Archive for October, 2009

Maddie Grant has a must read post on Social Media Today that lists 6 Must Read Posts about the ROI of Social Media.  They are:

NTEN – The Three Dimensions of Social Media ROI

The BrandBuilder Blog – Defining Social Media ROI once and for all, and understanding the action-reactive-return narrative

Adam Cohen (A Thousand Cuts) – The Basics of Social Media ROI

Social Computing Journal – Measuring Social Media ROI: Does size matter?

BrandSavant – What’s Wrong With Social Media Marketing Strategy

Jacob Morgan – The Importance of a Social Media ROI Diagnostic

Demonstrating the ROI of Social Media is perhaps the single biggest obstacle to widespread adoption of SM initiatives by businesses and other organizations, and these 6 articles are a great starting point for anyone trying to wrap their head around the issue.  Maddie’s post has already racked up 1150 views, but the comments are a little thin (so far, I’m the only contributor to the conversation).  If you have any suggestions, please click here and share them with the class.  Thanks, Maddie!



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As organizations and businesses move into the social media space, a new position has emerged: Director of Social Media.  While the specific title goes by various names (Director of Social Media Outreach, Director of Social Media Marketing, Social Media Manager, etc.), the skill sets and experiences qualified applicants bring to the table are probably fairly similar.  So, what, or who, should these organizations and businesses be looking for?  What questions would you ask of – or have you been asked as – a prospective Director of Social Media?  Do these questions differ by organizational type or business sector?  What are the skill sets that make one qualified for such a position?  Please leave a comment. I think this can be a very productive conversation.


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Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder) explains Social Media ROI Measurement in one of the funniest AND most informative slide shows I’ve ever seen.

[UPDATE: Check out Olivier’s presentation w/ these slides at #LikeMinds here.]


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Tom Webster has recently published a couple of must-read blog entries concerning the need for better social media metrics.  The first of these pieces, What’s Wrong With Social Media Marketing Strategy, takes so-called social media “strategists” (of which I am admittedly one) to task on two counts: first, for their failure to think strategically in terms of social media performance; and second, for their tendency to confine social media’s import to the marketing silo.   I posted a comment on Tom’s blog, but I think it bears repeating here:

“Great post, Tom. As a communication researcher who backdoored his way into social media and interactive marketing, I’m continually amazed by social media advocates who disavow the need to develop robust engagement metrics or flippantly dismiss the mountains of quantifiable data demonstrating the impact of traditional communication channels. For an industry (online advertising) built on the ephemeral value of the click, engagement metrics should be a selling point for social media, rather than an impediment to adoption. When we created an interactive campaign for Scion on Dame Dash’s now-defunct urban social network, BlockSavvy.com, me measured a variety of interactions: through traffic to the Scion site, time spent engaging interactive assets, participation in on-site contests, viral pass-alongs, and other indexes of user engagement. That was in 2006. With the advent of new social tracking technology, it’s even easier to measure the performance of social media and interactive marketing initiatives. When Avenue A/Razorfish approached us to create similar interactive campaigns for Nike, our ability to measure engagement was at least as attractive as the interactive assets themselves. Brands and advertisers may have a lot of issues with social media campaigns, but impact measurement needn’t be one of them.

I also want to echo your point about social media being more than a marketing tool. For big and small business alike, social media initiatives can improve customer service, enhance market intelligence, streamline product development, expand HR capabilities, and increase organizational IQ to improve performance across the enterprise. If we confine social media efforts to the marketing silo, we’re seriously underselling the value of the technology. Factoring these non-marketing impacts into our discussion of ROI should be an imperative.”

Tom’s second post on the importance of measuring the impact of social media, Raising The Bar On Social Media Metrics, again takes social media advocates to task for their refusal to take seriously the question of performance measurement, this time pointing out that decrying the limitations of traditional media metrics is a misguided diversionary tactic.  Not only are there significant and extensive attempts to measure the impact of traditional marketing channels, but the same analytic approach can and should be brought to bear on behalf of social media campaigns.  In the interest of not rewriting my thoughts, here’s what I posted in the comment thread:

“Another excellent post, Tom. For all the hype surrounding social media, far too little attention is spent on the consideration of engagement metrics. As with any marketing and communication research, the real trick is figuring out what to look for and what questions to ask. In terms of social media, I think the attempt to link the message directly to the sale is a misguided and ill-informed approach. You’re right, of course, that all kinds of traditional marketing tools are being measured, but how many of these measurements demonstrate such a direct linkage? Figuring out where and how social media impacts the continuum seems to be the real issue. The folks at Bazaarvoice have done a great job of measuring the impact of social product reviews on purchasing behavior, and their work goes a long way toward establishing a quantifiable ROI for a particular type of social media engagement. Social media advocates needn’t prove that traditional marketing and communication channels are equally opaque or inferior; instead, they should focus their energy on discovering the relationships between the two not-so-discordant approaches. The analytical tools applied to traditional channels are an instructive starting point for understanding the impact of social media engagement. If we spent less time trying to pitch this technology in either/or terms and more time explaining its relative value, our job would be a whole lot easier.”

