Measure 110% to Reach the 1% of Audience That Matters

Social media is changing the way businesses can, and must, engage with their consumers” (Powell, Dimos, Groves, 2011, p. 39). The audience is the most important aspect of developing a social media program and they can be categorized into three levels: influencers, individuals and consumers. Objectives must be set to attract these audiences by understanding what appeals to them, when and where. They should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) such as “Shift brand perceptions to a more youthful image to drive product consideration and lead generation on the brand website 5% by the end of the program”.

Once social media program objectives are set, key performance indicators should be attached to each one to monitor level of success. Measurement is essential to the overall marketing effort and determines what is worth the investment. Metrics such as overall sentiment, impressions, reach, likes, shares, video clicks, retention rate, engagement rate, website traffic, @mentions, hashtag use and even attendance rates at events or stores should be tracked. Online vendors such as Radian6, Adobe Social, Hootsuite, Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, etc. can assist in monitoring and tracking total engagement. Davis (2012) indicates that different campaign metrics should be used to match objectives:

  • If you want to measure awareness, use metrics such as volume and reach.
  • If you want to measure engagement, use metrics such as retweets and comments.
  • If you want to drive website traffic, use metrics such as clicks and conversations.

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For monitoring of an ongoing campaign, there needs to be constant checkpoints. I’d recommend tracking activity weekly and comparing it week-over-week. Davis (2012) states, “Depending on your schedule, monthly or quarterly reporting may work best, but weekly reporting may work well for others. No matter the schedule, make sure you’re checking in regularly on your metrics”. Weekly frequency will easily allow the company to modify posts accordingly so as to have a better impact moving forward increasing the likelihood of campaign success. For example, if your campaign is a concert series with messaging driving ticket sales, and the tickets sell out sooner than expected, the messaging strategy must now change to drive awareness and excitement. When reporting, it’s important to compare the numbers to what you expected to achieve by this point in the campaign and how they relate to competitors or benchmarks. The top line question should ask how the campaign is moving the needle for the company.

Some longer-term metrics that can impact major shifts in future strategy include amplification rate (number of times a piece of content is shared) and conversion rate. The amplification rate long-term will tell a company what content works best. With the right demographic data collected it can also indicate which groups are most likely to share to better utilize virality for the future. Conversion metrics categorized by lead generation or sales is a long-term signifier if the social strategy is gaining enough ROI for future investment. Warren (2015) states, “Metrics are not just a tool for observing what is, but for exploring what could be”.  What could be is that social media campaigns drive more sales than any other media spend. The trick is to figure out how based on tracked and monitors online behavior over time.

Social media metrics is a dream come true for marketers and managers because it allows the customer to tell you exactly what like want and what they like. No more money wasted on guess work. A key rule of thumb to note is the “90-9-1” ratio which indicates that 90% of visitors will consumer content, 9% will engage periodically and only 1% will drive the conversation. The challenge will be in converting more of the 90% to that 1% as brand advocates. As Powell et al. (2011) states, “the ability to get their [audience] attention of a particular brand is only going to get harder and harder” (p. 36).

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Publically Safeguarding Private Data

Where social media bring benefits, it also brings risks. Acceptable online social behaviors are subjective and as companies increase their social media interactions, so too raises associated privacy and ethical concerns.

A key component of all social media campaigns is to ensure your content is directed to the right audience via such targeting demographics as age, sex, location, income, job industry and interests. Madden (2014) states, “Social security numbers are universally considered to be the most sensitive piece of personal information, while media tastes and purchasing habits are among the least sensitive categories of data”.  As indicated by the below chart, physical location, health information, private phone and email messages, and birth date are some of the top sensitive issues and I will add income as data in need of protecting.

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While 55% of Americans are willing to share information in order to use online services for free, the rest have concerns with the protection of their privacy. Madden (2014) continues, “Across the board, there is a universal lack of confidence among adults in the security of everyday communications channels”.  The Cisco 2013 Annual Security Report adds “the highest concentration of online security threats are on mass audience sites, including social media”. In order to get customers to engage with social platforms, websites, mobiles apps or online program offerings, companies must put into place safeguards that reassures privacy, security of information, and builds trust. Such next steps include:

  • Allowing individuals to set their own privacy settings and defaulting any platform updates to the highest of privacy settings.
  • Ensuring that their information will not be sold or shared with third-parties.
  • Evaluate data encryption processes and data loss prevention technologies to ensure they are secure.
  • Make transparent your use of their information by posting policies as well as the data protection technologies that are being used to safeguard the information.

If these steps are not taken, companies are at risk for a breach of company trust and confidentiality, loss of brand reputation, online brand defamation, and attacks and law suits aimed at the company, just to name a few. It is highly recommended that companies build strong social ethics policies and guidelines that are not only distributed company-wide but also followed. Appoint a team to monitor and audit online social behavior. Build a culture where social behavior online is just as important as offline. In fact, if everyone on the team has a say in developing the policies, they may be more likely to be followed.