Making social media count

Andy Black (@AndyBlacz), head of digital at PR consultancy Whiteoaks, explores why businesses should be analysing their social media activity to ensure they achieve commercial advantage and ROI.

Many businesses make the mistake of thinking that social media activity can’t be measured, but it can. And this is excellent news, given that a recent McKinsey Global Institute report found that, while 72 per cent of companies are using social technologies in some way, very few are anywhere near to achieving the full potential benefits.

Andy BlackBusinesses have a right to know not only how well their social media campaigns are doing, but how to improve them. When it comes to everyday business, companies that interact with their customers and stakeholders tend to be more successful than those that give nothing away. The trick is to closely monitor and measure activity to ensure that all business objectives are achieved – and there is a range of ways in which to do this.

Most B2B-focused companies begin their social media strategy by finding ways to increase followers and fans across their social profile. Of course this is a good idea, but it is important that businesses recognise that when it comes to social media, simply having a large following will not necessarily translate to lead generation, particularly if a business has paid for Twitter followers, which often take the form of hundreds of poor quality, fabricated avatars, spambots and pornbots.

It is far better to have a lower number of high quality followers such as analysts, influencers, prospects, journalists and customers, who can really influence the market. Quoting impressive metrics actually means very little in the social media world and much like traditional media relations, it should be a case of quality over quantity.

For example, Bull, a leading high performance computing (HPC) provider, receives regular reports on its number of Twitter followers. Bull set a sensible target of achieving 500 quality Twitter followers by the end of its 12 month digital PR campaign, and has seen a 390 per cent increase in followers in just five months. More important than the number is the fact that these followers are all key influencers, rather than fake fans. By subjecting each follower to a KLOUT score test, which rates their social media activity and presence, their relative influence (and, therefore, their value) can be measured.

And it’s not just followers that can be analysed but the quality of the content posted and the resulting lead generation: for example, the number of users directed to gated material. Using tracking codes on all the online content created, which is compliant with CRM and sales automation systems such as Eloqua and Salesforce, businesses can measure site traffic and its effectiveness. Tracking client interaction, it becomes easy to see how many users are responding to the content and how to create further copy to engage with the target audience – another technique Bull has deployed. Hashtags can also be analysed to measure buzz topics to help this process.

Calculating ROI for social media projects is simple as businesses can see instantly the numbers of leads generated, followers added, retweets and downloadable, gated material used. Having this transparent view ensures that businesses can see where their PR budget is being spent and the quality of the activity they are enjoying as a result of their investment.

In order for such projects to be successful, business goals need to be set, monitored and achieved. Social media is still seen by some business decision makers as a dark art, impossible to justify with cold, hard numbers; by tracking these measurable factors, companies can review real results and ensure they get value for money.

Great copy makes for great social media campaigns.


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