IN our previous article Go social or go home, we looked at how companies have begun adopting social media in their overall sales and marketing strategies, and noted that companies can’t afford not to have a social media strategy in today’s fast-paced, competitive business world.
Thus companies need to have a coherent and holistic social media strategy, and C-level buy-in is needed to drive such a strategy forward.
But to build a holistic social media strategy, companies need to be able to track the effectiveness of their social media activities – setting measurable goals before a campaign begins, and evaluating those goals after the campaign period.
This is often overlooked. According to a poll conducted by PwC Malaysia last year, companies in Malaysia don’t have clear strategies or formal performance measurement initiatives in place to track return-on-investment (ROI) on social media.
In its report Getting social: Social media in company, the global consulting firm noted that 69% of companies have at least agreed on goals for social media. Of that 69%, 28% have agreed on setting goals; 10% have already communicated these goals to the stakeholders; and 31% are monitoring and adapting their existing goals.
More than half (57%) of the companies surveyed don’t track the impact of their social media activities, such as sales leads or email subscriptions. As for setting social media KPIs (key performance indicators), only 27% are already using KPIs to measure how successful their social media efforts are, the report added.
Similarly, a Harvard Business Review (HBR) report sponsored by SAS Institute on Taking Social Media from talk to action noted that nearly one-third (31%) of the companies surveyed do not measure effectiveness of social media, and less than one-quarter (23%) are using social media analytic tools.
According to the report, most companies are still searching for best practices and metrics so they can understand where to invest and target their social media activities to build their competitive advantage.
Monitoring social media
Although social media metrics is still in a nascent phase, companies need to begin with the end in mind and not treat such tracking as a mere afterthought.
To do this effectively, they need to define the objectives of their campaign. Some common objectives of a social media campaign are raising awareness, augmenting sales, and changing perception.
The next step is to set goals for your campaign based on those objectives.
So if a company’s goal is to raise awareness, it would want to measure the number of people reached and the effectiveness of recall through a post-campaign survey. If it is to augment sales, the metrics would be to measure how many sales leads were generated as a result of the campaign.
To determine the success of a campaign, companies have to assess whether the goals they have set have been attained.
For example, if you spent X amount of dollars in an effort to acquire fans, how many fans did you acquire at the end of your social media campaign?
You can also evaluate the performance of the current campaign compared with that of a previous campaign (if any).
Other common measurement metrics used in social media campaigns include the number of likes and/ or followers, or the reach of your posts and clicks, assuming you are directing them to a landing page.
There are a multitude of tools companies can use to track their social media campaigns, from free online software right up to expensive paid systems. For the bare minimum, there are tools such as Google Analytics, which has integrated a section on social reports to its analytics engine. Facebook Insights, a tool built into the platform, allows users to track their Facebook campaigns.
Using these tools, a company can determine the conversion value of visitors from social media sites, as well as observe how visitors from different social media properties behave on the site. These tools also have an ‘Activity Stream’ that shows, in real time, how people are speaking about a company’s site on social networks.
Another useful tool is Hootsuite, which offers a single online dashboard to manage a company’s social media accounts, including those on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and more. The software also has its own analytic tools so that users can track various important metrics.
Other noteworthy tools are Moz Analytics, Salesforce.com Marketing Cloud, Nuvi, Local Response, Sprinklr, and Sendible. Most of these tools allow companies to extend a company’s reach in tracking outbound links, analysing data and producing reports easily.
Finally, it’s prudent to note that some tools allow companies to track KPIs in real time. What is useful is to produce reports in set intervals depending on your objective.
For instance, if a company wants to run a real-time campaign and optimise content immediately within three hours of posting, then it’ll be measuring in real time.
If it’s trying to take a longer-term view and looking at a more strategic campaign, then it should look at a monthly report.
In the end, it’s about striking a balance between usefulness and resources needed to produce the report.
Managing your social media reputation
While social media yields many advantages for companies, using it unwisely can backfire when not managed properly.
For instance, a certain mall that opened in 2012 experienced a social media disaster when complaints about its non-functioning elevators and other facilities began to mount on its Facebook page.
Instead of dealing with the issue head-on, the administrator of the page posted snarky and sarcastic remarks aimed at an individual customer, which then escalated into a full-blown backlash against the mall.
So what are the guidelines for social media use in the context of a business? Several seasoned social media and public relations (PR) practitioners offer the following guidelines:
Treat customers and/ or audience with respect and don’t hide behind online anonymity;
Look for context and don’t react to the latest comment in a discussion. Be prepared to support a case. And don’t feed the trolls (persons who sow discord, start arguments or upset people by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages on social media);
Be consistent in the answers you give your customers/ audience. Do not be duplicitous while engaging in social media, as the responses are transparent online and the one handling the responses reflects a company’s reputation and brand;
Never respond when angry. Pause and take a step back and try to understand what the audience is really trying to say as sometimes people’s haste in consuming social media posts leads to misunderstanding; and
Do not appear condescending and inauthentic. When dealing with angry customers, be sincere in your responses. When replying, always write a post as calmly as possible, as mutual respect and civility should be kept at all costs, even when two parties disagree on the issues.
At the end of the day, companies engaged in social media for any company must understand that it is a tool and an extension of their brand and reputation.
Because of its ‘in-your-face’ nature, and its immediacy, social media must be viewed as a part of a company’s PR strategy and if there are crises to manage, it must be done with managing their brand and reputation in mind.
Do this well and social media can truly be a power ally in improving the brand presence, the reputation and eventually, the sales of products and services of any company.