March 28, 2013 - Comments Off on What is social engagement and how do you measure results?

What is social engagement and how do you measure results?

Measuring the impact of social media engagement is a tricky subject for the ROI driven marketer.  It also sounds a bit of a soft and fluffy metric to use to justify social media spend to the board.  It was therefore the perfect topic to tackle on day one of this year’s Social Media World Forum (#SMWF).

Before I delve into the discussions that ensued I have to stop and sing the praises of my favourite conference. I highly recommend heading along to Social Media World Forum next year if you have anything to do with integrated marketing at all. From SEO bods to PRs, Copywriters to Creatives – all are welcome! SMWF has become a yearly tradition for me, offering the chance to catch up with fellow social geeks and compare notes on management, measurement and strategies. Having been for the past two years in a row, I was even more excited about attending this year as it had moved to a new home at The Brewery.

First of all, WOW – the venue was amazing! The staff were lovely and welcoming, it was sparklingly clean and comfortable from the word go right up until the end of the conference, and most wonderfully the catering was top notch – full of yummy food that you would expect to get served in a swanky restaurant.  Plus it came as part of the cost of your SMWF ticket so you really felt that you were treated like a valued guest.

With my complimentary black coffee in hand, and high expectations of what this year’s event might have to offer (after all, it had to match up to meeting Chris Brogan in person last year!), I made my way into the key note conference room to kick off with a panel’s thoughts on what social media engagement actually is.

So, what is social media engagement and how do you know if you’re achieving it? The standout panelist on this topic was definitely Carl Barkey for me, who had some interesting and useful insights to share from American Express’ point of view.

Driving loyalty and communication with customers

Firstly, he stated that “social isn’t a prime acquisition channel but there for driving loyalty and talking to members”.  This definitely struck a chord with a few of us, as it was widely shared and seconded on Twitter.

“the big step is to know who my customer base is and who is my social base – knowing also which are passive and which are active.”

I think this is a brave statement, especially in an environment where everyone is pretty caught up in proving the value of social media (and can become slightly obsessed with the ‘I’ of ROI having to mean actual £). It’s also an important insight into how social should be considered within businesses.

Matching customer base to social base

There is often a difference between social followers/community members and actual customers. As Carl pointed out, “the big step is to know who my customer base is and who is my social base – knowing also which are passive and which are active.”

Carl helpfully shared those all-important KPIS that he works towards at American Express:

  1. Connections
  2. Reach
  3. Engagement: how do I drive spend?
  4. Advocacy

In my opinion, this highlights the growing importance of a social CRM and an integrated strategy and shows that businesses are really starting to require this connection between opted in customers and followers on social networks.  Data driven marketing at its finest!

Earned media is driving top of the funnel awareness and advocacy is driving acquisition

Who is talking and who responds? I think it is spot on that American Express tend not to try and intervene in conversations about them, but be open and transparent (not defensive).

Take note brands about to embark on real-time marketing – just because your brand is mentioned it is not an automatic invitation to leap in and defend a negative review; sometimes it is good just to listen and then respond at a later date with a different approach.

The reason I’ve pulled out what Carl Barkey had to say on the subject first is that his outlook really resonates with the way I like to approach getting businesses engaged with their customers, and measure return on investment with connections and advocacy over ££££££.

So you know what engagement is, you start engaging with your audience and spend several hours of the working day doing so.  How do you know if it’s working? How do you measure it?

This was put to a few speakers and panelists throughout the conference and there were some great responses.

How to measure, model and evaluate social success

  • Jonathan Waddingham of Just Giving stated that one Facebook share is worth £5 in donations, arguing that Just Giving is a product is “innately social”. You can learn more about their stats here
  • Cordell Lawrence from Jack Daniels explained that the company value “pulling in the right fans over time rather than just buying fans for the sake of having them”.
  • “How is social media influencing the buying cycle? Today it’s about inspiration and discovery” said Clelia Morales, Social Media Manager at ebay
  • “Is ROI wrong question? Isn’t social media part of everything therefore a hindrance to look at in isolation?” I agree with Paul Fennemore on this one – it should be measured as part of a holistic communications campaign.
  • “Selling social business: do your homework; why is it changing the business and how? What’s the point? Then plan.” Well said, David Parkinson

There are a few key points that I would focus on from the above selection of professional opinions on engagement and measurement.

  1. Measure what matters: if you have an integrated marketing strategy (which you should) then present integrated results!
  2. The future of business is change: how has your engagement via social media changed yours?
  3. Inspire and discover: inspire your customers to buy with creative content, and discover insights from social media that drive your overall communications approach
  4. Quality not quantity: gathering the right fans and followers who stay with you is far more valuable
  5. Make your product innately social: be a social business

The way I see it, true engagement means committing to open, honest and fruitful communications with your brand’s loved ones as a first priority.

Engagement is the connection between giving your current and future customers a symbol of your devotion to their needs, always putting them first. Social media measurement is simple – you need to work up to the day when your customers will happily walk down the aisle with your brand, becoming lifetime buyers.

What does social engagement mean to you?