Becoming a great social marketer requires the perseverance to go beyond easy metrics, the relentlessness to uncover the value social delivers to your organization, and the pursuit of what motivates your users.
Only 5 percent of brands say they're highly satisfied with their social media campaigns. Five percent. That's it.
That number comes from a recent survey by Ragan/NASDAQ OMX Corporate Solutions. It's no less sobering when you flip the stat: a whopping 95 percent of us are not highly satisfied with our social media.
I don't know about you, but to me, that's jaw-dropping. Something is really, really wrong here.
A closer look reveals these numbers are no accident. Specifically, there's a massive difference in the attitudes, strategies, and tactics of the 5 and 95 percent, respectively. And these differences go way beyond the usual suspects. Having the right tools, investing in basic analytics, publishing with regularity - these are just table stakes. Chances are, if you're not happy with your social, you're probably further behind than you think.
It's not all bad news, though. The mistakes many of us make in social are fixable. After all, successful social is no accident - it's the result of an intentional, strategic framework that's both scalable and accountable.
Read on for a closer look at what the great social marketers do that the rest of us don't.
Most Social Marketers: Track for Clicks
Great Social Marketers: Track for Conversion
Lack of measurement is the number one reason social fails.
The stats drive this point home. The same survey mentioned above revealed nearly 90 percent of brands measure social in terms of likes, number of followers, etc. But only 31 percent ever measure it against sales. That's absolutely jarring.
But the problem goes deeper than not measuring the right things. Most commonly, brands make two mistakes: 1) confuse reach for engagement; and 2) confuse clicks for conversions.
The first mistake is pretty easy to explain. It's about wanting to look good. You have a boss, I have a boss, we all want to report good numbers - so let's be honest: saying 10 million people could've potentially seen our latest tweet sounds a lot nicer than 10 people actually clicking on it. But potential reach, when it comes to ROI, doesn't mean much.
The second mistake gets more to the root of the measurement problem. Don't get me wrong, clicks are awesome. It's empowering and encouraging when you study the metrics and realize people are actively interacting with you. But clicks themselves aren't indicators of ROI. And for many of us, that's what matters: can I actually attribute a provable dollar amount to what I'm doing in social?
Answering that question comes down to hard work. Attributing ROI to social means you need to hustle to put the right analytics infrastructure in place. That means conversion tracking throughout your site and proper campaign IDs broken down by channel, initiative, and timeframe. And crystal-clear communication to all team members - your analytics guys, your website guys, your content guys - about where the conversion points are on each landing page and how they're being measured.
Most of all it requires the courage to say, "Clicks are not enough." I'll be the first to tell you, as a marketer, saying that can be a huge risk. Your real numbers - beyond the retweets and likes - might not be that great. But we're not paid to be safe; we're paid to deliver results. Everything we do in social is 100 percent measurable and attributable, and with the proper infrastructure, we can accurately tell that story.
Most Social Marketers: Panic Because of Low Engagement
Great Social Marketers: Uncover the Reasons for Low Engagement
The allure of social is that it's a 24/7 medium. The reality, though, is that customers aren't always available or interested in what you have to say around the clock.
It's important that we don't take this personally. I've seen brand after brand panic due to lack of immediate engagement and start resorting to desperate measures - over-posting at all hours of the day, diluting messages with cheap offers, sacrificing community-building for constant calls-to-action.
But lack of engagement doesn't necessarily mean there's something wrong with our users, or even our content. Instead, it means we've yet to truly understand what drives users' social behavior.
The only way to sustainably increase your baseline social metrics is through in-depth research and analysis. That means diving deep into all the data you have at your disposal - your social analytics, your web analytics, your publishing tool, your URL shortener, your blog stats - to uncover the what, how, and when behind user engagement. If that sounds easy, it's not. It's time-consuming. It's tedious. It's absolutely necessary.
The payoff, though, is that patterns absolutely do exist. For example, back in April we brought you the story of a social campaign dubbed #didyouseethat that ran on-site at SES NY. Further comparative analysis over the last three months revealed that visual content - photos and videos - more than quadrupled engagement over text-only posts or posts with links, but only when part of a larger on-site campaign. To test this finding, more recent versions of #didyouseethat dramatically emphasized the visual, and the move has literally paid off, doubling ROI.
Most Social Marketers: Overvalue Their Corporate Brand
Great Social Marketers: Remember Personal Brands Are at Stake
In a previous post, we explored a phenomenon known as code-switching and how it influences a foundational fact of social media: users don't interact with corporate content solely as corporate people. Instead, the way they engage with your brand is determined by a mix of both professional and personal factors.
That discussion led into another on the role of ego when it comes to social sharing. The finding: users often care more about whom they're sharing with than what they're actually sharing.
The best social marketers put all these pieces together to realize a fundamental truth: every social action is a reflection of a user's personal brand. And in the hierarchy of social behavior catalysts, there are few things, if any, that take precedence over a user's own image.
The disconnect comes when we as marketers put out what we think is a great offer or experience and forget to define what that means for the end user. For example, numerous social campaigns require users to follow, like, or post about a brand. And while it might be cool to post about a hip company like Virgin America or Fab, the same association might not apply when we're talking about a B2B software firm. That's a bit of oversimplification to be sure, but you get the point: asking users to publicly interact with your brand requires them, in some small way, to stake their social reputation. And that's not a trivial thing.
That means corporate content and social campaigns must provide an incentive or benefit to drive interaction. So play the role of critic before you go public with anything: your brand? Probably not cool enough. Your campaign? Not as great as you think it is. But use those questions to identify where you can shape social experiences that deliver a boost to your end users' own brands. That's when engagement will really start to flow.
What This All Means
More than anything, becoming a great social marketer starts and ends with hard work. That means the perseverance to go beyond easy metrics and convenient reports. The relentlessness to uncover the quantifiable value social delivers to your organization. And the never-ending pursuit of what motivates your users as people, not corporate consumers, and in turn drives the interaction and return we all want.
In that sense, the road from good to great in social - tracking conversion, diving deep into data, understanding the psychology of users and their personal brands - is actually well-marked; it's just not always paved. So yes, the journey can be a little bumpy. It might take longer than you want. But the end result - being a ROI-driving social marketer in a competitive landscape that doesn't quite get it yet - is a bankable advantage more than worth the investment.
Image on home page via Shutterstock.
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John Lee is Manager, Brand and Social Marketing at Webtrends. In 2012, he was recognized by PR Daily for creating both the year's "Best Branding Campaign" and "Event of the Year." Follow him on Twitter @lee_john.
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