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How to choose the right social marketing solution

How to choose the right social marketing solution Wendell Lansford

As a marketer, you have many options for vendors that help you manage your brand's social media presence. It's often challenging to choose the right solution in a crowded marketplace. And even once you've chosen a provider, it's difficult to assess whether you're getting enough value out of the relationship.

Today's consumer use of social media is growing rapidly, making it crucial to find a social marketing vendor (SMV) that can help you reach and convert them. The right solution will help your marketing team form stronger connections with consumers -- and leverage those connections to turn them into loyal customers.

When evaluating the offerings of social marketing vendors, it's imperative to ask: Can this solution help me take my marketing to the next level?

Evaluating social media vendors

Before you start looking for an SMV, you must decide what you want to achieve.

Some brands prefer to approach social channels like they're an extension of their websites -- where fans can browse content and make purchases. There are firms that provide content management systems that can help you achieve this by creating your own custom apps on your Facebook page. These solutions offer a lot of flexibility, bur bear in mind that they often require technical expertise. And while they can provide fun, interactive experiences, they don't always support mobile users or take advantage of the social sharing features that help branded content spread virally.

Other marketers want tools to help them grow a bigger, more active social following. There are many apps on the market that enable this through sweepstakes, photo contests, and polls -- proven ways to grow an engaged, active fan base. Look for apps that drive participation organically by making it easy for fans to share their entries and comments with friends. And for added value, seek solutions with campaign reporting on the back end, helping you analyze and optimize the performance of your sweepstakes and contests over time.

For brands that have already established an active fan base, apps like these are still ideal for continuous growth and conversions. But to stay competitive, brands also need rich social data about their fans and content. New technologies offer marketers data about how their social content performs, as well as demographic and behavioral insights into their fans. It's become increasingly important to evaluate these insights and use them to inform your marketing efforts.

How can I evaluate ongoing performance?

Once you've chosen an SMV, there are several key performance indicators that validate your decision.

The growth of your fan and follower base is a significant, tangible measure of success -- but keep in mind that it's not the only factor. Look for positive trends in your "People Talking About This" (PTAT) scores as well as your active fan base -- the percentage of your fan base that's "liking," commenting on, and sharing your content. An increase in these numbers is a good indication that you're establishing a community of current and future customers.

Another important factor to consider is whether your solution is helping you get to know your consumers better. Today's consumers are notoriously hard to persuade and retain, with a 20 percent decrease in brand loyalty over the last three years. This means that now, more than ever before, you must understand what your customers want and continuously deliver it. The right SMV should help you gain fresh insights about what your fans are interested in on an individual and aggregate level.

The most important element in evaluating your SMV is whether your solution is driving real business impact. Determine this by tracking the conversions you gain from social media, and evaluate them over time to see if they're improving. And apply the insights you gain from social data to run interest-based campaigns in other channels like email and digital advertising -- connecting with consumers wherever they are and engaging with them on the subjects they care about. Measure the results of these campaigns to determine how your SMV is helping you grow your business.

Ultimately, you must determine whether your SMV can provide value for your entire business. Look for solutions that actively drive social goals like acquisition, engagement, and conversion. Ensure that you can analyze and optimize performance. And seek solutions that offer insights into your social audience -- helping you improve marketing performance and achieve ROI.

Wendell Lansford is the cofounder and CEO at Offerpop.

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"Businessman hand drawing social media" image via Shutterstock.

Wendell Lansford is the CEO and co-founder of leading social marketing company Offerpop. Previously, he held executive leadership roles at Systinet, eGain, and Sitebridge. He holds an MS from Carnegie Mellon.

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