Social media continues to make the headlines, and there's a general sense among marketers that you have to "be there or be square!" The trend to online that started with banner ads, and then accelerated with search and email marketing, now seems like a headlong rush.
But a rush to accomplish which marketing objectives? That's the part that seems to have become soft and fuzzy. It was easy to calculate the results of pay-per-click ads—all you had to do was count the clicks. But what's the value of a Like on Facebook or a retweet on Twitter? This is a vexing question, even for the self-ordained gurus of the social media world.
At a recent panel discussion in Toronto hosted by the Association of Internet Marketing and Sales (AIMS), the topic was how to determine the ROI from social media. And that turns out to be a pretty slippery fish. All three social-media specialists on the panel agreed that social media is worthwhile; but translating the numbers into actual value for the brand, they admitted, is "confusing" and "not easy to measure."
The problem is that the urgency to collect numbers has caused the real point to be overlooked. How does all this social media effort and its accompanying numbers enhance your brand?
To un-confuse this issue, you have to pause and return to fundamentals. This means you have to avoid being mesmerized by the numbers and suppress the tendency to burn with jealousy if a competitor's Facebook page has twice as many Likes as yours does. Focus on your own social media presence and content, and ask yourself: is your online activity meaningful to the audience that counts—your brand community—or is it just chatter? Secondly, is the messaging aligned with the values your brand seeks to represent and the promises it intends to deliver?
One of the easiest places to see this in action is Pinterest—which also happens to be one of the hottest social media platforms right now. Compare, for instance, the Pinterest page of the Lindt Chocolate brand with the AMD Technology page. At the time of writing, Lindt had set up 15 pinboards on its page, nine of which focused specifically on the Lindt brand, with such images as a wedding cake made entirely of Lindt chocolates. By contrast, the AMD page sported 33 pinboards, of which only six were clearly brand-related, surrounded by 27 boards with such irrelevant topics as "Spring" and "Red"—featuring, for instance, a photo of a red teakettle.
Although each brand has attracted a nearly equal number of Pinterest followers, it should be obvious that a repinning of a Lindt chocolate wedding cake is a stronger message for that brand than a repinning of a red teakettle would be for AMD (which makes computer processor chips, not teakettles). While the Lindt presence on Pinterest does a great job of focusing on lovers of high-quality indulgent chocolate, AMD has apparently not been able to align its brand promise with its social media presence.