Social media, the big umbrella of online connection networks where almost everyone can be found. People are connected to other people and brands are connected to customers. The latter is of most interest, for its benefits and ROI are often a hot topic. Is it beneficial? How should it be used to maximize marketing results? Does it maximize results? Are we measuring those results effectively? What effect are current measurement methods having? Let’s explore.
There are many reasons that prove it’s a good idea to have an online presence. According to Shea Bennett’s infographic, 2 billion people are online and 85% of customers expect businesses to have a social media presence
. Another notable infographic point is that 55% more web visitors and 67% more leads are seen by companies that blog. All points that make it clear that having an online presence is important, but how about how you use it?
PRSA’s Nicole Castro points out the benefits that brands are seeing from social media tools
. Twitter is expanding the reach of its brand pages and offering more customization of profile page headers. LinkedIn is offering up a ‘follow company’ button that can be displayed on a company’s website. Those who click on the button will receive updates from that company on their LinkedIn stream. Facebook’s Timeline for brand pages expands the concept of storytelling in public relations into a digital form of storytelling. Brands, or their PR reps, can establish a brand’s history and heritage, showcase company expansion, share awards and build a fan community. Facebook is also looking to add a wider variety of gestures, aptly called Facebook Gestures, in with its ‘like’ button that tell more about how a customer engages. However, all of these reactions and buttons don’t tell the whole story. Unless people have to perform an action like logging in to access a feature, then how can current statistics verify what its impact was? How people engaged? Or for how long? They can’t. Well, at least not fully. There are still puzzle pieces missing if we are to gain a full picture. The fact is, humans are motivated by many things and have many reasons for doing or not doing things.
Nick Sorvillo, global research head at Kraft Foods, said it best: “Of the more than 100 touch points that can influence the purchase of Kraft brands, I don’t know which five to buy. And how the five I buy will affect the ones that I don’t or can’t?” It’s hard to develop something that accurately measures such a broad concept” There’s no doubt that social media is the place to connect with consumers, but if we’re going to use social media effectively we need to know more about how it works and why.
Bob Barocci cites a leading thinker in media research, who states “The dilemma of the digital age is that so much is either not measured or measured inadequately, and yet the perception is quite the opposite. The constant stream of data points that are available today create the illusion of precision, and it is generally accepted as such”
. There are a wide range of variables in social media results, and it’s time to learn how to understand and affect them. Barocci mentions two groups that are working to get us closer to these answers. Google’s Advertising Format Impact project, which evaluates the impact of multiple video formats across multiple platforms, and Arrowhead Project, which measures the role of social media in the purchase process. It may be nice to find that trying lots of things produces results, but it’s even better to figure out what works and why. Only when we truly know and understand social media can we know where it is headed and how to direct it to produce the most benefits. Only then can social media’s full contribution be recognized.