The Social Marketing Formula that Gets Results

July 14, 2015
Contributor: Heather Pemberton Levy

Use this social marketing formula to focus your strategy and reduce wasteful efforts across campaigns.

Many organizations lack a coherent story about why they’re doing social marketing or what they hope to achieve. They may began their social marketing initiatives based on the belief that social listening, sharing, or engagement is a good idea. After all, their customers hang out on social networks. Yet, many of these organizations lack a concrete thesis around why these connections or engagements are valuable, according to Julie Hopkins, managing vice president Gartner for Marketing Leaders. Their programs have grown to more networks, more resources, more content, more tools – many still without a good thesis.

Everywhere, yet nowhere

As a result,  many social marketers today maintain too many customer dialogues in too many places and too many formats, managed by too many workflows. They are everywhere, and yet nowhere, all at the same time. As a result, unless they are also relentlessly pursuing a thoughtful measurement strategy, they struggle to pinpoint the value the organization is receiving for their social marketing investments, or which social content or tactics drive results. Even marketers who have extensive dashboards to track their social activities are often long on metrics, but short on insight. Our simple formula will help focus your social marketing strategy for greater success.

Test your strategy

To succeed with social marketing, you need to be able to articulate a crisp, complete story. To test your social marketing strategy, see if you can easily complete the following formula by filling in the parentheses with the appropriate response:

"Through our efforts to engage [insert customer or prospect group] on [insert network] using content like [content type], we will be able to [insert anticipated result], which will be indicated by a change in [insert metric]."

Fill in the blanks by answering these five questions:

  • Who do you want to engage?
  • Where will you find them?
  • How will you engage them? (What will you share that they value?)
  • What will happen as a result of your engagement?
  • How will you know you succeeded?

Turn strategy into campaigns

Take these two examples of companies that identified their audiences and then explored how to engage them with compelling content.

  1. A beauty brand seeking sales might court user-generated video product reviews or usage tips from bloggers, and publish them in a common space (such as a YouTube channel or microsite), with links to purchase highlighted products.
  2. A global coffee brand wanted to increase loyalty and repeat purchases. It sponsored a series of in-person events featuring master baristas. The brand captured their expertise on video, and in a series of “how to” articles and custom recipes, that could be published and shared in multiple formats. A closed community of loyal consumers of the brand’s coffee and coffee machines finds this a valuable “perk” of ownership. Content consumption in the community translates into increased consumption of the brand’s coffee and specialty equipment.

Define success

After determining who you want to engage, where, and how, it’s important to define metrics that will tell you if your social marketing investments are paying off. Often that means avoiding easy measures of activities on your social site such as counting the number of fans/followers/likes, or simple engagement with content, in favor of more telling measures of engagement. Those metrics should link to the business outcomes you prioritized.

For example, the coffee company in our previous example would want to measure the increase in repeat purchases by customers who engaged with the barista content. To get these numbers, marketers would have to:

  • Establish a benchmark for repeat purchases before the campaign begins.
  • Connect the customer across social and commerce channels.
  • Devise a way to attribute revenue to the social channel (e.g., social-specific offer code, cookie tracking across channels, or connection back to known customer record).

While seemingly obvious, it is often amazing how often “numbers we can get to” replace “numbers we need” for insight on monthly reports or performance trackers. Social marketing frequently falls victim to this, given the ease and transparency of “countable stuff.”

Set metrics in advance to ensure that you’re not throwing good money after bad, or optimizing toward an unprofitable outcome.

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