Sunday, June 19, 2011

Paving a New Path to Social Media ROI

For most businesses, there is one major obstacle between themselves and effective use of Social Media. "Relationships" are not enough of a Return on Investment for many executives to greenlight use of resources.

Many curently successful businesses were developed in a world where the path to ROI was well-established. Media was a known quantity, what would be invested and what could be reasonably supposed to be received were all relatively standardized. ROI became a series of mathematic formulas applied to cost.

As media use by consumers shift, so do those well-known formulas. What formula is there for understanding the place of the consumer's voice to your business?

Now is a perfect time to reformulate your path to ROI.   

For many businesses, our choice of media is no longer the deciding factor in the success of a campaign. Our choice of approach is.

There are six paving stones on the new path to Social Media ROI.

Step 1: Build Your Audience 

Many social media strategies end at this crucial first step. Based on the old marketing trope of more eyeballs equals more ROI, companies open multiple social media profiles or work on giant campaigns to get as many "Likes" or followers as possible.

Unfortunately, in this new world, numbers don't translate into business. When companies set up a presence on Foursquare, or a discount on Groupon, they get an initial rush, but not repeat business.

Without a loyalty feedback loop, sheer numbers will only provide you with the initial surge that any new campaign brings.

So, start by building your audience...but don't stop there.

Step 2: Develop a Culture of Engagement

Comments and Retweets are the first indication that people are listening to us. Are we listening to them? Do we share good news from our followers, do we retweet their tweets and comment on their posts on our Facebook Wall?

Companies that create an environment of accepting both positive and negative comments with aplomb and receptiveness, let people know that they aren't only letting best friends forever in the clubhouse.

Step 3: Develop a Feedback Loop  

Now that folks are listening to you - show that you're listening to them

Engagement is a two-way road. We can't truly expect to build a loyal following if we ignore people when they try and speak with us. When companies make the effort to acknowledge those who acknowledge them, they create more even more positive feelings about their products and services.

Step 4: Let the counting begin 

By now you should know what you're counting. Visits will give way to views of videos/products/mentions to third parties.  There are so many tools available right now that it's no longer a question of how to measure, but what, exactly is meaningful measurement for your company.

Know what your own influence is and where. Track the sentiment associated with your company and products/services. It's no good to be top of Google for "worst service ever!"

What are you doing - what actions are you tracking - what numbers have some meaning to you? How many times is your new project site visited - who is visiting, how long are they there, where are they sharing the news? Track not just what people do on your site, but what they say about you when they leave it. Don't just live in your corner of the Internet - own it.

Step 5: The Road More Traveled 

Highlight paths of action for your followers. Give them a welcome page that will make it easy for them to find you, to buy from you, to download your trial. By now you know what you want them to do - let your site, your tweets, your announcements lead them to do it.

You can see from your tracking efforts which Social Media profiles are the most successful and where people are going to provide you with the best possible results. Craft your messaging to highlight these well-established paths. Make it as easy as possible to go from Step A to Step B.

Step 6: The Light At the End of the Tunnel 

Of course once you have them on your shop, or your Whitepaper, or video page, you need to know if they are buying, downloading, viewing. Keep them focused on the path you want them to take - then watch to see if people follow that path or jump the fence. There's your ROI - are people taking the actions you want them to take? Have they filled out the form, joined your Facebook Page or listened to that podcast? Take a look at those ultimate actions to understand if your are getting the ROI you seek.

With each new marketing push or campaign, start back at the beginning  and pave your new path with these six stepping stones to establish a clear ROI for your Social Media efforts.
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