Originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider
How do you share insights from nine panelists spending 50 minutes discussing what works with social media? You don't. But given that I was one of the nine, I can at least share one person's perspectives, including answers to questions that weren't even asked.
Last week, I joined the Social Media Face-Off at the Direct Marketing Association's DMA:2010 conference in San Francisco. Questions were sent to panelists in advance, and after jotting down my own responses, I solicited input from my colleagues at 360i. Below are highlights from our collective answers, including invaluable input from Orli Sharaby, Christine Hsu, and Andy Amendola.
Thanks to moderator Sean Muzzy and fellow panelists Brian Solis, David Marsey, Jeff Hilimire, Michael Friedman, Avi Savar, Chris Cunningham, Sloane Kelley, and Vivek Sodera. With any luck, others among this brilliant group will share their perspectives too.
On to the questions:
1. How do you ensure you're generating meaningful insights from your social activity? Understand your goals first so you can constantly evaluate if the insights are actually meaningful. If you know what kinds of insights you need, you can create a program designed to deliver them. Look for any opportunity to provide more measurement. For instance, if you're measuring traffic coming from social channels, are you fully tracking what people are doing once they get to the landing page?
2. What is the most effective way for an organization to manage social media? First, you need buy-in from senior leadership in your organization. You also need a mix of people involved. spanning marketing (including advertising, promotion, events, and public relations, among others), research and development, customer service, web development, and human resources. Some organizations do well with a more centralized focus, such as a social media nerve center, while others spread out responsibility across departments, brands, and locations. Allocate enough resources in terms of manpower and budget.
3. Where does social best fit in terms of branding, acquisition, or relationship management? It can play a role in all three. The difference is that for relationship management, there's very little that compares with social media's depth of engagement and the power to turn consumers into advocates. For branding and acquisition, social media can play a crucial role, but there are also other effective ways to achieve results.
4. What's the best way for an organization to determine how much they invest in social media? Benchmark your own success. Keep an eye on competitors. Align spending with your goals. Since social marketing tends to be about broader programs rather than short-term campaigns, consider customer lifetime value. Also consider the cost of not having ongoing social media initiatives. As Charlene Li noted in her book "Open Leadership," "Another way to frame the issue is: What is the return on investment on your fire insurance policy? You wouldn't even contemplate going without it!"
5. How big should an organization's social media team be? What should they outsource? There's no single way to decide this. Marketers need to assess their core competencies, and then review agencies' and vendors' capabilities to evaluate what can't be done in-house and what can be done better by others. Marketers can get creative to maximize their internal resources. I heard of one national retailer that built a small social marketing team in-house by running a user-generated video contest for its thousands of employees. Hundreds of submissions came in and the few winners wound up taking on a bit of extra work for a bit of extra pay — but more importantly, because they were excited to do it. The retailer still works with agencies, though. Also important: there needs to be at least someone internally who can muster resources, set the overall direction, and bring everyone in-house and externally together.
6. What are the biggest challenges in measuring the effectiveness of social media? How can you overcome them? There is no shortage of ways to measure social media; I counted over 100. The bigger challenges are tying metrics to business objectives and aligning metrics with what marketers are measuring across all forms of media. There are a lot of ways marketers can get around this, from weighted scorecards to determining the value provided by consumers engaging in social media. All of this requires a much longer answer, so we can revisit this later.
7. How can you determine "real" business impact from social? The previous answers address this, but so does MediaPost coverage of a study from Chadwick Martin-Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies. Erik Sass wrote, "The CMB-IMRT survey found that 60% of Facebook users who are fans of a brand are more likely to recommend the brand to friends since they became a fan; the same is true of 79% of Twitter users who follow a brand. Meanwhile 51% of the Facebook fans and 67% of Twitter followers are more likely to buy a brand since they became a fan or follower."
8. If something works, do you do it again? Or do you try to create something better? A lot of social media is about persistence, so you should keep doing it if it works on any level. Test, learn, optimize, build on it, and always be iterating.
9. How can technology power the optimization of social marketing? Technology helps people do their jobs better, whether those jobs include online listening, measurement, influencer relationship management, content management, or web development. Marketers shouldn't lean on technology as a crutch, but understanding what technology can do can expand the horizons of social programs.
10. Simply put, what works? Two things: authenticity and awesomeness. The rest, as they say, is commentary.