career I loved attending trade shows. It was different; it got me out of the standard routine of cold calling and scheduled meetings. It also appealed to me because of the unique way in which I could get in front of my potential client base to build relationships, answer questions and build my company's brand. Management would always try to cut tradeshows from the marketing budget listing the expense and time that goes into them as the reasons. They would also complain tradeshow marketing was hard to justify because there was not a clear Return on Investment (ROI). With the rise of social media marketing, I'm beginning to see a lot of these same questions and concerns being raised about Social Media Marketing that were once raised about tradeshow marketing.
Like tradeshows, Social Media Marketing is about engaging a passionate group of potential customers and turning them into brand evangelists or enthusiasts. So instead of directly selling to a consumer (which you can do as well) you are hoping to indirectly sell them by influencing key influencers within the target market. The goal here is what is referred to as ‘viral exposure' of your company's brand and or product to people that will share your company's message peer-to-peer, using the invaluable ‘word of mouth' messaging we all strive for. Companies like Coca-Cola, Starbucks and other leading companies have seen outstanding results from their Social Media Marketing campaigns and have pushed social media into their mainstream marketing mix.
So how can you measure the process of generating"buzz"? Trying to measure the return on social media by using traditional online metrics is like trying to fit a square plug into a round hold - it just doesn't work. It's easy to measure visits, sales, inquires or other conversion items attributed to the Social Media Marketing campaign by using analytics. You're then able to attribute a cost per visitor or even a cost per sale -just like handing out coupons at tradeshows. What you can't account for is the buzz and brand building that Social Media Marketing offers. It may take months (and usually does) for Social Media Marketing campaigns to gather enough steam for companies to start seeing the results and even then they often come in ways that can't be easily tracked. Some companies prefer to look at the number of engaged users from a campaign. They track server logs, monitor RSS feed subscriptions, count friends on social networking sites and users on widgets and many other ways. They then assign a cost per engagement metric. Be assured that as the campaign continues to build steam and generate lots of positive"buzz" about your company you are able to see your initial investment pay off and continue to grow right before your eyes. Like trade shows were to off-line marketing, Social Media Marketing builds and maintains a large list of potential brand enthusiasts that will work for your brand for free!
I'm a firm believer that a unique set of metrics needs to be defined for Social Media Marketing campaigns. When you take the cost of the campaign, along with the amount of engagement, site visits, sales and inquiries you're able to put a number to the ROI of the Social Media Marketing campaign. And it's important not forgot the other benefits to Social Media Marketing such as an increased in back links and rankings. These two very important benefits bring in tons of qualified traffic and also produce sales as well.
This inability to show hard trackable results is just one example of the difficulties of attributing a comprehensive ROI to social media. In my opinion Social Media Marketing agencies need to do a better job explaining social media ROI along with reasonable expectations to their clients prior to starting any kind of viral or social media marketing campaign.
Like tradeshows, corporate marketing executives are going to have to accept and realize the fact that there is a conversation going on right now in your industry within the social landscape. Socially"savvy" companies are already in the conversation and are subsequently enjoying the benefits of talking to potential customers in a somewhat"empty" space. By adding Social Media Marketing to your current marketing campaigns you can join the conversation and get in front of a highly influential set of individuals that have the ability and really influence and engage your company's target market at the peer group level.
About the Author
Oliver Feakins is the President of WebTalent SEO, a full service SEO Company in Lancaster, PA. With a strong expertise in social media, Oliver has helped clients from startups to publically traded corporations increase their reach online for over 8 years.
WebTalent SEO can be found at http://www.webtalentseo.com .