Saturday, 9 October 2010

Short Six Steps of implementing a Social Media Strategy

This post is just to outline steps to implementing a social media strategy. For details, please check out my other posts.

1. Find out where your customers are and decide on the appropriate social media platform
2. Define goals for the social media initiative and identify metrics to measure progress
3. Set baselines to compare the before and after cases of the social media activities
4. Use appropriate measuring tools
5. Compare over-time metrics using the tools
6. Repeat and evolve the steps with changing business environment

Please leave comments, I would love for this list to evolve with feedback from readers. Thanks!

Friday, 8 October 2010

How to measure social media ROI?

This blog is a follow-up of my previous blog and aims to clarify how ROI on social media actions can be measured. I decided to write on this topic because this is one thing that worried me the most as a social media newbie. I am sure there are lots of people like me who still wonder how to formulate a proper mechanism or identify key tools to measure returns on social media investments! Measuring ROI is absolutely necessary to convince your boss that your social media strategy is working and it is generating sales in some way or the other.

On this topic, I found a very interesting video that is both informative and wittingly funny as well. Here is the video.
Olivier Blanchard Basics Of Social Media Roi

Return on Investment (ROI) is a financial term to measure financial returns. The formula for calculation of ROI is discussed in the presentation, however to reiterate, it is measured as:

ROI = Gain from Investment - Cost of Investment
                        Cost of Investment

Both financial and non-financial aspects are not easily measured. The first step before undertaking social media initiatives and in order to be able to measure the returns accurately, it is absolutely necessary to define clearly what is expected from the social media activity - is it customer engagement, attraction of new customers and so on. Once the goals are defined, it is imperative to delineate the basis of comparison, i.e. identifying baselines to compare 'before' and 'after' cases of the social media actions. For example, sales revenue before implementing social media strategy and sales revenue after.

Some useful financial metrics are YoY growth rate, sales revenue, number of transactions per month, net new customers per month and earnings per transaction. These financial metrics need to be closely coupled to non-financial measurements in order to maintain context and identify what actions are causing the change! In order to enable the social media strategy to be effective and to evolve over time, it is important to establish relationships between actions and reactions!

Some non-financial metrics, which need to be correlated with the financial results include, tracking positive or negative mentions in communities, measuring web traffic, number of comments, queries resolved, etc.

There are many nice blogs that talk about the tools to measure web traffic, and those that identify special social media mentions and perform sentiment analyses. Few recommendations include:

These Mashable blogs extensively discuss the measurement tools and which ones might suit small or big companies.

If I were to mention some well-known tools to measure web-traffic, they would be Google Analytics (is is free!!), Hootsuite, Omniture, TweetMeMe (for Retweets on twitter specifically) and PostRank among others.

For companies with more than one website, it might also be useful to use "Roll-up" reporting in Google Analytics, that helps measure an overview of all the websites! Here is a good article on Roll-ups :

Even with all the tools, the choice of useful data among all the measurable metrics and the ultimate analyses of these useful data has to be performed with the social media personnel's judgement. It may be required to gather data from multiple analytical tools into an excel file in order to make customised analyses.

So, there was a primer to start planning and measuring social media activities! I hope to write more about measurement tools in my upcoming blogs. Stay posted.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

What social media is NOT and what it is!

Social media has over the past two years grown from an experimental and anticipatory stage to a new level of adoption and acceptance from organisations across all industries. The only concern is the fact that many organisations still jump into the bandwagon - just to keep up with the "technology" without actually having a strategy. Many are not clear what what social media is and what it is capable of doing for organisations. Many still have wrong notions about social media, which I aim to help clarify through this blog today.

Let us start with what social media is not.

1. I refer to my previous blog to re-assert that social media is not just Facebook and Twitter.
Social media is not something to keep up with competitors but a new avenue to establish relationship and engage with customers. Many have the misconception that if I have a Facebook fan page or a Twitter fan following, then I have incorporated social media. This is a means of using social media, but without realising the full capability of what a social media initiative is capable of.

2. Social media marketing is not a short-term activity
It is not enough to gather fans and accumulate "likes" or followers. This traffic should not meet a dead end on the fan page. The traffic needs to be harnessed using a good social media strategy to convert it into sales and maintain customer relations. Corporate websites and social media platforms should not be independent but interlinked as a unified strategy.

3. Social media does not come for free
Yes, social media is a low cost/no cost activity. However, a good strategy needs significant manhours to achieve good results. Popular opinion says after initial set-up, dedicating about 1-2 hours everyday is essential to get good returns. Also, good measuring tools and KPIs are essential to monitor and translate effort into results.

4. Social media is not a fad anymore
Until lately, social media was considered to be a "fashion" that would fade away gradually. But with proven results and facilitation by main proponents, more and more organisations are adopting it and it is here to stay.

So, what is social media marketing?

1. Social media comprises a variety of platforms including social and professional networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, content sharing websites like Digg, Flickr, YouTube, and User Generated Contents (UGCs) like blogs, discussion boards, etc. (More on the categories in a subsequent blog)

Its a customers' era where customers are enormously empowered with social media. With customers already discussing about brands among themselves in these platforms, it is essential to monitor what good/bad is being said about the brand in these platforms and use it to improve the brand or clear misconceptions about the brand. It is a chance for brands to build on these existing platforms to reach out to the interested prospects.

2. Social media is a long term strategy
It should not be a last minute addition but a part of a marketing plan/strategy. It is foolish to follow the league without a strategy. Choice of media is very important. It is important to figure out where the target customers flock and which platform would be the most appropriate to target them. It is a long-term relationship building platform. It is a means to establish effective communication with customers and clients. It is a transparent platform, and has its downsides where users are free to posts negative comments as well. It is a platform to show customers that you care about them.

4. Social media requires time and resource commitments
Comments, feedbacks, content sharing (videos, text, pictures, etc) etc need significant time and dedication. Constant monitoring is required of what is being said about the organisation by people and to respond accordingly. Having facebook fans or twitter followers is not the end - next and a more important step is the follow-up; a plan to convert traffic into sales.

Social media marketing can help reduce marketing costs and result in higher returns and an efficient CRM system if used appropriately and with dedication. There are many case studies of social media success stories - Ford being a widely cited example. More on success stories will be covered in upcoming blogs! Watch out and please leave comments to the post.