This post written jointly by Ted Rubin and Casey Petersen
“Success” in a social campaign, and an annualized social media calendar, should be determined by the goals for the campaign and an overall long-term strategy… we like to use the term “Conditions of Satisfaction.” Far too often, companies start a campaign simply with the goal of having a “social” campaign, because that’s something they feel like they need to do or have been pitched by an agency. Most Social Marketing “experts” flock to those kinds of clients, and then pick some random metric as success.
In our world of coordinated creation of social media stories at Collective Bias, there’s typically two kinds of success, or ROI, on social campaigns – Cost Mitigation, and Sales Increase. And we believe there is a Return on Relationship (ROR) fostered by all brand relevant content and communication… simply put the value that is accrued by a person or brand due to nurturing a relationship. ROI is simple $’s and cents, ROR is the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through loyalty, recommendations and sharing.
With Cost Mitigation, we look at success as generating more impressions than traditional media, for the same spend, or generating the same impressions for significantly less money. It’s purely a CPM play. This is great for consumer packaged goods brands who have a large marketing budget, and view social as simply one part of their communication plan.
Tying Sales Increases to social is a bit trickier, since there’s almost no way to connect a register transaction at a retailer to a reader of a blog, a Facebook Fan, or to a Twitter follower. Sometimes, you can find a correlation in the amount of content produced per day, and the sales per day… but it varies wildly by product and shopping habits in a category. So understanding the brand and retailer, and the path-to-purchase, is very important and something we focus on when connecting shoppers with the brands and retailers they use in their daily lives to drive content and conversations. Coupons can also be a good tactic to tie some real-world transactions back to online influence via social when used appropriately and to better understand your audience.
Our preferred method of defining ROI is around annualized customer value. Typically a shopper who regularly absorbs content that references a brand in one manner or another… or a Facebook fan, Twitter follower, or particularly an email subscriber, for instance, is a more valuable customer than a non-fan/follower/subscriber. They may spend more (average order value) and visit more often and make more purchases (frequency of purchase), or remain loyal customer for a longer period of time (lifetime value of a customer). Very similar to legacy Loyalty Program metrics. Finding that average value isn’t all that difficult, and can give you a KPI for the campaign – readers of blog posts, new Facebook Fans, Twitter followers, or new email subscribers, that is tied to real-world value.
As far as measurement tools – there are a lot of interesting things out there. Ultimately, the best tool for “social” measurement is going to be able to quantify and track true influence… in other words, if you post about the new retina Macbook, do I value your opinion enough to make a decision based on that. Those tools don’t really exist yet.
In the meantime, there are some great tools that allow you to track the path of conversation, and conversation topics around your brand, impressions generated, virality, etc. On the low-cost end, we really like Viralheat. Up in the enterprise class, Sysomos has some great tools, Mutual Mind (our partner at Collective Bias) is doing some really interesting work in the area of influence metrics, and of course there is Radian6, probably the most recognized name in the tracking industry.
Overall when combining consumer and influencer-generated content and amplified online syndication, correctly structured and maintained media programs will produce significant results including Search Engine Optimization results that last, an increase in online share of voice compared to competitors, and engaged impressions and reach that drive brand awareness, loyalty and ultimately sales conversion.