Call it the “viral spiral.”
That’s the experience of social media marketers, who are finding it difficult to track and gauge brand virality, especially in linking viral campaigns back to company-wide content marketing strategies.
In fact, according to a new study from Forrester Research and the Business Marketing Association shows that 83% of marketers “cannot tie back business value to their digital marketing efforts. In short, the study reveals that while most marketers know there is value in social media marketing, most are not creating good content (which leads to good customer experiences), let alone measuring its business impact.”
Consequently, companies run into roadblocks in retaining customers or solidifying long-term loyalty. The study also shows only 14% of companies engaged in content marketing initiatives surveyed gave their content practices high marks for delivering value back to the business.
No doubt, having your brand, product or service go viral on social media is the Holy Grail for companies, although measuring whether or not viral marketing campaigns is just as elusive as finding the Holy Grail.
Traditional methods of measuring ROI are misplaced when it comes to gauging the impact of social media initiatives, says Jon Gibs, vice president of analytics at Huge, Inc.
“More than ever, brands want to be “liked,” says Gibs, “Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and many other platforms allow brands to connect directly to consumers. Even traditionally B2B brands have embraced social media.”
“Certainly, it is difficult to determine the return on investment for social media interactions. Major brands from Coca-Cola to Nissan to MasterCard have all admitted they don’t know if their social media investment impacts their bottom lines.
A Wrong Emphasis
A big part of the problem is that company marketers too often rely on “closing the deal”, and not forging long-lasting relationships. In the Forrester/BMA study, 75% of marketers say they “frequently communicate to their customer base, (yet) only 5% make this a priority, proving that marketers are too focused on acquisition rather than long-term loyalty.”
Once marketers do that, the landscapes shifts toward better understanding of virality campaigns, and stronger customer retention.
“Business buyers can now access an abundance of digital information to research and shop for solutions on their own terms,” notes Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Laura Ramos. “Once marketing leaders have made the shift to relationship-building content marketing, they will find that it regularly fuels the demand generation engine, boosts brand visibility, and attracts buyers interested in the problems their company can solve.”
Evolving From ROI
Historically, social media virality measurement campaigns focused on two “ROI” themes – return on investment and return on interaction. While such campaigns did offer some measure of validity, the end game gradually changed, as marketers sought other benchmarks to measure brand visibility campaigns. A new study by the Pivot Conference notes 67% of marketers said “Customer Engagement” and “Brand Lift” were their big benchmarks for gauging virality on social media.
The survey also says that marketing professionals believe the platform – social media – is the right one for branding campaigns, figuring out exactly how businesses can connect with consumers.
Gibs advises social media marketers not to measure brand virality in financial terms. That route “shortchanges” the measurement process and reduces any opportunities to meet many different kinds of important business objectives.
- To get the job done in better ways, employ some creative strategies to measure virality, using appropriate data models to get the accurate information your company needs.
- Use data tools like Net Promoter Scores to accurately gauge social media campaigns. Aim for metrics on both branding and customer satisfaction for the best results.
- Also, turn to sophisticated such as Agent-Based Modeling (ABM) to better track and record offline customer responses to branding campaigns. ABM leverages key metrics like sales revenues and call center activity to accurately gauge results.
- Don’t merge metrics with viral influencers – building a wall between metrics and brand influencers is highly advisable. Both are useful but both are different. Getting influencers to move your brand is all about creating relationships, which is a great viral marketing strategy. Bring in metrics when those relationships are percolating, then use metrics to evaluate how you’re doing with viral media campaigns.
- Ask the right questions, then follow the answers. For example, it’s highly helpful to know if a viral campaign resulted in a Twitter post being retweeted, which translated into more sales, followers, or traffic? Also, ask if your LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter accounts tracking efforts uncovered new customers who didn’t know about your company before. Is that same customer retweeting your posts now, or reposting your Facebook content? Another good question to ask before kicking off a social media monitoring campaign – did your firm’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn community tell you something about your brand you didn’t know before – good or bad? These questions are metrics, too, and should be deployed in any virality measurement campaign.
Of course it’s a good idea to leverage social media as a long-term branding and loyalty strategy. Just make sure you know that you’re getting what you pay for, and building long-lasting customer relationships in the bargain.