Traditionally, consumers used the Internet to simply expend content: they read it, they watched it, and they used it to buy products and services. Increasingly, however, consumers are utilizing platforms—such as content sharing sites, blogs, social networking, and wikis—to create, modify, share, and discuss Internet content. This represents the social media phenomenon, which can now significantly impact a firm’s reputation, sales, and even survival.
Marketers certainly know what social media is about. After all, if Facebook users constituted a country, it would be the world’s third largest, behind China and India. Marketers can even claim to know what makes social media so potent: its ability to amplify word-of-mouth (WOM) effects.
Yet the vast majority of marketers have no idea how to harness social media’s power. Companies diligently establish Twitter feeds and branded Facebook pages, but few have a deep understanding of exactly how social media interacts with consumers to expand product and brand recognition, drive sales and profitability, and engender loyalty.
Marketers know that theoretically, social media should be a powerful way to generate sustainable,positive WOM. If they can only select the right social media platform, design the right message and engage the right users to spread that message, their campaign should be a success. But until now, that’s been a big if.
We believe there are two interrelated reasons why social media remains an enigma wrapped in a riddle for many executives, particularly non-marketers.
The first is its seemingly nebulous nature. It’s no secret that consumers increasingly go online to discuss products and brands,seek advice, and offer guidance. Yet it’s often difficult to see where and how to influence these conversations, which take place across an ever-growing variety of platforms, among diverse and dispersed communities, and may occur either with lightning speed or over the course of months.
Second, there’s no single measure of social media’s financial impact, and many companies find that it’s difficult to justify devoting significant resources—financial or human—to an activity whose precise effect remains unclear.
This article discusses a framework to improve your social media ROI.
A Framework for Social Media Marketing:
1. Monitor the conversations.
By monitoring brand-related conversations that are happening in the social media platforms, businesses can gain access to valuable information, influential people and relevant conversations that already show engagement with the brand.
2. Identify influential individuals who can spread messages.
Companies can use the data to identify a pool of influential individuals (we refer to them as “influencers”), some of whom might be induced to spread the “right” message, from the company’s perspective.
3. Identify the factors shared by influential individuals.
Next, companies should find commonalities among the candidates and create profiles of typical influencers. Creating such profiles prepares businesses subsequently to locate all the influencers relevant to their campaign and design ways to encourage those influencers to talk about the company’s products or services.
4. Locate those potential influencers who have interests relevant to the campaign.
To find potential influencers for a particular social media campaign, it is not enough to identify social media users with influence; instead, a company needs to identify those influential social media users who are particularly interested in the company’s category of goods and services. To do this, you need to measure the degree of WOM generated by a particular user on a given topic — essentially, how much of a user’s discussions via social media are about a particular topic. This metric can help businesses locate the individuals who not only have influence but also like to talk about a particular product category.
By identifying influential individuals who are especially interested in their product categories,marketers can go beyond simply listening” to conversations on social media platforms and actively identify potential brand ambassadors.
5. Recruit those influencers with interests relevant to the campaign to talk about the company’s product or service.
Once a company has identified influential users who are particularly interested in the company’s product or service category, the next step is to enlist those influencers in the company’s social media campaign or campaigns to spread positive WOM. This can be achieved by developing interactive online content and designing ways in which influencers can promote positive WOM that can be tracked and measured, such as through online games.
6. Incentivize those influencers to spread positive WOM about the product or service.
By incentivizing influencers to create buzz about their products or services in a social media campaign,businesses can both retain customers and attract prospects. The incentives offered to influencers can be tangible (such as discounts or freebies), intangible (such as recognition in a social network) or both.
7. Reap the rewards from increasingly effective social media campaigns.
By taking the above steps, businesses can more accurately measure the performance of their social media campaigns. By monitoring and tracking positive WOM and linking it to product and brand growth, businesses can develop more effective social media campaigns — and should, as a result, start to see enhanced financial performance, more customer engagement and increased brand awareness.