Measure, test, and re-test
Once you've offered a few social media promotions, do a deep dive into analytics and measurement to gauge the bottom-line impact of the promotions on your overall business. You'll want to find out if your social media promotions are having a bigger impact on sales and profits than some of your other marketing programs, and whether the social channel is working to drive sales for specific product lines, but not as well with others.
Some of the basic things you should measure include how many times your promotion was shared, by which groups, and on which sites; how many times the promotion was redeemed; what increase the promotion caused in traffic to your website; what direct impact the promotion had on conversion; and what impact the promotion had on overall ROI. You should also run A/B tests on different promotions that ran during a similar time frame to see which worked better and why.
For example, did a promotion for 50 percent off drive more sharing, visits, and conversions than a two-for-one offer? Did one promotion work great on Facebook but fall flat on Twitter? In addition to simple A/B tests, compare results for social media promotions against the data from your regular marketing analytics platform to see whether your social media promotions are performing better or worse than traditional paid media marketing campaigns.
While social promotions almost always perform better than paid media ads in terms of conversion -- due to the direct, immediate, one-to-one marketing nature of social connections -- paid ads may drive a higher volume of traffic to your site, for example. With a proliferation of social media analytics tools, the social channel has become as measurable as paid advertising, so make sure you're measuring it that way. Find out the true ROI of every social media promotion, because if a direct marketing campaign like a promotion is not working to drive bottom-line profits, it's not working at all.
Already, some brands are having great success using the social channel to sell, sell, sell. For example, Dell Computers recently released the results of its social media program on clicks, site visits, and sales, and an impressive tens of millions of dollars in directly attributable sales on their site came directly from their social media initiatives.
Lastly, to achieve this level of sales success with social media marketing, you'll need the right analytics tools. Here is a list of the best social media analytics platforms available today.
- Bit.ly -- This leading URL shortening service not only compresses long URLs that lead to your site, but it also provides valuable click-through reporting for registered account users, as well as integrates tightly with Twitter. [Note: We find it particularly useful in our client programs to use site analytics-tagged URLs, compressed via Bit.ly links. The result is smaller and more user-friendly links when you syndicate invitations to visit your website via today's leading social media platforms and sites.]
- Meteor Solutions -- Meteor offers website managers the ability to integrate a small amount of Java script into their sites, then garner valuable information over time about where their site visitors are sharing what they find there via email, blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook, and anywhere else on the social media web where people share links with others to their favorite sites, products, and services. For e-commerce and lead-gen powered websites that rely on sharing for at least some of their inbound traffic, Meteor complements what your site analytics solution is already showing you by providing deep insight into when that sharing is leading to a "closed loop" of downstream clicks and site visits.
- Google Analytics, WebTrends, Omniture, and other site analytics solutions -- It goes without saying that data-driven marketers and site managers today rely on their website analytics solution to tell them which paid and social media efforts are generating the most impact in terms of referral traffic and site visits, as well as conversions or sales.
- Klout, Twinfluence, and Twitter.Grader -- Third-party technology tools like Klout, Twinfluence, and Twitter.Grader are emerging at a blistering pace. They provide free or very low-cost methods of estimating how powerful your branded, managed social media community sites and services are performing over time as you syndicate messages, deals, and content to your target audiences online. Savvy marketers are moving their customer engagement initiatives toward an "Awareness? Visits/Clicks ? Conversion" model with these tools. By using these tools, marketers can go beyond amassing friends/fans/followers to gain more nuanced evaluations of how much real awareness and engagement they are driving with their social media marketing programs. Using one or two of these emerging tools to evaluate the real impact of your social media marketing initiatives can provide valuable, complementary insight and data over your traditional analytics platform -- getting you ever-closer to an apples-to-apples comparison of how social media investments stack up vs. traditional online marketing investments such as display, search, and affiliate.
Social media marketing has moved on from the buzz-building world of yesteryear (last year, which is an eternity in the social media world!) to become a solid sales channel. Get social media promotions right, and your brand will reap the rewards: cold, hard sales.
Clay McDaniel is principal and cofounder of social-media marketing agency Spring Creek Group.
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