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.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Old Social Media is Alive and Well - Are You Using All Your Tools?

When you think of "Social Media," what's the first thing that comes to mind? Twitter? GetGlue? Facebook? Gowalla?

As the pace of technology increases, and new social platforms and "solutions" are created and paraded practically every day by marketers and media alike, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the new - and it's easy to be tempted to throw away the old.

What do I mean by "Old Social Media?"

Mailing Lists, Groups (Google Groups are what used to be known as UseNET, Yahoo Groups are Mailing Lists) Forums and Discussion Boards can be just as relevant to your business today as they were ten or fifteen years ago. Remember - the medium isn't the message - the message is the message. Find your audience where they already are and reach out to them there. 

Case in Point: My wife subscribes to a number of extremely niche mailing lists. Yahoo Groups was not and never will be elegant, but it allows for a pretty high level of functionality for a mailing list owner and doesn't require any knowledge of ListServ commands for users. Let's face it, Yahoo Groups is pretty Lowest Common Denominator. Which is exactly why it can be so useful.

Low barriers to entry, exit and management, make Y!Groups a popular platform for old-school mailing lists.

And, as I say, my wife subscribes to several. One of them deals with the topic of Ancient Roman Cooking. This is exactly where a Mailing List excels. When you have a small, rather specific niche, having a mailing list is a great way to keep people who are interested in the topic up to date with events, news, and allow them to have focused conversations.

In this particular case, an author of a book on the topic took the chance to reach out to people who are immersed in this niche and let them know that an event of interest - at which she would be lecturing and dinner based on the famous Roman gourmand, Apicius', recipes would be prepared - was coming up.

Don't believe in the power of Mailing Lists? Too glamorous, tool old-fashioned?

Well, upon hearing about this dinner and lecture, my wife and I decided to fly across the country to attend. How's that for the power of Social Media?

Email marketing, mailing lists, groups all may seem horribly old-fashioned these days, but the the #1 rule of Social Media is "talking with people." Talk to them *wherever* they are. You've got too much to do already - don't ignore the tried and true over the new and shiny. Social Media is talking with the folks who walk in your office door, on your Fan Page, following your Livejournal or on your mailing list. They may not be shiny, but whatever gets you in front of people who care is the right tool for the job.

When planning out your Social Media, don't ignore the tools you already have in your tool belt. That's Good Social Media.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Social Media is Customer Service - Do What You Say

For any business owner, business development is personal. Whether you have a BD department, or pay someone to do your marketing, ultimately you reap the rewards and it's you who cleans up the mess.

Communicating with people always leaves openings for misunderstandings. Today we'll touch on a few key points to help keep customer communications smooth.

1) Keep Everyone Informed

From the Head of Business Development right down to the kid who comes in three times a week to help re-stock, it is critical that everyone in your organization is on board with development processes, tools, tactics and campaigns. Imagine the potential cost to you if the kid who stocks is headed out the door, and meets a family of five who asks him, "Is this the week when children's shoes are half price?" and he has no idea that the sale is going on. "Uh, no...?" he replies and that family walks away.

This is the same scenario when your Foursquare account tells customers that they get a free appetizer for checking in, but the wait staff has never heard of any such thing.

When companies get a bit larger, it becomes easy to send out memos about critical tactics and assume that they have been read and understood. To avoid gaffes of miscommunication, make it a priority to communicate that today is special, everyone in the company.

2) Be Prepared to Fulfill

Companies that do a lot of promotional campaigns are used to customers walking in with a variety of coupons that may or may not be mixed and matched. When your company offers a deal through Social Media, be prepared to carry through with exceptional service and the deal as described. Even if it's not what you usually do.

3) Don't "Explain," Communicate

When you get on Facebook, are you ready to hear what customers have to say, or are you closing off the Wall, so you can stay blissfully unaware?

Explaining *why* a situation get ugly, or a customer was denied isn't half as powerful a business development tool as making sure the customer gets what they were promised.

The better your communication lines are - responding to general inquiries, knowing what people are saying and not covering your Social Media ears when problems arise, the better you can learn from one BD tactic to another.

Listen to what you employees and customers are saying, then follow up with both. Don't leave employees dangling, don't leave customers unhappy.

Do What You Say and Say What You Do to effectively maximize your Customer Service and Social Media.

Project Wonderful