In this instalment of our series on measuring the return on your social media marketing efforts, Mark Cameron discusses how to use the data you have collected to design a conversion strategy and ensure that social activity is aligned with customer and business needs. In case you missed them, you can still catch up with Parts One, Two and Three, before Mark wraps up the series in Marketing‘s April-May issue on sale next month.
Over the course of this series on social media ROI, we have summarised many aspects of social media marketing and brand management. In this instalment, we will be looking at what to do once you are running campaigns and collecting data. Specifically, we’ll be exploring how to extract insights out of your data and then how to effectively apply those insights. In other words, this article is all about social media conversion.
Conversion activity doesn’t exist in isolation, so before we dive into the details, we need to go back and summarise the progression of this series.
We started our journey by looking at how to define success and the techniques for measuring social media activity. We discussed a variety of techniques for designing metrics that get beyond the near meaningless numbers that many social media analytics tools can generate. There is no ‘right way’ to build a metrics framework, as it must be tailored and aligned to the business needs of the brand in question. However, having a handle on the options from the outset is essential.
After measurement, we examined the subject of influence. The concept of identifying influencers, such as celebrities, and recruiting them for marketing campaigns is far from a new idea. The difference with taking the approach on social networks is that anyone can be a potential influencer. As Malcolm Gladwell said in his book The Tipping Point, “There are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. All you have to do is find them.” Social media gives you the ability to look for influencers, see popular topics and identify where people who may influence your brand are located. This is all key information that is needed to turn influencers into brand advocates.
At this stage in our journey we looked at how to grow your audience. Many brands have social profiles, but the success of those profiles can vary. Often the reason for poor performance is that the brand doesn’t clearly state the purpose of the Facebook page or Twitter account. People join a social profile if they see value in doing so. If a person joins a page with the intention of it being a customer service channel, but gets only marketing messages, then the value proposition is rapidly eroded.
It is important for brands to focus obsessively on the needs of their customers and align their social channels to these needs. Avoid setting up a Facebook page that offers a little bit of everything (customer service, marketing, corporate communication and branding, for example), but does none of them very well.
One way to ensure that a social channel remains focused is to develop a content plan and engagement framework. An engagement framework is essentially a model that details how your brand should engage with your audience and, importantly, what to do if something goes wrong. It also looks at the different platforms your brand is participating in and what they are designed for, allowing you to optimise the content for each of them.
The content plan is less about managing the conversation, and more about what the brand will be saying. What topics will you focus on? Which channels will have which pieces of content? What will the mix of text, video and images look like? Who is responsible for putting it live? Like anything in the business world, sticking to a well-designed plan is a recipe for success.
The most recent stop in our social media ROI journey was looking at getting social media apps up and running. Apps, like Facebook apps for example, provide benefits that simply engaging with your audience does not. They allow you to collect vast quantities of data (such as demographics, contact information and behavioural trends) that can be used to inform future campaigns and contact your customers directly. It is important not to ask for too much data at once when you promote an app to your market. It may be tempting to do so, but the drop-off rate is roughly 10% for each field you ask for. Try staging the process instead, offering up another value proposition at each stage.
That brings us up-to-date with the journey as a whole, so we can now move on to discuss how we use the data that we have collected to design a conversion strategy.
Converting social media engagement is not a matter of simply putting the data collected into an email list and spamming the hell out of your audience. As you may expect, that is the fastest way to undermine all of the hard work that has gone into your activity so far. Email may be a part of the picture, but so may SMS, landing pages, mobile apps, search marketing and messages via social networks. Conversion is less about an individual channels and much more about a personalised and targeted multi-channel, or omni-channel, approach.
In a study called ‘Multichannel Consumer Research’ published in 2011 by Monash University’s Australian Centre for Retail Studies, the research showed that Australians aged between 18 and 44 were increasingly being influenced by brand messages from a wide variety of channels. In fact, the more channels the consumer interacted with, the more they were likely to spend. The study also revealed that the market is now consulting an ever-increasing number of channels for important purchases.
This change in online behaviour points to the way in which consumers’ mindsets are evolving. Not so long ago, consumers knew what wanted when they went online. They already had a good idea of what they were looking for; they searched for products or services and made purchase decisions quickly. Now people take much more time browsing online, discussing what they have found and looking for referrals. With consumers moving more of their
browsing and product discovery time online, it become possible, and necessary, to focus on personalised communications. Most people don’t like being marketed to. Trust in advertising messages is currently way down and generic messages are increasingly getting ignored. Showing that you have spent time creating a message that is as relevant to the individual as possible creates cut-through.
While this may sound like a huge undertaking, it’s actually not all that difficult. It is possible to automatically segment your database, design messages for each channel and use dynamic content to customise the experience all through one interface. Tools like ExactTarget, for example, one software-as-a-service (SaaS) marketing automation suite, are designed to do just that.
All of what has been discussed in this series is based on the model my company has designed called ‘People to Purchase’. While the social web and the technology associated with digital marketing can be complex, generating success relies on keeping things simple. This framework is designed to do just that (see diagram ):
- grow and engage: build awareness by any means necessary and have a social data collection point,
- analysis and insights: use the data to develop insights, build segments and work out how to communicate effectively, and
- action and conversion: develop the conversion pathway that delights the audience and produces success.
There is no magic bullet in marketing. To really see a return on your social media effort, it needs to be part of a much broader digital marketing strategy. In isolation you may get an engaged audience, more efficient customer service and positive brand mentions. But when it is part of a much bigger strategic approach, it can easily be tied back to dollars – and, ultimately, this is what every brand is looking for.
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