To be sure, Tom isn’t the first person to point out the need for engagement metrics. Steve Goldner wrote a great piece on Measuring The Value Of Social Media on his blog back in June.  Unfortunately, I found this piece after reading and commenting on Tom’s, otherwise I’d have given Steve credit for the following sentiment, echoed in my comment:

“Be careful what you promise … marketing is not sales.  It does not result in sales, but rather 1) increases the number of potential clients (qualified leads) and 2) increases the probability of sales closure, while reducing sales cycle time.  Quantifying the value of marketing efforts must be specified in these functional areas, not in sales numbers.  Yes, one can say that sales increased after a marketing campaign, but you can not attribute it 100% to the marketing campaign.”

Steve’s article cites two additional contributions to the conversation, Dave Evans’ article Making Quantitative Sense of the Social Web, and Dragon Search’s Social Networking Media ROI Calculator.  While I share his reservation about both approaches to measurement, I also think they are a step in the right direction as far as intentions are concerned.  The sooner we turn our collective attention to the issue of engagement metrics, the easier it will be to “sell” our corporate clients on the importance of strategic social media initiatives.


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Facebook Groups were recently updated, receiving an aesthetic and functional overhaul to make them “start looking and behaving a lot like Pages and Profiles,” as Adam Ostrow put it.   Although the changes are “aimed at making it easier for members to communicate and share their activities,” they don’t really resolve the core issues that make Groups the train wreck that they are. 

Before I spell out the fundamental problems with Groups, I want to make clear that I’m not opposed to Groups per se.  I think they have the potential to be enormously beneficial, in terms of social utility, marketing value, and as a key component of Facebook’s monetization strategy.  Done well, Groups can be a tremendous social utility for users.  One of the primary reasons Facebook is a much better social networking platform than MySpace and other competitors is the quality of the connections and relationships it fosters.  As the landing page clearly proclaims, “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.”  I have 500 friends on Facebook, and they’re all folks I’ve known personally at some point in my life – family, friends, co-workers, students, professors, colleagues, even folks I haven’t seen since high school, some 20 years ago.  I’m not barraged by friend requests from strangers and spambots, and the requests I make are generally the result of recognizing a new connection in my newsfeed among my existing friends, or a suggestion from Facebook’s highly accurate recommendation engine.  As the site says, my friends on Facebook are the people in my life.  Unlike MySpace, where finding people I actually know is next to impossible, Facebook allows me to connect and communicate with folks that matter to me.  In short, the social value of Facebook is that it expands my personal network without inundating me with thousands of useless connections.  But this is also the site’s primary limitation – I need a way to connect and share with like-minded people who aren’t in my personal network (or by extension, in my friends’ personal networks).  Groups are an obvious solution to this problem, though their current composition isn’t getting it done (more on this in a minute).  Still, there’s a lot of potential here. 

From a marketing perspective, Groups allow users to cluster together around shared affinities, transforming a teeming mass of hundreds of millions into discrete, manageable sub-communities.  Not only does this make it easier to deliver targeted content and marketing messages, but it also encourages the kind of social interactions that brands crave: active, engaged enthusiasts sharing ideas, encouraging participation, reviewing and recommending products and services, and evangelizing the activities, interests, and lifestyles that drive consumer behavior.  Of course, this ties in directly with the value of Groups in terms of monetization, as these high-value sub-communities would be prime real estate for online advertisers.  Moreover, Group pages offer unparalleled opportunities for interactive marketing to consumers that actually desire engagement with relevant brands.  Given Facebook’s size and the level of participation among its users, Groups could revolutionize online advertising and generate a revenue stream that would make Google’s AdWords pale in comparison.

So, there’s a lot of upside here, but as I said at the outset, Groups as they’re currently constituted aren’t even close to realizing this potential.  Here are the problems:

  • Fragmentation:  Allowing users to create Groups provides a lot of flexibility and variety among the kinds of Groups available, but it also results in serious overlap and fragmentation.  For example, a search for “football” on the Groups main page returns more than 500 results, the vast majority of which are utterly indistinguishable from one another.  This fragmentation not only compromises the social utility of Groups by making it virtually impossible to find one that fits your needs (more on this below), but also undermines the marketing and monetization potential of groups.  Even if marketers can differentiate between Groups dedicated to American football and those dedicated to soccer, their advertising options are basically limited to banners and interactive ads that require a minimal amount of engagement by brands with each Group.  Fragmentation makes it extremely difficult for brands to take seriously the advice heard often from social media and interactive marketing consultants – to truly engage users in social environments.  Monitoring and participating int the social conversation on hundreds of redundant groups is impossible.  Add in the problems of administration, moderation, and ownership, and the existing structure of Groups presents a monetization nightmare. 

