I’m usually asked this question in the context of gaining buy-in from leadership making investment decisions in marketing programs. How does social media add value to business objectives? Drive bottom-line outcomes? This isn’t an ROI calculation on clicks per CTA (conversions, registrations, downloads, leads, etc.) but rather, social media as a driving contributor of top-line organizational initiatives. Consider that Facebook and Twitter are on trend to comprise 20 percent of all online advertising.
To preface, social media as a stand-alone is a tactic. It’s a communication path that should be considered in the mix of an overarching strategic plan based on objectives. It also encompasses a toolset to derive insights in a way that can’t be matched on other mediums. It’s an essential part of any business strategy. Where else can a business gain access to an always on, two-way communication channel with target audiences in a direct feedback loop? A well-optimized social channel can absolutely be quantified as brand IP with a direct line to results.
Social media is where brands will find consumers. B2C, B2B, H2H. Everyone’s a publisher, and every demographic is represented by a social channel value proposition. A CMO will want to recruit a social media team with the agility to find desired audiences and influencers from established but evolving platforms to emerging live broadcasting and messaging chat apps; with the savvy to engage audiences in a relevant way and the chops to grow owned media through organic/earned community building and strategic paid programs for go-to-market campaigns and lead generation.
Social Media as a Service
So what does this mean? There are a myriad of social media tools, and knowing how to leverage the right ones for business intelligence is data-mining gold. Social media isn’t limited to publishing but offers an enormous bank of intelligence that can inform business strategy: social media as a service to business. Some examples follow.
- Competitive intelligence – social media tools can be deployed to compile online data about influencer and community conversations, emerging trends, brand and product positioning across platforms in a comprehensive analysis. How engaging is our brand with communities compared to competitors? What tactics are in play? Does strategy feel consistent? How do they activate brand champions? Use this data to gain competitive advantage at an organizational level.
- Share of voice (SOV) – this tracks closely with competitive intelligence. What SOV does a brand or topic hold in the marketplace? During a key event? Determine competitive positioning and benchmarks to enable and build brand preference. Monitor for fluctuations and opportunities to inform macro positioning strategies.
- Sentiment – this is a natural extension of SOV. Not only can social media inform on conversations and trends, but sentiment and what people care about; what experiences they share. How does a topic or theme, even a word resonate? What are the reactions and outcomes? What customer experiences are people looking for, and how do they want to engage with brands? Sophisticated social media monitoring can serve as predictive analytics to supplement or even replace survey mechanisms for comprehensive communications strategies.
- Influence/brand personification – in service to brand success on social media, activating highly credible individuals (c-suite, director, SME) as ambassadors personifies the brand with thought leadership on trending topics and business initiatives. This conversational approach from an individual makes the brand accessible and authentic; not placing the product or feature first, but rather the experiential benefit to consumers building brand advocacy.
- Analytics – social media serves up deep and rich analytics in real-time directly from native platforms on every piece of content. Start programs with KPIs that map directly to measuring strategic outcomes – build out and focus on the right metrics. For example: visual content drives engagement with CTAs; measure and grow media clicks separate from link clicks. These tactical delineations will surface data driven insights in a continuous cycle of sharpening strategy and results tied to business outcomes. Integrate with website analytics for closed-loop reporting and definitive ROI measurement.
- Advertising – the Future of Marketing is here and it’s pay to play. Business models for online communication paths with access to highly targeted audiences and marketshare (social media and PR included) are monetized. This is because they hold business value. Not confined to serving as a platform for paid advertising, social media creates the forum to build authentic relationships or experiences with these audiences to frame and contextualize solutions-oriented offers and engage in dialogue.
Social Media as a Strategy
Social media considered in the mix of achieving business objectives elevates it from a stand-alone tactic to part of comprehensive strategy with a direct impact on results.
How are you using social media to drive business results? Let's discuss! Find me at PMG, Twitter or LinkedIn.
About the Author:
Bringing perspectives from enterprise to start-up to agency experiences, Janel Scherrer architects B2B, and B2B2C social and digital growth marketing strategies across devices and platforms that drive account or lead-based conversions and revenue. Applying design-style thinking to big picture objectives, Janel yields an arsenal of granular-level tactics (psychographic targeting, sentiment analysis, remarketing, attribution/ROI, SEO/SEM, AdWords certification, funnel content, tech stack integration) that dials in the data-driven edge. Janel has client relationships with Intel, Oracle, REI, moovel, and others in SaaS and mobile technology.