Making a Case for Social Media – are we doing a poor job of Marketing Social Media?

I had lunch yesterday with Aaron Newman from Techrigy, whose SM2 platform I have access to (Aaron promises to provide full access to me) since its free to use -  depending on the level you pay for.

We spoke about SM2 and Radian6, BuzzMetrics and Social Media Monitoring tools, in general.  Today I was thinking about it some more and I came up with something I want to share.

I told Aaron there’s no real traction for Social Media in most organizations, even today.

For example, who would you sell Radian6 or a beefed up version of Techrigy SM2 to in most businesses?   Your lucky if you can find a Communications, PR or Marketing group that will buy it – and these are relatively inexpensive tools compared to what businesses spend on Web Analytics and Search Marketing – I know this is true.

When you factor in some one’s time spending on configuring and running (on a regular basis) Social Media Tools (while Radian6 and SM2, as typical of other Social Media Platforms on the low to mid end as far as cost) is the problem that there’s not value in it?

Or is the value that Social Media has not been Marketed well?  Maybe the case for it hasn’t really been made.

Take the US Economy, for example – for a while people in Congress, mainly Democrats, have been trying to get Health Care, Jobs, Unemployment, affordable College Education – no luck, especially lately – somehow, no matter how those things were sold, nothing could get done.    But, suddenly, the Economy is collapsing – and .. guess what – $700 Billion dollars – and that’s not the end of it – at the beginning – the administration was asking for “no strings” and they thought they’d get it (they were wrong) – but the Financial System will get bailed out (see Revised Bailout Bill Awaits Senate Vote Tonight in the New York Times, as well as Paul Krugman’s Bailout narratives post on the subject).

But here’s the thing – health care, training, were, in a way, just as needed as that $700 Billion Dollar Bailout – but the business case, despite the logic and common sense, was never really successfully made – Why can $700 Billion Dollars appear for the Financial Crisis but nothing for the other reforms?  – Because the Financial Crisis got Congress by the balls but these other, just as needed reforms, didn’t.

I suppose, in a way, you can call that a “Marketing” or “Perception” issue.   Hell, when a blogger found that Kryptonite Locks could be picked with a clothes pin and the stock price plummeted as the news spread – immediately, action was taken.  When Jeff Jarvis complained about Dell Computers – you know what happened.   When Dell’s laptops started burning up – hell, people stopped buying them – Dell Hell- you  remember – not that long ago.

Is it really, as Seth Godin maintained for a while – all about Marketing? Has Social Media really just been flimsy as a business case?   It think it has.   Look, all the President had to do was cry Wolf again, and he did – this time, he didn’t get what he wanted, apparently (though who knows, maybe he wants the whole economy to collapse so he can suspend everything – or maybe they’re so inept, they just can’t get anything right anymore – I am not sure – and Krugman things it’s a little of both stories in Bailout narratives,

But here’s why I think the business case for Social Media hasn’t been made – and how it can be made – and will take some work and investment to get there – but then anything worthwhile, takes some work and investment – no way around that – just look at what’s happening in this country – in the world, when don’t invest, or invest in the wrong things (like Sub-Prime Mortgages that are worthless now).

The case for Social Media hasn’t been made because -

1. There’s no strong incentive for business to invest in Social Media in a big way yet - there is no proven ROI, except for isolated cases – but it’s very early on – Social Media is where Search Marketing was in 2002 or 2003 ( I thought it was more like 2004, but I think that’s still too optimistic).

Occasionally, there are cases of clear Social Media ROI such as Bloggers Increase HP Laptop Sales 85% (as reported in Marketing Pilgrim) but you have to work hard to find them:

“….Nine months after launch, the 15 pound laptop with a 20.1-inch screen and 500-gigabyte hard drive wasn’t selling that well. HP hired social media marketing firm Buzz Corps Inc. and they brainstormed with bloggers and HP to come up with the campaign.”

