Social media marketing has been around long enough for researchers to start to tease out some of the trends in this new marketing medium and to develop ways for assessing whether social media marketing services are delivering on their promises to increase brand awareness and boost business.
One of the main trends to emerge over the past couple of years is that marketing budgets are starting to include social networking projects, integrating them with traditional marketing strategies. You may have noticed that public relations agencies are blogging more about social media, and researchers are trying to find ways to quantify the effectiveness of social marketing campaigns.
Forrester Research, for example, has developed social media scorecards as a way to track the impact of this type of marketing, and Radian6 has software to track mentions on social sites and display the results real-time on a dashboard. In November, Cisco introduced its SocialMiner software that lets companies find and respond to customers and prospects mentioning their brands on social networking sites in real time.
Big businesses clearly want to know what customers and prospective customers are saying about them. Evaluating social sharing campaigns requires companies (or their hired social media marketing services) to look at brand management, digital readiness, financial impact, and risk management.
The return on investment when it comes to social network marketing should be measured in terms of whether profits or revenues have increased, whether costs have decreased, whether the status of the company’s web presence has been enhanced, if consumer attitudes toward the brand have improved, and whether the brand is prepared to respond to attacks on its reputation. Specifically, companies engaged in social platform marketing should evaluate the following:
• Costs eliminated by the socia media campaign
• Improvements in sales conversions
• Response rates to social media promotions
• Increase in brand recognition and impact
Some benefits from social platforms are not as straightforward to analyze, like risk management. Managing risk is not so much about creating a more positive return on investment, but about reducing the risk of negative return on investment in the future. When the approach to evaluating social network marketing is balanced across these considerations, financial and non-financial factors can be assessed, and ideas for future strategies can be more easily approved or rejected.
One interesting trend that’s been documented in social networking is that companies who allow employees to access social media tools have employees who are more likely to recommend their company’s products and services than companies that do not allow the use of those tools. And the tendency carries into off-work hours too, when employees are using the internet on their own time.
The moral of the story is that social media tools are a force that companies today ignore at their own peril. While evaluating the impact of these tools is still a young science, the initial findings have been very positive. Return on investment with social platforms is a concept that is measured in many ways other than dollars, and the news for ROI is quite encouraging so far.