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Social Media: What Should I Measure?

15 Mar

Social Media: What Should I Measure?

Last week I wrote about what I think you can expect in terms of ROI on a social media strategy. This week, I want to focus on what you should be measuring to gauge the productivity of your initiatives. These are not hard and fast rules, but more my personal preference of metrics.

BLOG

Your blog should be your hub, your epicenter. It’s the soul and personality of your business. In addition to being the most effective place to create and share content, it will also boost your domain rank in search results on sites like Google.

Measuring your blog is fairly straightforward. I use Google Analytics and keep monthly tabs on things like pageviews, visits,  and time spent on site. Also, look under the “content” section in GA to see which of your posts has had the most impact in terms of pageviews and average time on page. My analytics tell me that “Bad Emails Killed the Radio Star” has been my most popular piece of content so far, but people spent the most time (five minutes and 40 seconds) reading “Driving Traffic to Facebook.”

Next, I look at where my traffic is coming from. Right now, 30.41% is direct traffic, 56.43% is from referring sites and 13.16% is from search engines. Of those referring sites, Twitter and Facebook are my top two traffic generators.

Finally, I look at how I’m doing this month compared to last month. Google Analytics tells me I’m up 19.51% in total traffic.

TWITTER

Twitter has been my most popular referral engine for my blog thus far – I can see that from Google Analytics, but what else can I measure in Twitter? First off, I look at how much my community is growing. Are people following me on a regular basis? Is my number of followers going up and not down each month?

Next, Let’s take a look at Twitter engagement. How many people are clicking on links that I Tweet? A great way to measure this is by setting up a free account at Bit.ly. It will tell you how many people have clicked on a particular link making it easy for you to measure how far and wide your content is traveling. Beyond clicking, how many people are re-tweeting your content? Are you creating #hashtags? Are people picking them up and using them?

Twitter can be measured and quantified in a variety of ways. These are just a few of the metrics I look at to make sure my Twitter mojo for my own brand is moving in the right direction.

FACEBOOK

More and more data is emerging that Facebook may not be the best place to interact with consumers. Sure, it’s the largest social network on the planet – by far – but new studies suggest that users don’t necessarily want to interact with brands there. Instead, they see Facebook as a place for interaction with “real” friends and family. That said, I think there is still value in participating there if you’re a business.

How do you measure it? The most comprehensive way is to use Facebook Insights. In addition to tracking obvious things like the number of fans your page has, you can also use Insights to look at Interactions, Post Quality, Page Views, Media Consumption, Discussion Posts and Demographics. Essentially , if there is a stats that has some meaning to your campaign effort, Facebook Insights can probably help you track it.

If Insights is a bit much for you, try looking at simpler things like friend / fan count month over month. Is it increasing at a rate that is meeting or exceeding your stated goals? What about interaction and engagement – are friends and fans commenting on your content and status updates? Are you engaged and commenting back?

YOUTUBE

YouTube is a tricky social media platform. Sure, it has become the defacto standard for online video, but most companies still don’t know how to properly use or measure it. My preference is to not drive traffic to my YouTube.com channel. Instead, I embed my videos on my blog and send traffic there. Why encourage interaction and comments on YouTube’s site, when I can provide a richer experience for users on my own web property?

So what should you measure to gauge YouTube’s effectiveness? I’ll admit that this one is a bit trickier. It’s hard to measure much more than total video views and comments. I think the more valuable metrics when assessing a YouTube video’s success are the ones surrounding the other channels in the social media wheel. Embed the video on your blog and use Twitter and Facebook to distribute it. Then, look at the metrics we’ve outlined above to track the efficacy of that particular piece of content. You’ll get a more comprehensive set of data points.

The other really great thing about using YouTube is the SEO benefits it provides. As we all know, ranking for almost any text keyword is extremely difficult. Getting on the first page of Google for almost any subject is nearly impossible. But, Google is always trying to find a way to feature video items in search results. So, while you may not rank on the first page for text-based keywords, you might be able to get prime placement for a video you created that was tagged and described properly for those competitive terms. The reason? While everyone is out there fighting over text-based results, very few companies are creating relevant video clips thus the competition for those video placements is far less. Obviously, applying some sort of metric and goal around that concept will legitimize your use of YouTube in your social strategy in a big way.

