Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Making social media pay

There’s an apparent conflict between the pragmatic and the desirable. Marketers necessarily want to be able to justify every penny they spend on marketing - especially in a recession - so there's a strong emphasis on the accountable. And then there's social media.

Everyone’s talking about the importance of social media, including channels like Facebook, Twitter, Quora and LinkedIn. The buzz has been incredible. Clearly when movies are being made about the kids who got the movement going, making billions in just six years, that buzz becomes tantalising for brands. And of course nobody wants to play catch-up, no-one wants to be the one who gets the dregs of the success that a new and revenue-generating marketing channel brings with it. Arriving just before everyone else leaves the party is low risk but delivers a very low return.

So how can you reconcile the two things, this requirement for measurable return on marketing investment, and the need to catch the wave?

This is the thinking that led Underwired, already the UK’s leading eCRM specialist agency, to try and bridge the gap between CRM, which is utterly auditable, and social media, which isn’t. To go back to the party metaphor, eCRM is like the bit where you know exactly who you’re inviting to the party and why. Social is the bit after you’ve taken their coat and they’ve entered the room. Once they are in there, all you can do is measure the noise levels (and in fact that's what Buzz Tracking or Sentiment Analysis tools do).

The new Social CRM tool that Underwired has developed actually bridges the gap. It allows you to track an individual into, say, a Facebook environment (with standard functions including Like, Share, Comment, Upload content, watch a video) and see exactly what they do. You can tell if, responding to a call to action in an email campaign, John visits your page, Likes it, comments on it, only watched half the video but sitll shares it with his facebook friends. You can then append that data back to your database, which means that you can create sub-segments of people who respond in a certain way when presented with specific calls to action, offers, promotions or choices.

From a marketing perspective it provides you with a way to further segment your customers. You can assign advocacy scores (even types of advocacy) and use that to inform future campaigns just targeting people who share your content with their friends - real fan marketing. But more importantly, it gives you the means to extend attribution into social channels. And if you can identify precisely which routes your sales came from, without having a big grey area where you’ve temporarily lost control of your customer, it means you can improve your marketing at every single step of the customer journey. Finally, it means you can assign a real value to social media - though of course while it means you can dive in with confidence, you do still of course have to dive in.