The Solution: There’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Facebook can retain all the benefits of user-generated Groups by simply adding public Groups created, administered, moderated, and owned by Facebook.  Anybody can join, anybody can contribute, and the official sanction makes it a more attractive destination for folks like me who don’t want to comb through hundreds of options just to find other folks who want to talk football.  Sure, there are far too many potential Groups for Facebook to try and cover them all, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out what the big ones are, or which marketers will find the most appealing.  Let users create the Group for left-handed underwater basket weavers.  Football?  Hard to say you didn’t see that coming.  As an added bonus, Facebook-generated groups present a great opportunity to generate sponsorship revenue.  Why not sell a sponsorship for the NFL Group to CBS Sportsline?  They can integrate existing content, enable cross-posting between their message boards and the discussion app in Facebook Groups, and attract members based on the value of their brand.  These kinds of collaborations would not only create a novel revenue stream, but augment the Group experience for users by injecting great content.  Seems like a win-win situation.

  • Anemic Search Functionality:  OK, so, maybe a search for a “football” Group is a little too broad.  How about if I just want to talk about the NFL?  I can refine my search by selecting a specific Group Type and Subtype.  In this case, I select “Sports & Recreation” and “Professional Sports.”  Again, my query returns more than 500 results.  Not very helpful.  So, let’s refine the basic search term, this time querying “NFL football.”  Again, the search returns more than 500 results, and again, there’s very little to distinguish between any of these Groups.  Refining it to search the Group Type “Sports & Recreation” and Subtype “Professional Sports,” I still get more than 500 results.  As a user, how am I supposed to find a group that’s right for me?  Trial and error?  Based upon the associated image?  Or maybe by the somewhat arbitrary and seemingly irrelevant Group Type designation?  Facebook’s Group search functionality doesn’t allow me to sort results by size, or by most recent activity, or by creation date, or to find Groups my friends belong to, or to find Groups with members in any of my networks, or Groups whose membership reflects my other interests.  Weak.  Want people to start using Groups more?  Start by making it easier to find ’em.

The Solution:  If you’re going to force me to comb through hundreds of results, at least give me the tools to do it intelligently.  Fix your anemic search functionality.  A search query should reveal a snapshot of a group’s membership so I can find one that fits me.  How about letting me find a Group for football fanatics composed primarily of over-30, left-leaning, social media enthusiasts in Austin?  All the data is there.  This ain’t rocket surgery.  Make it happen.  

  • Confusion between the functions of Groups and Pages:  Although the distinction between Groups and Pages may seem obvious, the comments to Ostrow’s Mashable piece on the Group’s overhaul reveal a significant amount of confusion among users.  If the intention of these latest changes is to make Group functionality more similar to Pages, this confusion will probably grow.  Facebook explains the distinction between the two this way:  “Keep in mind that while Groups and Pages now look the same, they still serve different purposes. Groups are for fostering member-to-member collaboration, while Pages remain the best way to broadcast messages to your fans if you are a business, organization, public figure or other entity.”  Seems fairly clear.  Unfortunately, a lot of folks who really need to be making Pages are being encouraged to create Groups.  This not only contributes to the problem of fragmentation, but also results in a lot of underutilized Groups.  If you want to promote a brand, celebrity, or band, create a Page.  If you want to control the messaging and content, create a Page.  If you want to enable users to interact with each other around a shared interest that’s generally broader than any single brand, celebrity, or brand, create a Group.  Although this confusion isn’t entirely Facebook’s fault, the lack of interaction between Groups and Pages is certainly a contributing factor.

The Solution:  Figure out an elegant way to link Groups and Pages (and Groups to other Groups).  If I’m a member of a Group dedicated to NFL fans, I would like to have access to Pages for Adrian Peterson and Nike fan gear, and Groups geared to fans of the Houston Texans.  Having all of these pieces accessible in one spot would make for a much richer Group experience.  Content is still king, even in social environments, and the plethora of Pages and Groups related to any given Group are an enormous untapped resource.  Start tapping.


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hubspotMike Volpe, VP of Inbound Marketing at HubSpot, did a bang up job on HubSpot’s Social Media & Business Marketing webinar (available for download here).  In addition to providing an excellent primer for businesses looking to enter the social media marketing arena, Mike offers some very practical insights into two extremely important aspects of SM marketing – monitoring and promoting the social conversation about your brand and products, and measuring the results of your SM efforts.  Although the latter conversation presents an ideal opportunity to pimp HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing System, I’ve got to give Mike credit for following his own sage advice and setting that pitch up with some “relatively independent, non-promotional” tips that anyone can follow.  This webinar is not only an excellent starter tutorial on SM marketing, but also a great example of a type and style of content that’s really built for social media.


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I just registered for the Bazaarvoice webinar, Social Commerce Pays Off: Real Stories of ROI, to be held October 29 from 1-2pm CDT.  The webinar features guest speakers Duke Marr, VP of Ecommerce and Product Management, 1-800-flowers.com, and Geoff Robertson, VP of Ecommerce and Technology, JC Whitney Automotive Group.  The webinar will cover:

  • The social commerce metrics that matter most to your business
  • The right strategy, tools, and techniques to measure success
  • How to use metrics to gain buy-in throughout your organization
  • Social strategies that pay off for all brands
  • Looking forward to it.


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