TIP OF THE ICEBERG

Obviously there are hundreds of other social tools I didn’t touch on in this post. I also only scratched the surface of what you can be doing to measure the effectiveness of a social media campaign. For companies that want to really drop some cash and dig into the depths of social media measurement and reporting, there are products like Radian6 that are geared towards enterprise level clients that need more extensive data at a more granular level. While I understand the need for  Fortune 500 companies and the like to go to such lengths to report on such a large component of their marketing budget, I think the tips outlined above should get the majority of you started on planning and launching the first stages of your social media campaigns in a manageable and affordable way.

Increasing Revenue with Social Media?

8 Mar

Increasing Revenue with Social Media?

I pitch to a handful of new clients each week. Some already understand they need a social media strategy, but for a variety of reasons they’ve been unable to implement it on their own. Usually it’s because they don’t have someone on staff that understands the intricacies of new media and they would rather roadtest a lower-risk campaign with an outside contractor rather than hire someone full-time to create and implement their strategy. That’s where I come in to help.

The question I’m asked most of the time on the first phone call is “How much will this social media campaign increase my revenue?” Or, they phrase it another way, usually something like “If we see financial gain from this in the first month or two then we’ll continue it indefinitely.”

This is where I close my eyes on the other end of the phone, calm myself and politely deliver the response that I’ve delivered a thousand times before. I explain that it doesn’t work that way – social media is not a quick fix to increase sales. In fact, if that’s your only objective then the money you’ve earmarked for a new media campaign would be better used on search or affiliate marketing. Both of those channels are optimized for sales and have a proven track record in increasing revenue. Social media, not so much.

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT FROM SOCIAL MEDIA?

For many potential clients, the call is over after I finish explaining the points noted above. For them it was only about short term sales and if that isn’t possible, there was no point in spending money on all that new-fangled Twitter stuff. But occasionally, I talk to a client that gets it. They understand that social media is an investment in their brand. Below I’ve outlined four things that you should care about when envisioning your social strategy:

1 . RELATIONSHIPS: Social media’s biggest benefit is its power to help build lasting relationships. Sure, you may not make a sale in the first month or the second month – but someday when a member of your social community is in the market for your product, chances are they will buy from you as opposed to your competition. Why? Because you took the time building a relationship, sharing information, offering knowledge and not being sales-y. Chances are they trust and respect your brand and making a purchase from you is an obvious choice. Heck, even if they don’t buy something from you, if you’ve made an impression on them they are likely to share information about your business with their social circle. Nothing beats that trusted recommendation.

2. LISTENING: Most businesses using social media miss out on this one, yet it can be one of the most valuable tools you have in your marketing arsenal. Companies pay thousands of dollars for focus groups and market research – social media has these things baked right into it. By monitoring your social channels for industry keywords and your business name you can learn a lot about what the marketplace is saying about you. What do they like about you? What can be improved? What products do they want that you’re not providing? How much is that information worth to you?

3. CUSTOMER SERVICE: Social media has become a great way to provide excellent customer service to your customers. Companies like Comcast were pioneers in using Twitter to address customer issues. This not only led to Comcast’s search results becoming more positive, but also changed the dynamic of the company. Consumers have become increasingly vocal in social media when they like or don’t like what a brand is doing. These present new opportunities, not only for a business to get involved in the conversation, but also to right any wrongs that may have been done. As a bonus, by keeping your ear close to the ground and monitoring keywords from your industry you may be able to step in and help a disgruntled customer of one of your competitors. How’s that for new customer acquisition?

4. THOUGHT LEADERSHIP: This is usually the fuzziest item of the bunch for most businesses to understand in terms of need. Many businesses simply don’t believe that a blog (your platform for thought leadership) is a must have. I’m here to tell you, it is. Sure, if you’re Coca-Cola you probably don’t need to become a thought leader in soft drink space. But if you’re a business trying to stand out from your competitors, thought leadership is a great way to do it. The best way to build trust in your brand early on is by showing the market that you are an expert in your market segment. The best way to show them that is by creating content: blogging, video, audio podcasts and white papers are all great ways to demonstrate that your people know what they’re talking about. Creating this type of dynamic and shareable content also increases your SEO juice around keywords you care about.

SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE

Social media is not a sprint. It’s not a quick fix. It is an undertaking that has to be integrated into your overall marketing strategy in a thoughtful way. It demands buy-in from the highest levels of the organization and requires genuine intent and transparency from all those participating in the project. I believe eventually a great social strategy does lead to an increase in revenue, but it shouldn’t be the primary goal. Instead focus should be placed on the longterm growth and health of your brand by being cognizant of the four tenets listed above.

Do you coordinate the social strategy at your company? How long have you been doing it? Was it hard to get buy-in? Does executive management see the value in it?

Has Engagement Shifted?

24 Jan

Has Engagement Shifted?

Over the last year or so I’ve noticed a trend throughout the blogosphere – including my own media properties. People don’t seem to be commenting on blogs with the frequency they once did. For example, my radio show American Cliche used to get anywhere from 10-25 comments per episode. Now, I’m lucky if I see 2 or 3. Why? My analytics tell me that the audience is still there, but they’re just not commenting. Have I done something differently to cause this?

It’s also occurring on this blog. I have several posts with numerous “reactions” but not a lot of comments. Take a look at the post I did about Van Halen – it was retweeted a bunch of times, but not commented on by anyone on the blog. By all accounts it is the most successful post I’ve done here to date, but what do the lack of comments mean?

My research and personal experience tells me that tools like Facebook and Twitter have moved commenting away from the blog and onto other platforms. People are venturing out less from their chosen communities and instead sharing feedback on social platforms rather than a blog.

I’m guilty of this as well in my behavior. I read between 25 and 50 blog posts a week, yet I may comment on only one or two. But, you’ll often see me sharing items I find interesting on Facebook and Twitter multiple times per day. I don’t think I’m any different than what most of you are doing. In fact, I wrote a post about the increase in linking to professional content the other day.

What does this say about engagement? Does it mean our blogs are missing the mark if there aren’t as many comments as there used to be? Does it mean our audience is less engaged or does it mean they are just engaging differently? Would you rather have a supporter that comments all the time on your site or one that shares your content with their audience via social channels?

I’m still trying to decide what this all means. I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments, or not, as the case may be.

Search and Social Media Behavior is Changing

20 Jan

Search and Social Media Behavior is Changing

This video was originally posted over on MediaTrust’s Blog, but I thought it had some great information so I wanted to share it here as well.

As marketers we talk a lot about best practices and what we can be doing better – especially in areas of search and social media. Sometimes though, it’s not about what WE are doing, but more about what our CUSTOMERS are doing.

In this episode of Relevantly Speaking we’re taking a look at how users behavior is changing in how they use social media. The creation of personal content is actually down from a year ago. Instead, people seem to be using platforms like Twitter and Facebook to link to professionally produced content. How does that shift the way brands promote themselves?

Additionally, there is some interesting data about how users approach search. Does your average user understand the difference between natural and paid search? Will they click on one result over another? How does video factor into all of this?

If we can better understand how customers find and share information, we are arguably in a better position to enhance what we put out into the world so that it has a better chance of reaching the right audience.

What do you think? Has your use of search and social media changed in the last year? Does it change the way you approach your marketing efforts?

Van Halen Shows Us the Importance of Details

17 Jan

Van Halen Shows Us the Importance of Details

If you’re a rock fan like I am, you’ve heard that story about Van Halen, back in 1982, creating a section of their contract rider that prohibited brown M&Ms from being in their backstage stash. Most people think about it as an arrogant band pushing the limits of celebrity for something trivial, but there was more to it than that.

In David Lee Roth’s book “Crazy From the Heat” he talked about how that clause was meant to protect the band:

“The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. When I would walk backstage, if I saw brown M&Ms in that bowl…well, line-check the entire production.”

