With social media emerging in the forefront of modern advertising, it seems like all the old companies are re-learning the basics of sales and marketing. How do I identify potential customers? How to I find my target audience? How do I gather valuable analytics? How do I build the client's trust and keep it? Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter are changing the way marketing and advertising specialists are asking these questions.
During a recent interview with Jim Sterne, the esteemed author of "Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment," he talked extensively about the application of established marketing tactics to today's media.
While he acknowledges that social platforms have redefined the parameters for outreach and promotion, he also suggests that companies "use old-school sales metrics to track effectiveness of social." It all comes down to identifying your goals and key performance indicators (KPIs), two concepts that, at first glance, seem very similar. Some might argue that the terms are interchangeable, but a successful marketing initiative leaves goals to encompass the big picture while KPIs plot out specific, measurable steps along the way.
Step 1: Social listening
The first step is to determine what room your product or service has for growth. Who is interested in what you have to offer? Find a way into the existing discourse related to your industry. Is your company or product a part of this conversation? If so, how much? And how much in relation to your competitors?
All of these factors are important in finding your potential for growth. That gap between you and your competitors, all of those potential buyers that are interested in your product but don't know anything about it -- they will be the key to everything. Taking those leads and turning them into clients should form the foundation of your marketing initiative and frame your goals and KPIs.
There are many tools available on the market focused on social listening. HootSuite and TweetReach are just a few of the free services offered online, but for an intensive campaign, it could be worth it to invest in a higher end service like Sysomos or Brandwatch, which were both ranked in the top 10 social media monitoring tools of 2014.
During your social listening research, the first goal is to identify how much people are talking about your brand, your competitors, and your product or service in general. If your product or service is immensely popular, and there are countless mentions about your competitors but not your company, obviously there's a massive opportunity to enter the space and gain market dominance.
Step 2: Sentiment analysis
You might've heard the phrase, "There's no such thing as bad press." Take this advice and throw it out. Bad press can absolutely kill your brand, especially in the realm of social media. Purchasing patterns are changing irrevocably, with consumers researching products and services on social media. Social sentiment toward your brand can be the determining factor for increasing sales.
As part of your social listening process, the next stage is to track all mentions of your brand across the social web and tag them as negative or positive. This may sound like a pretty simple task, and most social listening tools even offer algorithms for streamlining this process, but this isn't the job for a computer alone. There is too much subjectivity inherent in human emotional responses to make this a numbers game.
"Sentiment analysis has to be performed in conjunction with humans, because of jargon and language," says Sterne with regards to these tools. "If [the product is] 'sick' for skateboarders, this is positive sentiment. If the word 'sick' is applied to a product for infants, the connotation is completely different. The analysis requires human intervention to teach the machine what's good or bad."
Knowing where you stand is essential for figuring out where you can go. In some cases, if your product has developed a poor reputation or alienated large customer demographics, the next step of the growth process may be rebranding and starting your social marketing campaign with a fresh face. If the sentiment is overwhelmingly positive, then capitalize on that by increasing your ad spend and marketing initiatives.
Once you've finished sentiment analysis, you're ready to return to the most crucial step.
Step 3: How to influence behavior on social media
Social listening will help you find your footing in the marketplace. Sentiment analysis will help you understand how people perceive your brand. The third stage is to determine how you want to influence those numbers.
Do you want to increase the number of people talking about your brand? Change the sentiment from negative to positive? If the sentiment is positive and you know your product sells well, how can you increase exposure?
Having determined opportunity gaps, you need to come up with a strategy for marketing initiatives. These marketing initiatives will be heavily influenced by your goals developed through research. Your goals, in turn, will help determine the KPIs that will be used to track the effectiveness of your campaign.
For example, an internet retailer like Shopify may want to increase exposure to its POS software:
Goal: To increase signups for POS software.
It's a broad target, an increase in revenue. There's no mention of specific strategies, audiences, or even the platform through which the campaign will be executed. That is reserved for the KPI. With this goal in mind, here's what a strong KPI might look like:
KPI: Draw in 50,000 clicks to the site through Facebook contest promotions each month, targeting software developers and web-based entrepreneurs who have expressed interest in upgrading to an integrated online shopping cart with retail commerce capabilities, with a budget of $10,000.
Sterne cautions internet marketers to keep their KPIs aligned to their specific goals. He says, "You can get a million 'likes,' but if it doesn't sell more stuff, there's no purpose." In the example above, "likes" alone would not have an effect on hardware sales, which is why the KPI must focus on clicks to site instead, with an ad campaign that encourages active engagement from participants.
Step 4: Execution and tracking
Once you've finished establishing your goals and KPIs, the hard work is behind you. If the first three steps are carried out with detail and precision, this last step is simply an exercise in market analytics. The results will tell you if your research and goal-setting were effective, or if you need to go back to the drawing board.
How you track your KPIs will be different based on the specific KPIs used. If your goal was to reach a predominantly female audience between the ages of 35 and 55, you may decide to create a marketing initiative centered on Pinterest. The goal will be to build a large audience for your brand on Pinterest. The KPI would then be to gain 5,000 followers in the first three months of the campaign by adding 50 pins a day, following new users daily, and engaging with Pinterest power users. You can then use a tool like the Tailwind app to measure the growth of your campaign.
You might also benefit from revisiting the social listening tools at this stage in your marketing initiative. These social listening tools can help you monitor the increase in mentions of your brand, and of course, sentiment. Once again, you're just watching how your target audience behaves, but now all of that activity is directly tied to your social profile, your website, and your product.
Same strategies, different platform
As much as things have changed since the advent of social media, Sterne is quick to remind us that "the internet has always been a social medium," citing email and instant messaging as the initial sparks of growth in internet users.
While the way businesses organize and analyze market data may have evolved, the core practices of research, outreach, and reputation management operate on the same basis that they always have. Having clear strategies for connecting marketing initiatives to detailed KPIs can fine-tune your campaigns to guarantee success.
Does your business already align KPIs to marketing initiatives? What tools do you use for measuring social media metrics?
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.