Building the Case for a Bigger Social Media Budget

What is the value of our social communities and why should we invest more in social media advertising? Those are the two most often asked questions of marketing executives worldwide. For now, the value of one’s community is nearly always just an estimate, and advertising on social networks, despite impressive growth, can be still be seen mostly as experimental.

Many marketers remain iffy, at best, toward the current social media ad offerings. In a recent study conducted at the May 2011 Pivot Conference, just 69 percent of respondents believed Facebook’s ad offerings are “excellent” or “good.” Facebook was followed by YouTube at 46 percent, Twitter at 36 percent, LinkedIn at 24 percent, and Foursquare at 22 percent. Much of this is due to the fact, that many marketers are still unable to connect dots and tie activity back to individual customers to prove ROI.

However, if marketers are to convince executives to reallocate big budgets from traditional ad vehicles to fuel social community growth and engagement, they will need to build a much stronger story. So how do you convince the executive suite to invest more in social media and community efforts? Here are three quick tips:

  1. Track results and report incremental lift. Work with your marketing counterparts to coordinate how social media can support their existing promotions and marketing activities. Coordinate posts and tweets and track everything. Use unique URL shorteners to track program link clicks and encourage the marketing department to include tags for social efforts in order to understand the overall contribution to the program. A large CPG company I work with was able to show coordinated Facebook and Twitter posts accounted for almost a quarter of rebate requests. In addition, Facebook was second to only email in redemptions. Social community efforts are now a staple of the communication and roll-out plan for all major marketing programs.
  2. Build analogies and bridges. Let’s face it, social media is still scary to many traditional marketers. Many still don’t understand it or, more likely, are threatened by it – fearful that this new medium they know little about might just put their job at risk. This requires marketers tasked with social media responsibilities to overcommunicate and partner with traditional marketers to demonstrate it’s not either/or, but both. Draw parallels to the traditional world whenever possible and emphasize that in any emerging medium there are no experts, just students.

    In a recent client quarterly review with the marketing department, I watched the head of digital marketing compare the number of Facebook post impressions to the impressions and costs of the brand’s :30 Sunday Night Football TV ad. He then reviewed the clicks, “likes,” and comments generated from all Facebook posts and simply said, “Now let’s grow both and be sure to tag our TV ad so we can continue the conversation with football fans on Facebook.” The digital head went on to present the cost of acquiring new football fans across all digital channels. The question he left the room with was not should we invest in our Facebook community, but how do we work together to efficiently acquire and then communicate with football fans throughout the customer lifecycle? Not surprisingly the investment in building the Facebook community is expected to grow dramatically this year. For me, this was a powerful example of how packaging and presenting your success by building analogies with what is familiar can be a powerful motivator for change.

  3. Create actionable insights. This one is a bit more complex. It includes a two-phased approach. The first phase requires marketers to review their privacy policies and, if applicable, partner with a firm or work closely with IT to integrate their social community activity into the datamart. At a bare minimum, and if applicable, Facebook’s and Twitter’s APIs should be leveraged. Phase two includes building a series of reports that not only provide the marketer/brand with valuable insights, but allows the brand to take action. As an example, create a report that highlights community members who are most active and influential via their sharing. By flagging these individuals and highlighting how these segments can be used to support future programs, marketers can begin to show the value in investing in scaling these efforts.

    During a recent cross-agency planning session for a major Fortune 2000 global brand, the head of social media at my client was able to not only identify a segment within the datamart that used the brand’s specific product, but pull a sub-segment from that group that has social and sharing activity. These customers are now part of the communication strategy and will be specifically used to help build awareness and trial for a new product launch due to their demonstrated advocacy. As a result, the social media head is now inundated with requests from other brand managers to help support the launch and growth of their products as well.

Today’s tough economic times have placed a greater emphasis on marketing ROI. As experimentation with social media continues, marketers need to get serious about building the case for investing in and growing community efforts. To do so, the most effective marketers will need to not only demonstrate the incremental lift generated from adding these channels but also demonstrate how the insights gained from these channels can be used to help grow the business and results. These marketers will also need to hone their communication skills and salesmanship. To bring about the rapid shift necessary to accelerate the investment in social media at the largest brand, marketers will need to build analogies that enable traditional thinkers to understand, support, and embrace the opportunity before them.

Till next time.

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