Getting ROI From Your Social Media Efforts
The social media world is bloated with buzzwords. We're supposed to "engage," have "conversations" and build "responsive" campaigns. But unless your job is to float jargon around a boardroom, you probably want a return on investment on your social media marketing efforts. That, after all, is what your tweets and posts (should) want. If you want numbers as hard as your efforts, here are five steps to developing a sound social media strategy:
1. Set up a measurement system. Before you get started, get analytics. Why? Because your initial social media efforts will tell you a lot about your audience. The last thing you want is to miss out on the cues that will drive your major campaigns. Whether you consider your social media strategy "organic" or highly strategic, you also want to know off the bat what your tweets, posts, Instagram pictures or Tumblrs are accomplishing.
Is your Facebook audience the Millennials you think you appeal to? Do your tweets lead to purchases? If something's working, and you don't know what it is, going forward you'll struggle to build to a coherent strategy.
Sun Tzu said that "victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win." He never lost a battle, and neither will you if you mobilize properly.
2. Connect ends and means. Ever read an email or web content with lots of exclamation marks? The question, of course, is who is that person yelling at? The answer: they probably don't know. It's a classic example of a disconnection between ends and means.
In line with "Sun Tzuing" your analytics, the next goal in your social media campaign should be to create synergy between specific goals (e.g., product sales, participation in contests, event attendance, etc.) and the social media message used to accomplish it. Your choice of channel, style, voice and content cannot be random; it must speak to the audience you wish to address.
Determine what you want listeners to do, and think through how your social media messaging will motivate that action.
3. Split testing. At the Olympics every four years, humanity has a simple formula for determining the fastest men and women in the world: line up and then have them run as fast as they can for a predetermined distance.
Social media split testing works the same way. First, decide how you want to compare social media initiatives. By email signups harvested? By eBay revenue? Whatever the measure may be, if you followed steps one and two, you'll already have goals and a measurement system in place.
Just like the Olympics, place strict constraints on your test. How long will it run? How often do you post for each strategy? What are the rules of engagement (e.g., can your social media scientists start conversations with people who respond)?
Set up your split test like you're in a laboratory. If you have multiple social media campaigns going, this is the best way to determine which ones are worth your investment.
4. Regroup. If you have social media analytics, documented strategies and completed split testing, you should be well into your social media marketing campaign. Now it's time to review.
First, have you had social media Oscars — i.e., which channels have performed best in which categories? Is Twitter best for company news? Is Facebook best for interactive campaigns? Are a high percentage of your Instagram followers clicking through and buying your products on Amazon.com?
Second, what goals and strategies have worked? Are the ends and means you set panning out, or does your social media strategy have unintended results?
Third, what should you test next? If you spent the quarter comparing three different Facebook strategies, is it time to move on to Twitter? Or were the Facebook results subpar? Set a new timeline for split testing now.
Your regroup is a time to evaluate, scrutinize and refine your social media marketing efforts. Celebrate your victories, but don't get comfortable. Remember, we're not going through this for boardroom boasting, we're going for results.
5. Stay curious. Zheng He, the famous Chinese eunuch and admiral, guided a fleet of the world's largest ships from mainland China throughout the Pacific world and to places as far flung as Mogadishu, Somalia during the 15th century. He did this for 27 years. To make a long story short, Imperial China banned such exploration, closed doors, fell behind European technological innovation, and was colonized in the 19th century.
You must continue to take your social media strategy to new shores. The same strategies won't work forever for the same reason that TV shows need new episodes — people get bored, the same content gets stale. Once you set up a measurement system, you need only update or add functionality as needed.
However, strategizing, split testing and regrouping must continue on indefinitely. Otherwise, your competitors will literally colonize your social media territory. Human beings have limited time and attention spans, therefore, your social media content has to be better than your competitors’.
Stay on the forefront of social media marketing, keep exploring and keep experimenting with a purpose. What your tweet wants is to make your business successful. Help it do that.
Dane Atkinson is the co-founder and CEO of SumAll, a company focused on harnessing the full power of real-time business intelligence for marketers.