As social engagement increasingly infiltrates every facet of consumer life, it continues to evolve as a major component in a B2C company’s strategy. For example, during the annual review of the Super Bowl commercials this year, several commentaries suggested the best spots were those that included a social media call to action. Not surprisingly, now that social media is ubiquitous, it is time for businesses to get serious about actively measuring its impact, rather than passively listening to conversations.
Before getting too deep into the intricacies of a social media analytics strategy, it is important for businesses to step back, take a big-picture view, and remind themselves that the ultimate measure of the success of social media is an increase in sales:
- New customers
- Higher frequency of purchase from existing customer
- Longer/higher lifetime value per customer
Getting views, mentions, retweets, and likes is nice – it shows that the business has something to say and knows how to engage in the conversation. But the real question that should be top of mind: Is the social engagement leading to more sales?
Social Strategies Designed for Results
Social media strategies must be designed to eventually lead to sales if that is the desired result. This is much easier said than done in today’s highly complex social media world, particularly compared to the pre-social business days. Strategies must be developed for both proactive efforts, such as posting articles, starting and running communities, or launching a specific campaign, and for the reactive responses – actions taken in response to conversations initiated by customers. Either way, these strategies must lead to some combination of calls to a direct or indirect purchasing action.
Direct purchasing actions are those that result in an immediate sale for the business as a response to the call to action, such as purchasing/repurchasing a product or renewing a subscription. Indirect purchasing actions encourage some level of engagement with the product – trying a sample, giving feedback, etc. – that can eventually lead to a purchase.
Only after it has established results-oriented strategy should an enterprise consider initiating a social media analytics plan. Without such a strategy in place, it is impossible for an organization to determine the efficacy of its proactive efforts or the appropriateness of its reactive responses.
Social Media Metrics that Matter
The metrics that matter most are those that will help determine whether the organization is meeting outlined objectives. Some common metrics include:
- Campaign impact – Used to determine whether the campaign reached the targeted audience, their level of engagement, and their response to the campaign’s call to action
- Customer relationship strength – Assesses the extent to which customers engage with the enterprise and gains some insight into their level of loyalty
- Influencer Identification – Identifies those social media influencers who do have, or can have, an impact on your brand – and potentially sales – by leveraging their social media following
- Customer behavior prediction – Provides a sense of likely customer behaviors by analyzing trails of insight from historical social behavior
- Competitive insight – Offers insights into how consumers are responding to actions taken by competitors
Although organizations can glean some insight into reactive efforts using the metrics mentioned above, they cannot always control the social media conversation. This is where listening comes into play:
- Find the social conversations that were not initiated by the business but that are relevant to the brand – For example, non-official hashtags regularly pop up as a more organic means of conversing than the official hashtag identified by the business. If appropriate, the business should participate, when it can add value, to these organic conversations
- Determine the sentiment of the conversations – Enterprises can leverage positive comments in other campaigns and can respond appropriately to negative comments. In either case, knowing what customers think about the brand is valuable in informing future product development and marketing activities
Social media has infiltrated all business relationships, and organizations must ensure that their metrics have evolved with the market’s adoption of it. Using the number of Likes or Retweets as a success metric was not only fine but appropriate when everyone was working to figure out the appropriate way to be social. Now, a business’s investment in social media must be linked, directly or indirectly, to its ability to generate ROI. Understanding the impact on a business’s sales should be the primary objective of any good social media metrics investment.