Marketers continue to question the value they get from Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites. Many don’t know any more about how to measure engagement and what benefits it offers brands than when social media marketing first took off a few years ago. Even though current thinking dictates that social media outreach is essential to successful brand marketing, the vast majority of marketers have trouble quantifying its benefits and how it contributes to ROI. Adding to the confusion are the myriad ways of measuring social media and the availability of more social media monitoring tools than you can shake a proverbial stick at.
One of the problems is scaling. In a traditional advertising campaign, marketers learn immediately whether or not they got it right because ROI can be directly correlated over time to the initiative. Once the static ad is placed (whether it’s a banner ad, a Google ad, or a TV ad that runs on a popular show), the campaign essentially runs itself, making it easy to quantify the effort/time required and the contribution it makes to a company’s income. On the other hand, social marketing requires a dedicated staff that works constantly to monitor, track, and react/respond to the fire hose of brand chatter that goes on twenty-four hours a day. This can present some organizational issues in terms of managing and quantifying the work, and it can be a slippery slope for marketing departments because their daily activities can easily morph into full-time publishing duties, leaving little room for strategizing and planning and making it more difficult to quantify results.
Here are some ways industries measure the contribution of social marketing (via Socialnomics):
Social Presence: Number of fans, likes, followers, etc.
Social Media Lead Generation
Social Media’s Impact on Sales
Social commerce is expected to grow to $14 billion by 2015 and an estimated 90% of all purchases can be influenced by social media, so companies are working hard to connect social marketing efforts to their bottom line:
Awareness, Inc.’s study of industry trends in social media measurement
The good folks at Awareness, a company that has provided social media marketing software to the world’s biggest brands and agencies for almost ten years, recently released a free whitepaper on The State of Social Media Marketing: Top Areas for Social Marketing Investment and Biggest Social Marketing Challenges in 2012. It shows that marketers will continue to invest in social marketing in 2012, focusing on three top priorities: Increased presence across social marketing platforms, increased frequency of content publishing, and robust social marketing management and monitoring. This great report contains a wealth of practical information for marketers as they try to get their arms around social media, how to implement initiatives, and how to measure their success.
Key findings and takeaways from the report include:
- Marketers are looking to invest heavily in social media marketing in 2012, and their top areas of investment will be in presence, frequency, and processes.
- The top social marketing challenges are resources and ROI.
- Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the dominant platforms used by marketers.
- Companies will increase investment in social networks they aren’t currently leveraging, with blogs, forums, and YouTube leading the way.
- Experienced social marketers report that they plan to increase their usage of blogs, YouTube, foursquare, SlideShare, and Tumblr.
- Social media monitoring is becoming a necessity, both for brand mentions and industry conversations.
- The use of social media management platforms is gaining momentum, with many marketers reporting that they plan to add social media management tools to their arsenal this year.
- Social media ROI is top of mind but difficult to measure — clearer information is needed to support desired resource allocation.
- Social marketing budgets and resources are still insufficient, with a majority of marketers reporting that they haven’t allocated budgets to social marketing but rely on people to help whenever they can.
- Blogs, peers, and conferences are the key ways social marketers stay abreast of industry developments and best practices.