In short, over the last 12 months, social media has moved from an "end" to a "means." For most organizations, this meant a change in the standards used to evaluate their social strategies. Digital marketers could no longer flash auto-generated reports from their social dashboard of choice at weekly meetings, highlighting the psychographic buckets of their Facebook fans or the number of comments on their page or, yes, even the week-to-week increment in Facebook "likes."
A renewed focus on connecting social to other digital data touchpoints emerged, as evidenced by the number of startups and digital agencies rebranding and adopting social CRM as part of their value proposition, as well as the acquisition of social marketing platforms by CRM companies (i.e. Buddy Media by Salesforce and Vitrue by Oracle). The reconfiguration ultimately benefited the brands. But a new problem arose, namely understanding what exactly social CRM meant and how it tied to a sensible ROI metric -- if at all.
Thankfully, a few trends and best practices ultimately surfaced.
Social moves away from a mass media model to a more targetable medium
Two market winds propelled this new course. First, social CRM matured from solely customer relationship marketing on a Facebook or Twitter brand page, for instance, to customer intelligence informed by users' social profiles. Soon, the view through the social lens amplified, and the focus moved from broader conversations occurring on the brand and product level to more actionable customer-level analytics. Who is my customer online? What is the profile of my customer offline? What are their interests? Who are their friends?
Secondly, the release of social ad exchanges like FBX and Custom Audiences established social as a targetable medium on par with, if not stronger than, other ad exchanges on the web. Advertisers could retarget users with media enriched by the customer intelligence matched from both online social and offline profiles.
Social silos cease, as social teams within organizations begin integrating with digital and CRM teams
Intra-organizational walls between social, digital, and, even to a degree, CRM teams began to collapse. Here too, market advancements like FBX created incentives for organizations to "tear down these walls." Incentives came in the form of stronger prospecting and higher ROI on media spend, resulting from tying CRM profiles to the social and digital profiles of customers for retargeting them directly on Facebook.
The continuing convergence of earned and paid media through Facebook Sponsored Stories also brought together digital and social teams within organizations. A social marketer managing a brand's Facebook page now had to work directly with the digital media team in order to increase the viral reach (as opposed to organic reach) of the Facebook page's stories by buying sponsored ad inventory on Facebook. For retail companies, e-commerce managers suddenly had to justify the presence of "like" and "want" buttons on their product pages by working directly with their digital acquisition teams. Together, they forecasted the return on paid media Sponsored Stories. Budgets were spent on targeting friends of users who "liked" products on the e-commerce site using Facebook ads, in hopes of activating a word-of-mouth cascade.
Tighter, more precise measurements are used for gauging social performance
With standards higher and the bar of expectations suitably raised, the same old social metrics simply could not fly. Buoyed by the communication now trickling between CRM and social teams, transaction and conversion events were traced to the social event that precipitated them. A user who "liked" or shared a certain product could be traced to the friend who clicked the shared link and ultimately to the transaction that resulted.
Klout scores became only one of many nodes by which to measure influence. A user's retweet rate within his circle of followers was interesting to be sure, but that same user's tweet to purchase rate within his circle of followers was suddenly more interesting.
And finally, approved third-party pixels on Facebook media opened the channel for measuring post-view conversions and comparing social ad spend on a more equal footing with RTB.
Facebook Open Graph adoption increases, as brands seek to extract the benefits of social personalization on their own properties and understand their customers better
By some accounts, Facebook is approaching 50 percent of all social logins on websites. The growth in not only Facebook as a login service, but also of "like" buttons and other third-party social buttons on pages has fueled the growth of Open Graph. Here too, Facebook Custom Audience provides a powerful benefit that will sustain this trend. The ability to retarget socially registered users via their Facebook user ID on a one-to-one basis inside Facebook (and in only a matter of time across the web) is unprecedented and will have serious disruption effects on traditionally bought media that utilize cookies to target users. And although Facebook Custom Audience also allows for email and phone number matching, those match rates pale in comparison to the absolute key of a Facebook user.
The brands that invest in bringing social login or personalization capabilities to their owned properties will have greater reach (a larger universe of social registrants and prospects consisting of registrants' friends) to target with this new, more precise ad media. The result is a more joyful acquisition team that can purchase audience with eyes wide open and ROI that will be better for it.
Matt Sunbulli is cofounder and CEO of Social Amp, a Merkle company.
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