By Mark Cameron
Conversion activity doesn’t exist in isolation, so before we dive into the details we need to go back and summarize a few key ideas.
It is important to start your journey by looking at how to define success and identifying the techniques for measuring social media activity. There are a wide variety of techniques for designing metrics that get beyond the raw numbers that many social media analytics tools can generate. There is no ‘right way’ to build a metrics framework, as it must be tailored and aligned to the business needs of the brand in question. However, having a handle on the options from the outset is essential.
Not everyone can be an influencer so it is important to grow your audience. Many brands have social profiles, but the success of those profiles can be varied. Often the reason for poor performance is that the brand doesn’t clearly state the purpose of its Facebook page or Twitter account. People join a social profile if they see value in doing so. If a person joins a page with the intention of it being a customer service channel, but gets nothing but marketing messages, then the value proposition is rapidly eroded.
It is important for brands to focus obsessively on the needs of their customers and align their social channels to these needs. Avoid setting up a Facebook page that offers a little bit of everything (customer service, marketing, corporate communication and branding for example) but does none of them very well.
One way to ensure that a social channel remains focused is to develop a content plan and engagement framework. An engagement framework is essentially a model that details how your brand should engage with your audience, and importantly what to do if something goes wrong. It also looks at the different platforms your brand is participating in and what they are designed for—allowing you to optimize the content for each of them.
The content plan is less about managing the conversation, and more about what the brand will be saying. What topics will you focus on? Which channels will have which pieces of content? What will the mix of text, video, and images look like? Who is responsible for putting it live? Like anything in the business world, sticking to a well-designed plan is a recipe for success.
The next stop in the social media ROI journey is getting social media apps up and running. Social software, like a Facebook app for example, provides benefits that simply engaging with your audience via social platforms do not. They allow you to collect vast quantities of data (such as demographics, contact info, and behavioral trends) that can be used to inform future campaigns and directly contact your customers. It is important not to ask for too much data at once when you promote an app to your market. It may be tempting to do so, but the drop off rate is roughly 10% for each field you ask for. Try staging the process instead, offering up another value proposition at each stage.
That brings us up to date with the journey as a whole, so we can now move on to discuss how we use the data that we have collected to design a conversion strategy.
Converting social media engagement is not a matter of simply putting the data collected into an email list and spamming the hell out of your audience. As you may expect, that is the fastest way to undermine all of the hard work that has gone into your activity so far. Email may be part of the picture, but so may SMS, landing pages, mobile apps, search marketing and messages via social networks. Conversion is less about an individual channel and much more about a personalized and targeted multi-channel, or omni-channel, approach.
In a study called “Multichannel Consumer Research” published in 2011 by Monash University’s “Australian Centre for Retail Studies,” research showed that consumers aged between 18 and 44 were increasingly influenced by brand messages from a wide variety of channels. In fact, the more channels the consumer interacted with, the more they were likely to spend. The study also revealed that the market is now consulting an ever-increasing number of channels for important purchases.
This change in online behavior points to the way in which consumers’ mindsets are evolving. Not so long ago, consumers knew what they wanted when they went online. They already had a good idea of what they were looking for, searched for products or services and made purchase decisions quickly. Now people take much more time browsing online, discussing what they have found and looking for referrals.
With consumers moving more of their browsing and product discovery time online, it becomes possible, and necessary, to focus on personalized communications. Most people don’t like being marketed to. Trust in advertising messages is currently way down and generic messages are increasingly getting ignored. Showing that you have spent time creating a message that is as relevant to the individual as possible creates cut through.
While this may sound like a huge undertaking, it’s actually not all that difficult. It is possible to automatically segment your database, design messages for each channel, and use dynamic content to customize the experience all through one interface. Tools like ExactTarget, a SaaS marketing automation suite, are designed to do just that.
While the social web, and the technology associated with digital marketing can be complex, generating success relies on keeping things simple. I use a framework, called “People to Purchase,” which is designed to do just that.
Grow + Engage
Build awareness by any means necessary and have a destination that is linked to social data.
Analysis + Insights
Take the data and develop insights. Create segments and work out how to communicate to them effectively.
Action + Conversion
Develop the conversion pathway that delights the audience and produces success.
There is no magic bullet in marketing. To really see a return on your social media effort it needs to be part of a much broader digital marketing strategy. In isolation you may get an engaged audience, more efficient customer service and positive brand mentions. But when it is part of a much bigger strategic approach it can easily be tied back to dollars—and ultimately, this is what every brand is looking for.
Mark Cameron is CEO and lead strategist of social media conversion and commercialization agency Working Three. While his agency is based in Melbourne, Australia, he works for some of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking brands. As a regular speaker and writer on social media and digital strategy, Mark stays focused on customers and outcomes, not the technology, leading to simple strategic conclusions.