What does the number of “likes” on Facebook or the number of retweets on Twitter indicate about your organizational impact? Is measuring the impact of social media really as difficult and mysterious as we all think?

The Adobe 2013 Digital Marketing Optimization Survey found that “even at organizations with revenues over $150 million, 71% of marketers agreed with the statement that ‘measuring the impact of social media marketing is very difficult.’” The survey goes on to assess that “this challenge breaks into two parts: the nature of social, and the tools we use (or don’t).”

According to the Adobe 2013 Digital Marketing Optimization Survey, social is “becoming the defining channel of the inbound marketing age” where “customers meet the brand and the closest thing to a true two-way relationship that exists online.” Social is truly not a channel that organizations can afford to ignore. Today, some would argue that social is perhaps the most vital channel for building an organization’s relational currency. If you’ve not already done so, it’s time to apply technological tools and real-time data to harness the power and impact of social.

Today’s article is the fourth in a series on Big Data and the fundamental solutions that will enable your organization to keep step with marketing and technology evolution. In part one, we looked at analytics, part two focused on target optimization, and part three explored Web experience management solutions (insert link once it posts). In today’s blog, we will explore social solutions—what they are and what they can do for your organization.

What Are Social Solutions?

1 | Powerful Tools That Provide Data and Insight

Social solutions are technological tools that offer real-time data and insights related to your organization’s interaction with social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.). This data and insight, when appropriately applied, can ultimately lead to better content marketing, customer management, and increased bottom lines. That is the ethos behind the social solutions tool.

In the “Top Testing and Targeting Tips for 2013” whitepaper, Adobe recommends adjusting “your social marketing strategy to make it as unique as your brand … Let data and insights drive your content and engagement decisions.” For example, a PC manufacturer used insights derived from social media analytics to invest in a LinkedIn campaign in order “to support sales in its educational division.” This enabled them to target IT decision makers in schools in a different way than through other channels such as Facebook. Leaders at the PC manufacturer reported, “The quality of each clickthrough was huge. (By using analytics) we could prove … that the results more than made up for what initially appeared to be a comparatively high cost per click.”

2 | Powerful Tools That Manage Content Creation and Publishing

Social solutions offer features such as posting creation and management calendars. Your teams can be better unified and synchronized as content calendars provide “holistic views of multiple social media platforms.” In other words, from one central location, you can manage your tweets (on Twitter), your status updates (on Facebook), and your postings on LinkedIn. Social solutions enable you to schedule posting times, edit content, and more. Social solutions have built in accountability measures, providing marketing teams with the ability to preview and approve content before it is released to the public.

What Can Social Solutions Do for Your Organization?

1 | Leverage Social Buzz to Increase Brand Passion

What’s the world tweeting about at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m.? If you don’t know, you should.

Twitter, like all social media platforms, is conversational. By understanding and “listening to” the ongoing conversations, you come to the discussion prepared. Social solutions “leverage social buzz insight to create and optimize content,” helping you come to the conversation with something people want to hear. Econsultancy’s “Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing: Managing and Measuring Social” points out that marketing has “historically overlooked the middle of the customer journey, where influence and research occur instead focusing only on conversions at the narrowest part of the funnel.” In other words, research reveals that organizations must pay attention to that which they have previously ignored: the middle of the customer journey, where customers are talking, sharing, and socializing via social media.

Ogilvy recently conducted a social advocacy study of almost seven million brands in four countries. The question before Ogilvy, and before marketers today, was this: How do successful organizations generate the enthusiasm that compels people to “socially share” or advocate for the organization? The study looked specifically at “passion brands” or brands that “generated more passionate advocacy than blockbuster movies.” Their research discovered two key facts: 1) “social shares drive action at a rate as high as 10x that of paid impressions” and 2) the number one driver of advocacy was product features. In other words, people couldn’t stop talking about key features such as the breakfasts at Holiday Inn and the bar and bathroom at Kimpton’s boutique hotels. Those features created an organic buzz, in turn, leading to the creation of passion brands. The natural “wow” compelled customers to market the products themselves through social media.

2 | Link Your Social Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to Your Business Objectives

How can you directly link your social efforts to your business objectives and why would you want to? Econsultancy argues, “Given that social is widely seen as integral to marketing and to business more broadly, then it deserves to be treated like any other channel, with clear-cut objectives and measures of how well they are being reached.”

Econsultancy has created a useful and practical three-stage map that helps organizations quantify and measure the impact of social on their organizational objectives. The stages move from basic key performance indicators such as number of fans (stage 1) to number of positive ratings (stage 2) to sales revenue (stage 3). The stages move from measuring volume and engagement (stage 1) to brand health and customer experience (stage 2) to the “halo effect” of social on the performance of other channels and campaigns (stage 3).

Social Solutions Are the Key to Solving the Mystery

Today, there truly is no longer any reason why organizations should dismiss social as a mystery too dark and difficult to master. As research has shown, the impact and process involved in leveraging social media is both measurable and manageable with the right social solutions.

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