This was not a star tanrum at all. Instead, it was the only way that Van Halen knew that the venue had read their contract thoroughly and followed it to the letter. This got me thinking about attention to detail in business.

Because I’m always looking for new clients and opportunities, the quality of my work needs to be top-notch. That means I need to be really careful about typos and grammar – especially on my new blog. After all, that sort of carelessness sends a message to potential employers or consulting clients that I don’t pay attention to details. If I can’t be bothered to check and double-check my website or resume, what kind of things will fall through the cracks once they hire me? See what I’m saying here?

I see misspellings on corporate websites and marketing materials all the time and I wonder how it gets through. If a company can’t take the time to make their marketing copy perfect, what other corners are they cutting when a client is paying them? The same kind of company that allows, or worse – doesn’t notice that kind of carelessness – may make serious mistakes with your business that could cost you lots of money.

It’s hard enough in this economy to land a job or a consulting gig – send the right message by paying attention to details. Before you send that proposal or apply for that job, check to make sure you’ve removed all the brown M&Ms from the bowl.

The Return of Digital Branding

12 Jan

The Return of Digital Branding

I was reading an article over at Econsultancy written by their CEO, Ashley Friedlein. It outlined 17 trends that he thinks we’ll see this year in the digital space. There’s lots of great points in the post, but I wanted to focus on one in particular.  Ashley talks about the renewed importance that will be placed on digital branding that’s less about analytics and measurement and more about engagement and customer service. I think he’s dead on.

Don’t get me wrong, as marketers we have to be able to justify the work we do. Sure, it’s great to be on the bleeding edge with unique strategies and tactics , but the “cool factor” only goes so far. At the end of the day your boss (and your boss’s boss) want to see results. I think the recent economic woes forced us to tighten our belts and only embark on marketing programs that we could tie to hard numbers. Again, while I think that measurement is a necessary step in the marketing process, I think it’s time to start using some common sense again.

One of things that Ashley predicts is the renewed focus on brand marketing from a variety company sizes and sectors:

“I believe the spend will come under headings such as ‘engagement’, ‘experiential marketing’, even ‘customer service’. The spend will be focused increasingly on content, apps, social media and service rather than on bought media like display advertising or paid search. And it will come from small companies as well as large ones, across all sectors, notably B2B. But essentially it will be about building a brand presence online that people can engage with, relate to, and, ultimately, trust.”

How much of the marketing that you do is geared towards building trust and customer loyalty? As marketers and CFO’s we tend to focus on sales goals and revenue increases – important to be sure – but what’s the value of gaining a lifelong customer? How important is it for your brand to be seen as the gold standard in your industry?

One of the reasons that television advertising is so successful is because it plays on our most human element: emotion. Whether an ad makes us laugh or cry or just makes us feel good about a brand, successful television campaigns capitalize on human emotion and impulse. Sure, the metrics are incredibly fuzzy and the costs are astronomical, but it’s time-tested. TV works.

What sort of lessons can we learn from television advertising that apply to the work we do online? Digital video is a growing medium and an easy leap from TV to the web, but what about things like mobile apps and social media? I believe there is a way to capture the emotional  feel-good power of television and bring it to some of these online platforms with a layer of added engagement that traditional media just isn’t capable of. In the online space we’re able to utilize emotional effectiveness and marry it with the ability for a consumer to take action immediately. Whether it’s to make a purchase online right then and there or spread the message to their social circles via Twitter , Facebook or YouTube. That is some pretty powerful stuff.

But before we get ahead of ourselves and head down this road, I think you need to ask yourself what your company’s goals are for 2011. Is it about a straight lift in sales or are you trying to build a stronger brand? Is it about the sheer volume of customers or is it about building goodwill and loyalty throughout  your customer base? If you are ready to build a stronger brand with more loyal customers you then have to decide if you’re willing to take a leap of faith around some of your initiatives. Are you willing to put something out in the world and see what comes back – even if you may not be able to track it to sales and clicks?

I’d love to get your thoughts on this. is digital branding a priority for your organization this year? Why or why not? How should businesses be allocating their marketing spend and resources?