Building Your Insider’s Club

At a certain point in my career, I was asked to conquer the social sphere, for two basic reasons: almost everyone was in it, and almost every business was doing it. As I made my way through the maze of social networking, I developed basic metrics for assessing return on investment, return on time, and return on effort. These three practical metrics – engagement, cost reduction, and increase in attributable revenue – can clearly show how successful your social media campaign is.

Metric 1: Engagement

One of my clients is a cataloger that incorporates four social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a blog. Together these channels form what I call an insider’s club, or a group of people who care about your brand. These people tell you what is right, guide you when you are wrong, and stand up to support your brand. These are brand ambassadors and people who will answer questions from other consumers.

Facebook is the digital living room where friends hold conversations on a variety of related topics. Twitter is the means to spread the word and search for new fans. YouTube is the outlet for related industry videos, product demonstrations, and videos from members of the club. The blog serves as the social channel “residence” by incorporating all of these tools and content.

I begin by writing an article for the blog that includes both a video and a picture. Next, I post the picture, a snippet from the article, and a link to the entire article to my Facebook page. I then solicit feedback from my friends. The three types of feedback, in order of weight and importance, are comments, votes, and likes.

Next, I post the article on Twitter with a little twist. Rather than posting the article’s headline with a link, I take about 80 to 90 characters of useful information plus the link to the rest of the article. My goal here is to generate re-tweets that drive people back to the original article on my blog.

My success with YouTube videos is measured in very simple terms: views and views with comments. In my point system, I give one point for a view and 20 points for a view with comments.

My blog metrics are simple, too: total views, number of shares, and the amount of comments.

I measure success in two ways: first, by the positive change in the number of friends, followers, or clicks; second, by the amount of interaction.

Metric 2: Cost Reduction

A banking client of mine hosts monthly seminars on financial best practices. Promotion for each seminar costs $4,500 and includes direct mail and two local newspaper ads. Each seminar usually hosts 200 customers and requires six weeks of promotion.

One month we tried using the web to get people to the subscribe page. We wrote an article about the event, showed pictures from past events, and included three short videos from the featured expert. Next, we spread the word through Twitter and Facebook, and offered our potential attendees an opportunity to ask questions of the expert.

Every week, we answered three questions through the blog or YouTube and featured this interaction on all of our social media channels. We asked people to vote on the best question and rewarded the question with a $25 gift certificate. We announced a winner each week, but gave the certificate at the event. Thanks to this dialogue, our upcoming event attracted a lot of attention and pre-registered attendees.

Digital marketing took the same amount of time and effort as direct mail did. Tracking the results of our ongoing engagement in real time allowed us to adjust our campaigns and get to know our seminar attendees before they even walked through the door.

Our only cost to market the event was $100 in gift certificates. We ended up saving $4,400 per event! My approach to cost reduction is quite simple. I keep looking for expenses that I can reduce through the systematic application of social media.

Metric 3: Increase in Attributable Revenue

My good friend co-owns Guglee, an Indian restaurant in London. He and his brother are passionate about offering superb food and service. Their approach to social media is very practical. To them, social media is worth doing only if it gets people to come to their restaurant.

They engage their customers via a simple survey on their social media channels. They use social media to remind consumers about special events. They utilize YouTube in a straightforward way: first, they explain their dishes so that consumers will feel comfortable ordering the exotic fare. Second, they choose their words carefully and deliver the message in an engaging way to coax consumers into visiting the restaurant. Third, they make the video trackable by coming up with unique names for their dishes and asking consumers to request those dishes. The cycle continues as they ask for feedback through their social channels.

You have to be able to drive attributable revenue through social media. Develop unique words, trackable links, or coupon codes with which you can measure redemption.


Social media is about making people-to-people connections, saving money, and driving attributable revenue. The monetizing bit makes it practical. You have to track and measure your efforts effectively in order to successfully create your insider’s club.

This column was originally published in SES Magazine, Chicago 2011.

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