How Social Data is Changing Marketing Research

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There is a good news / bad news situation that has been growing for marketers.

The good news is that collecting data on customers and general audiences is more sophisticated and accessible than it’s ever been. On the other hand, that’s something of a problem. It’s not hyperbole to say that most marketers are drowning in data. Even a handful of pages on a site can generate stats on total number of views, unique views vs. repeat views, time spent on page, search terms used to find the page, previous website visited, any clicks, and whether a viewer scrolls down on longer pages.

Add to that all of the paid media / ads that run on other sites, email open and click-thru rates, organic traffic on social platforms… you can see how it becomes rapidly overwhelming whether you’re a VP, director, or social media manager. Proving your worth, or as it’s often called, Return on Investment (ROI), is important but difficult.

As brand strategist and best selling author Olivier Blanchard notes:

“One of the most crucial aspects of building and properly managing a social business practice is establishing a measurement methodology that is both legitimate and credible. In order to do that, you need to focus on two basic things: First, measure what matters. Second, measure it properly.”

Measuring what matters means the difference between getting stuck on vanity metrics, like the number of followers on a given social network, or focusing on real metrics, like stickiness displayed through how often / for how long users return to the content or platform you’re building. When your data has context, and you are thinking about where it fits, that’s the type of measurement that truly matters.

In an excerpt from her recent book with Broadsuite CEO Daniel Newman, ArCompany’s CEO and founder Hessie Jones looks at how people fundamentally misunderstand what to measure in social media, and what they should be focusing on…

“Social media is unique in its benefits and provides more sustainability than most channels out there. In some cases, social media has been put on a pedestal because of the after effects we’ve seen in case studies citing “viral” activity. But to be clear, social media does NOT equal VIRAL. Viral activity is a circumstance. It cannot be planned. People who find value and interest in a piece of content will define the extent to which it gets shared. Creating that value and interest is not done based on a formula. In short, those who consume it dictate it: the customer.

So, therein lies the rub! Social media is not an ordinary media channel because it cannot be controlled at the corporate level…. but it can be maneuvered and led down an intended path if it is managed correctly.

Let’s start debunking some of these myths:

  • Social Media is NOT another advertising channel: You may decide to invest in a TV advertising campaign. Once that campaign ends, so does the expense. If you decide to invest in social media, you’re investing in relationship building. You can’t turn off social media the way you turn off a campaign. Once you start down this path, you need a commitment to nurturing it. Remember, once a campaign ends, the relationships you started do not go away. This image below says it all: Would you rather spend thousands of advertising dollars to eventually get to the potential 2% of the population who would buy your product? Alternatively, Social Media has the unique benefit of targeting consumers already talking about your brand, those that have a higher propensity to buy. The immediate relevance has the ability to spread through word of mouth recommendations.

mass marketing to social marketing img

  • Social Media is NOT the magic bullet: Social media is not the answer to all of your business problems. It is a way to build more lasting relationships with your customers. Used effectively, Social Media is a catalyst that can help optimize functions across your organization. Expect to stumble and make mistakes. You need to learn it, embrace it, and make it as commonplace as brushing your teeth.
  • Social Media is NOT immediate: Social Media takes time. If I were to parallel advertising channels to a cocktail party, Direct Mail would be equivalent to the annoying guy who introduces himself to you and starts talking about himself: “This is what I do? This is why I’m great.” You will find any excuse to exit this seemingly one-way conversation.

Social Media is like that guy at the party that concentrates the conversation on you. He may introduce himself but listens primarily about what you have to say. He manages the conversation so there is a clear two-way discussion that provides value for each participant.