Here’s what Social Media did for HP:

“…. They contacted 31 tech bloggers with influence (based on number of links, Google ranking, and recommendations from other bloggers) to give away 31 laptops in 31 days. So essentially a month of contests. Each blogger made up their own rules about the contest but each agreed to promote the contests of everyone else in the group.

The result was that the first five pages of Google results for searches on HP and HP Dragon were blog posts about the contest. According to HP they had over 380,000 links to the 31 sites discussing the contest. Bloggers got over 25,000 contest entries and an average 150% increase in traffic. Here’s the kicker though – almost 85% increase in sales of a computer that was released nine months ago!

See … it works!  But how come no one seems to want to invest in Social Media like they do in Search Marketing or Web Analytics?   What HP did, anyone could have done, if you think about it , if they set their mind to it – but it’s still not the norm – not what people think they ought to spend their on money on – because the case hasn’t been made.

So, here’s what I’m suggestion – this is my idea – no one gave it to me.

  • Techrigy SM2, Radian6, BuzzMetrics, whatever else is out there that’s being sold for Social Media Monitoring lacks a feedback mechanism – Web Analytics and SEM have it, it’s called a “Data Collection Tag” – Social Media – NADA – these platforms can’t collect and corrolate with visitor traffic – hense – they can not prove ROI easily.

Solution: A listening Process to be run on sites that are being monitored for Social Media ROI  – that communicates with the Social Media Monitoring Platform and does Event Correlation and Attribution.

I suggest Primary and Secondary Attribution.

Primary Attribution would be traffic, visits, mentions, that are correlated to a Social Media Campaign and drive traffic to a specific site or set of sites – with a “listener” and embeds in the Social Media Campaign (if the campaign itself, it tagged properly, or a cookie value can be set, then, the listening process on the target site can communicate back to the Social Media Platform and tell it the visit, action event, thing, engagement came from the Campaign.   Then Site Analytics can take over – make attributing Social Media Buzz to an event (ie: sign up for a gift registry on a baby carriage site, for example – and value set on the event – and BINGO – ROI of Social Media – you have – done deal.

Secondary Attribution would be called for when cookie values are dropped, where there is no clear attribution from the campaign, but correlation can still be done by time stamping stories and matching visits to a site were the Social Media Data Collection tag is picking up data.

I see all the Social Media Platforms need to have a Data Collection tag, basically, a listener – with out that – they’re essentially like microphones that pick up conversations – but they can’t tie them back to anything – so … exactly how many people can you sell that kind of system to?

And guess what, most of the vendors – are all scratching their heads, as Aaron Newman mentioned to me – how do you sell this thing – who do sell it to?

Well .. who can you sell it to?

Unless you can tell people how that campaign really impacted sales – well … why would you want to spend any money on it … (that’s not always a wise decision either since businesses need to build up expertise with Social Media, so they should invest some now, and not wait much longer).

But still, you see my point? How many people are going to buy platforms they can’t show the ROI from?

I don’t know about you – but I don’t see many companies buying the present set of Social Media Platforms.

Data Collection tag – attribution … listening Process on client site – here we come – there’s no other way I can see ROI happening in a reliable way, if such a thing exists as “reliable” these days.

Will we get there today?

NO – will it happen in 5 years, Yes.

Before that?  Maybe.

But,I don’t see the possibility of large scale Social Media adoption before a strong Marketing Case can be made - (ie: we have to do research to find out what Friending someone is worth, for example – and tie it back to some kind of metric – and use tools that work with Site Analytics to do it with).

Also, I believe, tools like Radian6, SM2, BuzzMetrics, etc, etc, etc, ought to be designed and sold to the Site Analytics Group as much to the Marketing, Communications and PR Groups, and I told Aaron that too – their interface sucks, but then, so does everyone else’s too – because most of the Social Media tools take too much work to get useful information out of them - that is just the way it is.

