Using social media as a central (and sometimes exclusive) marketing strategy was once the leading edge of the advertising game. Social was the newest bright shiny object of advertising allure, and brands who placed their bets early on this particular game rode its wave to industry acclaim and popular success.
Just as those who foresaw in the late 90’s the rise of “wired” consumer and adapted their marketing strategy accordingly to reap tremendous reward, so too did those who foresaw in the mid-2OOO’s the implications of social media, making their names and fortunes on the back of the most digitally disruptive trend to date.
In those days, prior to widespread adoption of the internet and the advent of billions of Facebook users, “wired” consumers and social media users were still an easily identifiable and neatly segmented niche. But today, the connected consumer’s “social” activity no longer begins or ends on dedicated social media platforms, and consumer journeys and campaign lifecycles have assumed increasingly complex, ambiguous and dynamic contours, necessitating not only new metrics, but a new mindset.
A new mindset for new metrics
To profitably contend with the complexity, ambiguity, and dynamism of the connected consumer, brands need to take a more differentiated yet highly integrative approach by taking measure of their metrics. But the “catch” here is that to take accurate measure of their metrics, they’ve got to first change their mindset.
To successfully compete in today’s advertising game, those in the marketing world must adopt a mindset that represents a greatly expanded understanding of the digitally connected consumer’s broader “social” activity. The ability to effectively generate, track and analyze content and campaigns in context of this broader social activity has as much to do with mindset as with metrics. (As will become more clear, the two are distinct but inseparable.)
Said differently, there are two sides to the marketing equation: mindset and metrics, or “disposition” and data. Each on its own isn’t enough: it’s having the right mindset and the right metrics — the right “disposition” in combination with the right data — that is the winning formula.
Mindset: Best Practices
Clarify what “value” means in the digital age.
On its own, data means absolutely nothing. Data is only “value-able” to the degree it answers the right questions, and to ask the right questions is to be clear about what value means (and what can jeopardize it) in the digital age. Ten years ago, for example, it would rarely have occurred to most brands to conduct a SWOT analysis based on the question, “In what ways might agency-generated content be virally repurposed by consumers?” The failure to ask this question made it impossible till relatively recently for most brands to deliberately generate and analyze data that in context of this question is exceptionally valuable.
Depending on the kinds of questions being asked, value can mean many different things — things that are invisible from the limited perspective of traditional econometrics. Marketers need to hone their sensitivity to the subtle yet potentially powerful forms of influence that content or campaigns may be generating in unexpected ways and in unforeseen channels, and use this information to reform their mindset and refactor their understanding of what value means to their marketing strategy.
Recognize the conversational nature of content and campaigns.
In the marketing world as in everyday life, a conversation is a two-way street with neither party (in this case, neither the brand nor consumer) having exclusive control over where or how it goes and what it will end up meaning. (This has always been the case, but the hyper-connectivity of the digital age has exponentially increased the odds of “butterfly effect” and “black swan” phenomenon that for brands hold both unprecedented peril and promise.)
With the advent of social media, marketing finally reached critical mass in the shift from brands simply “talking at” passive consumers to brands facilitating interactive, “conversational,” co-created content that currently extends beyond social media and into aggregation, mobilization and learning platforms. (Consider how much consumers “socialize” with other consumers and brands on Amazon and eBay and how much “social” content they generate via online reviews.)
Almost without exception, significant “PR problems” (think of the epic mea culpa that was Pepsi’s Revolution ad) have virtually nothing to do with marketers’ lack of technical know-how and almost everything to do with not having the right mindset or “social” sensibility — that is, with marketers failing to recognize that in the age of the connected consumer, they are not unilateral creators and independent “owners” of their content, nor the sole arbiters of its meaning.
Understand that ROI is just one piece of a much bigger picture.
What marketers are able to see depends on how they look. (This is the inseparable relationship of mindset and metrics, disposition and data). Without a change of mindset that allows for a much less narrow and limited perspective than that afforded through ROI, marketers will continue to look “through a keyhole” while assuming they’re seeing the whole picture.
The migration of today’s connected consumer across multiple digital touchpoints means ROI is no longer a dependable default for accurately assessing campaign success. Marketers need to be less wed to ROI and deploy metrics that are more sensitive to the complexity, ambiguity, and dynamism of the consumer journey correspondent to the category in question.
An overfocus on ROI prevents brands from recognizing what they are seeing even when they are looking right at it, precluding them from leveraging or actively engineering opportunities, as well as identifying weaknesses, risks and problems in order to innovate profitable solutions.
Integrating social data and metrics with other KPI’s, such as engagement, affords marketers much greater visibility into the bigger picture of the customer journey across multiple channels and digital touchpoints. In order to integrate social media strategies with other critical marketing practices — web analytics, CRM, and so forth — marketers must shift their mindset to view social media platforms as but one prong of a larger strategy and source of customer insight.
Metrics: Best Practices.
Know your audience to optimize your reach.
Reaching 10,000 people is something to celebrate…or is it? The answer depends on the result of the reach. To what degree, under what conditions and for whom does reach result in interest or enthusiasm about a brand as opposed to resulting in indifference or the perception of a brand as a disingenuous and annoying distraction? (A third of Millennials and Gen Z are so averse to brands targeting their social media feeds they’ve deleted their accounts.)
A brand’s “reach” doesn’t matter unless it’s reaching the right people. Metrics that aren’t sufficiently differentiated to identify the age and gender of those reached, where they’re from, what language they speak, and what lifestyle they live (just for starters) aren’t going to cut it. And what about their occupation and income, interests and buying behavior? The more differentiated the questions that are asked, the more integrative, rich and revealing the data will be.
Beyond reach, aim for resonance.
Reach is important, but resonance is where the rubber meets the road. Identifying and reconciling the gap between reach and engagement yields insight into what content is most resonant, iteratively informing content strategy to generate even higher engagement.
While clicks is the most straightforward metric for determining resonance since it indicates sufficient interest to mobilize engagement, it implies a variety of other valuable questions that translate into additional metrics that generate actionable data into the reasons behind resonance. These metrics are designed to answer questions like, “How are the verbiage and visuals differentially weighted for varying demographics? What is the relationship between clicks that lead to bouncing or low page per visit instead of conversion?”
Beyond reach, aim for resonance. Beyond resonance, learn the reasons behind it to “feed forward” into greater reach and greater resonance.
Mind your social referral traffic.
Social referral traffic offers a window into the number of visitors driven to your website via social media platforms and is a critical metric for assessing the differential success of multiple social networks. When examined through the lens of organic traffic, referral traffic, and direct traffic, a much more robust and revealing picture emerges of the role of social media in a particular campaign.
Funnel reports further illuminate not only referral traffic but how this traffic behaves at different points along the purchase journey, answering questions about whether this traffic is converting into leads, subscribers or sales. Though the purchase journey of the connected consumer is often characterized by the lack of clear beginnings and endings, funnel reports are useful in constructing provisional maps.
The ever-expanding sociality of the connected consumer and the increasingly complex, ambiguous and dynamic contours of the purchase journey and campaign lifecycle mean that a new social mindset is just as crucial as a new approach to metrics. By bringing best practices of each to bear, marketers can ensure they’re assuming a disposition that’s sufficiently sensitive and deploying data that’s sufficiently sophisticated to contend with and capitalize on the trends and demands of the digital age. By knowing how to look in order to see what is otherwise invisible, visionary brands will realize value that will defy today’s metrics and in turn evolve the mindsets of tomorrow.