  • Social Media is NOT free: It takes a lot of time and effort to build relationships with your customers. It starts with the cocktail party, the conversation and the eventual exchange of business cards. Trust needs to be built before you are given permission to start talking about purchase. Time and effort do not come free. The cost of maintaining the relationship should be equivalent to the cost of an employee’s salary and the hours spent developing this. These days, dedicated community management, content development and deployment all have costs associated with them. The real cost: human capital.
  • Social Media is NOT about the number of followers: Take this first scenario: Twitter Account X has 8000 followers, follows 10,000 people and has only 200 tweets. What this tells me: This person used some bot to game the follower base, unless there were pretty significant tweets that garnered them an incredible following…most likely NOT.
  • Second Scenario: Twitter Account Y has 2700 followers; and follows 2400 people and has 11,400 tweets. So, while Account Y doesn’t have as many followers, the number of tweets by Account Y reveals a greater level of commitment, which in turn will yield a greater level of engagement. We continuously analyze correlations between twitter posts and resulting follower behavior. We found that discussion drives follower growth. The higher the engagement level, the higher the follower growth. In fact, posting content alone did not highly correlate with follower growth. In some cases, it tended to turn followers away.

Likes, Impressions, and Follower volume are irrelevant if the quality of those elements do not provide business value.

  • On the positive side, Social Media is sustainable. We’ve stated this before and this continues to prove itself. If you are committed, if you engage with your audience consistently and add value, you will begin to see significant impact on your business. Consider the traditional campaign model: There is a direct correlation between media spend and traffic and/or sales. The image below reveals the ebbs and flows that result from paid media activity. The more media effort, the more campaign impact. The minute the campaign ends so does the consumer activity.

campaign peak img

Now imagine what would happen if you decide to continue to engage with the customer (via social media) between campaigns? The effect below reveals a continuous stream of consumer activity even after the media dollars have been expended. Paying attention to your audience and not letting the ball drop reaps tremendous rewards over time. It goes beyond a campaign. It now provides a stepping-stone to true social engagement and improved relationship management.

earned media img

When that happens, you’ll not only see your numbers soar, you’ll also see your campaign spend become more efficient.

Social Media ROI can be measured. Social Media, if done correctly, can yield results with clear attributions in a short time. Targeting the right communities with transparency and value can develop sustainable customer relationships with profitable results.

ArCompany works with C-suite leaders across the United States and Canada to align brand reputation and insights gathering so that companies can go from creating at customers to creating with them. If you’d like to learn more about working with us, say hi.

Photo credit: Popular Science – Process via photopin (license).

Joe is a product/ops guy working with the ArCompany team on content, growth, and analytics. He digs media, design, startups, data, rocanroll, anything science-y, and thinking about how to become a better human.

4 thoughts on “How Social Data is Changing Marketing Research

  1. Thanks for a great article Joe.

    I think the thought around measuring lasting relationships with customers is very interesting. There are online measurements, but I think some offline measurements that maybe can be correlated.

    Businesses I think often measure customer acquisition for ROI and maybe have an easier time with attribution to marketing, but not necessarily customer retention.

    Take a dental office for example – does customer turnover decrease, or customer frequency increase as you engage…

    • hessie jones says:

      Brent, that continues to be one of the biggest gaps in attribution today. What is th real KPI that correlates online behaviour to offline retention? We have to consider social engagement extending to ALL customer touchpoints : email, phone, the face to face connection at the dentist office. The full customer experience has to be considered. Can we somehow quantify experience and aggregate it into a meaningful measure to clearly depict churn and or loyalty? We’re getting there:)

      • Susan Silver says:

        @brentkobayashi:disqus@joecardillo:disqus@hessiejones:disqus I saw a really interesting Tweet from my friend on Twitter yesterday. https://twitter.com/rickasaurus/status/576138403915370496 . Basically, they wanted to know if a marketing offer was worth their time based on how many marketing touchpoints were involved. Something to think about when it comes to customers.

        I think the closest we have for the online/offline measurement might come from mobile phones. We take them everywhere with us when we are out and about. More things in the future will be tied to device and location for that reason.

    • Joe Cardillo says:

      I think you’re right on that Brett, and it looks different for different businesses. With a dental office for example, there is a lifetime value but perhaps the best way to keep customers and drive referrals is to simply answer the phone when someone is in pain. Most businesses I see go through the process of acquiring and then burning customers without really measuring / researching what they are doing. Part of what the best businesses do (sometimes formally, sometimes informally) is look at every aspect of experience and customers. Social data gives us a ton of access to what’s happening / what people are thinking about, but you have to have a framework to make sense of it.

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