Closing the Social Media Performance Gap

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Once considered a novel set of marketing tools and channels, social media has evolved from an experimental phenomenon used by only the most adventurous organizations to a must-have set of tools that every marketer and business owner is challenged to deploy effectively. Moreover, organizations are investing thousands to millions of dollars in their social media programs. So the question we need to ask is, “how do those same organizations realize the elusive return on investment from their social media efforts?”

As an organization that holds conversations with nearly 200 different companies each year we’ve noticed a clear “social media performance gap” between the best performing brands and everyone else using social media. This article shares a few of the key points that differentiate the leaders from the laggards in social media. You’ll find that the recommendations are based on insights gleaned from current research and range from the mundane to the bemusing.

1. Understand What Social Media Actually Does

Business owners certainly know what social media is. We’ve all heard the data points about how social media dominates consumers’ time online, but what does that all really mean? Companies diligently charge ahead with Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, blogs and YouTube videos with the hope that social media will drive leads like direct response, result in click throughs like email or build awareness like an ad campaign. The fact is the cumulative power of social media can be far greater than all of those if it is understood and channeled appropriately.

The Lesson: Put your consumer behavior hat on and really look at how your customers use social media and how you can better fit your brand into their social lives. Understand that social media is more akin to an investment that builds in value than it is to traditional advertising, which simply shows up in the expense column. The long term visibility of blogs, the life of a YouTube video and the shared content from Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest can bring marketing value for months, and even years.

2. Map Social Media to the Customer Decision Journey

For the small to medium business, consumer decision journey mapping is likely not on the top of your to-do list but stay with me for a moment here. We must understand that the customer really does want help in making decisions. In the annual IBM CMO Study, we learned that marketers often believe that consumers interact with their brand on social media to join a community or feel connected to the brand. Rather, when asked, consumers have little interest in relationships with brands or companies beyond the merely transactional.

The Lesson: If you want to boost your social media success rate immediately, focus on helping your customers make purchasing decisions with as little friction as possible. Post a video to help answer a question or a blog post that educates consumers on how to make the best decision, simply and quickly.

3. Stop the Random Acts of Social Media

A “free-for-all” random path of execution is what often happens in companies without both a sound social media strategy and consistent executive support. When companies commit random acts of social media they end up wasting time and money, and have little to show but a few minor successes with no real way to replicate those successes.

On the other hand, the organizations that have closed the performance gap start with a defined (and written) purpose and destination for social media. They shape their program around the social media tools that support their vision.

The Lesson: Start with a strategy and stick to it. Even taking the time to put together a strategy based on your current state and desired future will deliver a dramatic improvement over continuing to pursue social media at random.

4. Measure Performance –Connect Social Media with Business Outcomes

The most frequently asked question in nearly every workshop that we’ve ever conducted is “how do I measure the ROI of social media?” The shortest path to social media ROI is through your existing web analytics and metrics tracking. It’s important that you have a firm grip on accountability of all digital marketing channels, starting with web analytics.

The Lesson: Establish your KPI’s (key performance indicators) using these three required qualities in order to be effective in determining the success of your social media program.

  1. KPI’s must explain how social media marketing adds value to the business.
  2. KPI’s must be aligned with strategy and prove that marketing is focused on the success of the business.
  3. KPI’s reflect a fact-based, disciplined approach to strategy and execution of your social media strategy.

5. Get Educated and Stay Up-to-Speed on Social Media

Wait for it…there! Social media just changed. Again. Yes, social media moves quickly. New tools, new platforms, changes to existing platforms are just a few of the things that have changed in the recent weeks while you weren’t paying attention. One of the most significant gaps between the top performers in social media and the also-rans is their level of expertise and comfort with social media. Chances are, someone in my class is one of your competitors – are you up to speed?

The Lesson: Get smart about social media by attending courses, conferences and stay sharp by attending webinars and reading whitepapers. Trust me, your competitors already are doing all of these things.

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