I recently read that shopper marketing strategies are being affected by how customers behave online. From this article, Connect the Dots at the Hub:
Our conversation with consumers and shoppers today is one way; we send them our advertisements and promotions. But we now live in a conversational culture because of the internet and what it’s allowed people to do. If you want to get to know anybody, you have to have a conversation with them. Shoppers and consumers want to have conversations with brands that are relevant to them. Much of this conversation is happening online. That’s where engagement starts. We’ve got to be able to bring that conversation back into the brand experience and back into the brand idea to refine it in a continuous feedback loop.
So, we are now not only witnessing conversations between brands and customers online, but the transference of behaviour from the online medium to the offline.
When you ask businesses why they are participating in social media, what do they say? If they say, “to make money,” then they will fail because currency in the social web is found in both relationships and content. If they say, “to grow our business,” they’re just saying, “to make money,” in a nicer way. If they say, “to participate in the conversation,” which is the more appropriate reason to be involved in the social web, then why on earth would they not measure success by the value of the conversations they have?
The ROI for social media engagement conversation is an old one that continues. It remains unresolved, as Clients who are accustomed to traditional quantitative measures as “proof” are still questioning the effect of social media efforts. It’s the classic case for Marketing 1.0 – let the statistics rule you! In my 20 years as a qualitative researcher, I’ve often been challenged about how “representative” is the story, insight and recommendation, especially in the early days. That’s now changing thankfully, with Clients often relying on the stories that emerge and anecdotal evidence that allows them to make more incisive decisions around brand strategy.
I see a parallel in how Clients approach social media – they are expecting adaptations of the same old marketing metrics (TRPs, GRPs, RFM, LTV, etc). We’re at the beginning of the curve today with social media. When I meet more traditional marketers, they tell me they are really Web 2.0 savvy and transferred their attention to metrics like clickthrough, cost per lead, customer acquisition cost, lead generation, opt-in, churn rate etc. While these fulfill one need, I do not believe they really aid either an evaluative or predictive model for success.
This is why. The social media space is different, and in understanding this, I’m hoping Clients will value the stories and conversations more. Folks launch products and services in alpha and beta – and often they remain in beta. Products, services and brands come and go and we see a huge plethora of new launches. Even for more traditional brands, there are new options available to explore in the social media space every day. It’s a particularly tricky area, especially when organizations are using free social media tools which do not provide detailed analytics to them – perhaps there is a business model in this
The pace of change is really rapid, both in the behaviour of brands on the web and in terms of customer behaviour. At the intersection of these, are dynamic social media tools which enable forming of a relationship between marketers and target audience; sellers and buyers; producers and customers. And this relationship is expressed as a conversation enabled by social media tools, which themselves are so many, quite complex and confusing and change rapidly (eg. we are seeing a lot of the conversation among a certain group of early adopters moving to Twitter today).
Of course, statistics have their place, and we need to build some common standards and new parameters (eg. is “friend” a metric today?). I’d like to change the discourse to exploring measures for the value of conversations. The challenge is that with the pace of change in all aspects of the relationship, can a “measure” of today’s performance help us predict what’s coming tomorrow? How can we quantify human interaction, imagination and energy? How do we track the feedback loop? How do we measure the value of conversations, that builds this relationship, in such a manner that it delivers not merely evaluative but also predictive insights for marketers?
Wish I had the answers . Some of the tools I use some of the time to track conversations include Google Blog Search, Compete, Google Analytics, Twitter and apps developed around it, Technorati (although it’s not as responsive and accurate as it used to be), searches at Social Networking Sites, Alexa, Digg, Stumbleupon. Trendpedia is cool and allows a comparison with your ‘competition’. There’s quite a lot of discussion in the PR blogworld around metrics and tools of measurements, but I don’t see as much around brand marketing. I can only throw out some suggestions around what needs measuring, based on my experience of more conventional marketing and research, my own explorations into social media, and on assimilating blog posts around the topic I have been reading for a while now:
where are the conversations around your brand happening? who’s participating? what are people reading, sharing, discussing, critiquing? are you/is your brand situated in these conversations? are you present? are you accessible?
have the number of conversations around your brand increased? how are you assessing the quality of these conversations? are people negotiating shared meaning? what elements of your brand or offering are being discussed – are they core or peripheral? what stories are emerging that suggest empathy and relevance of your offering to your target audience? how strongly is your brand anchored or situated in these conversations? would they exist without your brand? are you listening and engaging in these conversations wherever they exist on the web, across different social media tools? are you aggregating them? are you acting upon suggestions and helping solve problems?
you represent the human face of the brand – what social interactions are you able to influence around your brand or area of expertise? does this enhance your stature in the industry today? are you being talked about more? are you/is your brand or organization being seen as a thought leader? are you being invited into industry conversations? are you or your brand/company just popular or do you have influence with the target audience you most care about? [see these posts on measuring influence and popularity by Shel Israel and Gavin Heaton]
has your brand captured the imagination of people? are people riffing on it, playing with it, creating avatars of it that you never imagined possible? what’s the emotional quotient? are they being able to bring their own life positions into building possibilities for your brand? what’s the ‘delight’ quotient that you derive from these conversations? what creative stories are you hearing/seeing/watching about it? what stimulus are you providing them to inspire their imagination? how open are you in these efforts?
on the one hand, are you able to harness all of the above – participation, engagement, influence and imagination in a manner that keeps your brand alive and vital? what are the conversations around the value your brand is creating in their lives? is your brand able to keep up with the energy of its users or audiences, which shift and morph ever so frequently? what senses – visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, kinesthetic are the more dominant in the conversations – are you aware of what elements of your brand are anchored in these expressions? are you learning something new to help you drive your business forward? are you following/talking to passionate users who are breathing every moment of the direction your brand is taking and helping you evangelize?
Loyalty and stickiness
are your engagements in conversations with your TG a fad or do they sustain and build over time? what is the personal investment your users display in their discussions around your brand? do they enjoy ‘hanging out’ with your brand or you?
Represented as a diagram:
Much has been written and discussed around engagement, influence, participation and loyalty. These measures seem to be evolving – web analytics and cool companies like Radian 6 are doing some of it. However I haven’t seen much discussion around brand conversations that inspire imagination and energy – a little ironic when they form a large portion of conventional marketing wisdom around brand health! These I believe would make for differentiators and unique propositions for your brand. And they are best expressed anecdotally and through stories and perhaps more difficult to quantify.
Organizations need to develop their own benchmarks along parameters that are important to them and against a set of goals so that they are able to track effectiveness of their social media ‘campaigns’ over time.
How would you add to/edit/modify this list? I’d also love to hear about tools or frameworks folks in this space are exploring, using and developing!
Rohit Bhargava shares some cool examples on the Softer Side of Measuring Social Media
Measurement Camp is an “open source movement measuring social media” – a nice collection of measurement resources and case studies there.
Manuscrypts has a good analysis of the Obama brand in his post Change 2.0:
But social media, after all is a tool. Yes, a tool which can take the brand to great heights, but only if it has a strong product/brand at its foundation. And there lies the brilliance of brand Obama. Adage has a great article by Al Ries on the attributes that made Obama’s campaign a colossal hit – Simplicity (of the keyword – change), Consistency (create and maintain the positioning of ‘change’ agent, so that the word is associated with him more than others), Relevance (forcing the competitors to fight on your comfort ground). I was also very impressed with this article on afaqs by Vijay Sankaran, which gave 10 lessons that marketers could learn from Obama. Excellent lessons all, i especially liked the one about relinquishing control.