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.