It will change – soon hopefully – but I think the data collection process with putting a listening process in place on the sites whose Social Media activity you want to qualify AND a communication protocol with the Social Media Platform is a necessary step that can not be ignored any longer.

With out attribution – there’s never going to be an argument that grips companies “by the balls” – you can’t make the case – till you can make the case – otherwise, your like me, a visionary that can’t seem to get traction for most of the companies I deal with – that’s just the way it is today.

Finally, what’s also needed is an XML feed right into Omniture, Coremetrics, Google Analytics and so on, that’s made available, if business wants to track Social Media within their Web Analytics platform.

Ok, I think I’ve said enough for one post – and I hope Social Media Today picks this post up and publishes it – they really should – I read a lot of stuff by people who write about Social Media – but often, most of it can’t be proved – it’s conceptual.  My post is not conceptual – this is a working idea – the details still have to be worked out – but data collection for Radian5, SM2, etc – that’s something that ought to be done -starting now.

If these platforms aren’t working on data collection on the target sites – if they’re not building a collection process to reconcile the “Buzz” out on the Web, with the “Buzz” you get on your sites, hell, they’ll never be able to sell this stuff mainstream.

Till you can grab decision makers “by the balls”, till you can make a strong business case that makes so much sense, they fear not to buy the platform – I don’t think much will happen – but that’s just my opinion – maybe I’m wrong – but I don’t think so.

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5 replies
  1. Connie Bensen says:

    You raise some very interesting points (and many of them too!). I won’t ponder the politics.

    Some questions occur to me:
    What is the value of a brand? Can it be measured?
    But how does an organization feel about a positive brand presence & word of mouth? or a negative brand presence?

    If one has a negative brand presence in the public’s perception is it better to not know about it? (ie: ignorance is bliss? sorry, couldn’t resist! :) )

    Moving on – what is the value of building brand using a brand monitoring tool? Granted it’s hard to measure the ROI, but is it something an entity wants/needs?

    We also have the question of the ROI of a community. Companies are investing (a lot). That’s not a ‘campaign’. And I bring up community because I think a community manager is the person that should be responsible for using the brand monitoring tool, interpreting the results & responding. At present PR & marketing agencies are using it for their clients, but I think we’ll shift to having comm mgrs doing so.
    another question – should it be humans interpreting sentiment about the brand? Or can the attribution be executed well enough?

    I’m really hesitant to use the word ‘campaign’ for brand building also. Like community building it’s a long term effort. I think that marketing will be getting away from ‘campaigns’ too as they incorporate communtiies.

    Finally, I think that at the moment these tools are excellent for brand reparation efforts. I’ve used Google alerts since 2006 & realize how valuable they can be for building brand. My thought is that it’s going to take some time for companies to embrace listening, talking with their customers & building community because as you point out – where’s the ROI? Those things are reliant on human interaction so corporate culture is going to need to change as will the internal architecture of the marketing department in particular. It’s a hard shift moving from campaigns to focusing on the customer in a long term manner.

    I don’t think we need to market social media. I think we need to educate on how to use the tools to shift/increase brand awareness & build community. That’s the key step.

  2. Steve Dodd says:

    You both have raised the million (or billion) $ question. How to justify investment. I totally agree that tools must be tied to tangible results. At the same time, listening is not enough. Deep analysis of context and meaning provides much more “usable” value when results are known. When both are connected, companies can then truly gain value by knowing a lot more about who reacts to what and why so that this information can be leveraged.

    Have a look at http://www.sysomos.com and let’s talk more. We are well underway to delivering exactly what you are describing.

  3. Chel says:

    I’ve found that different numbers matter to different companies seeking to learn more about social media. Some want to monitor the social media space to find out what’s going on because it’s shiny and new. There’s value in listening to what people are saying about you and responding in a thoughtful way. Often we here, “But wait, there’s no numbers to show me this works!” No there aren’t a lot of numbers yet, but you can ask Comcast or Zappos about the value that social media and blog monitoring has brought to them. Listening does matter.

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