Greater Social Media Control Means Greater ROI
A couple of recent reports from Forrester point to a social media quagmire that many organizations seem to be caught up in.
The first, How Consumers Found Websites in 2012, found that social media was second only to search in helping web users find what they need online. The second, Integrate Social Into Your Marketing RaDaR, revealed that most businesses are still struggling to generate a return on social media. Together these two reports seem to indicate that social media is key to connecting businesses with customers, but businesses are dropping the ball.
As Facebook enters its 10th year and Twitter approaches its eighth, you'd think generating a return on investment from social media would be an exact science by now. The measurability and accountability of social media promised new opportunities unlike any we had ever seen. Flocking to social networks in droves, consumers digitized their lives, providing marketers with a unique chance to know and serve their customers like never before.
But for all of its hype, social media is still a question mark for many organizations that struggle to find a return on all the time, money and resources that go into it. In 2011, a study showed 73 percent of CEOs believed marketers were pushing the social media agenda without looking at how social media was truly impacting sales. Last year, when Ragan asked marketers which metrics helped determine campaign success, 86 percent pointed to likes and followers. At 74 percent, web traffic was also high on the list. Only 31 percent mentioned sales.
Of course, with 69 percent of all internet users using some sort of social media, social media cannot be ignored. But what can organizations do to tie social media back to a predictable return? Visibility into the social activities of an individual isn't always straightforward. A person may interact with a site across several channels, have multiple user accounts, be registered or unregistered, or share relationships with other site visitors. And then there are the massive outcries and account deactivation threats following privacy changes, questions of who owns your data, and the simple fact that no social network is immune to the next big thing.
With all these community distractions and disruptions, it's no wonder ROI is so elusive. Maximizing ROI on your marketing investment requires not only analysis and understanding of your marketing campaigns, but also deep comprehension of your customers — e.g., their preferences, dislikes and how they consume information. But how closely are your followers truly following you? How often do their retweets represent a buy? Are they engaged one minute and a ghost the next?
For a growing number of businesses, generating, measuring and protecting social media ROI means hosting social communities from their own domain. In this controlled environment, you can build communities where people are able to socialize, vocalize, publicize, criticize and popularize your brand, but in a controlled and lasting way. It's also much easier to hear, respond to and learn from registered community members who inherently tend to be more engaged, loyal and qualified.
Your presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will still be important, but the focus should be on driving authenticated traffic from these networks back to your site, where a more permanent community can be integrated with CRM and other systems that can help you focus on lead generation. Once a prospect chooses to engage on your turf, you can get to better know thy customer, better serve thy customer and build stronger loyalty with content management systems that provide complete visitor profiles of your site traffic for better customer insight as well as lead scoring tools that can be used to identify which visitors/contacts have the highest probability of generating value. By generating, managing and scoring leads, you can focus on the most important contacts or qualified leads and maximize your sales efficiency.
It's true that too much control can squeeze the life out of a community. By blending the right control with the right content, however, you can create an environment that fosters meaningful interactions, stronger relationships and more buys. Owning your community means knowing your community. By hosting all the features that social media offers on your own site, you can better align your content, execution and analytics for faster and measurable ROI that truly impacts the bottom line.