Social Media is a Wild Animal. Don’t Let that Scare You.

September 5, 2014

Let’s just say that our content marketing toolbox is really a pet menagerie. Email marketing is that purring, old house cat in the corner. We understand it. We know what it needs. And when we feed it enough, we get lots of snuggles and maybe even a trophy left at the door. 

Conversely, social media is the wolverine we’ve invited into our home. We don’t know why we invited it in, but there is something powerful and compelling about it. It certainly grabs our attention and the attention of our audience, when we treat it right (even when we don’t). But the thing is, we are not sure how to treat it. Often, it feels like the luck of the draw. If we spend too much time with it we feel guilty, it gets cranky and we wonder why we bother. If we neglect it, it reminds us. It growls and threatens to leave us to climb the mountain on its own, so that we’ll surely find ourselves lost and cold on the other side of the divide.

Yes, we know that social media is a valuable part of our content marketing plan, but measuring its influence on our success is tricky. Nearly 90% of marketers admit to not knowing how to measure it. It’s hard to know how valuable it is. We can track direct results on our revenue with email, ad campaigns, even events. But, honestly, can any of us say how much a like or follow is worth?

Part of the problem is that we are treating our wolverine like a house cat. We’ve never had an animal like this before and it contributes something other to our strategy. It’s hard to know how to manage something when we don’t quite know what it will do for us. The place to start is by treating it the way it wants to be treated. Social media is not so much about directly driving revenue as it is about building relationships. And relationships come from engagement

Embrace the Clear Connection, As a Start

Social media can only give us some numbers that indicate ROI. Conversions from a social media site to our website are pretty easy to track. So, that’s one clear number that we can incorporate into the unique formula that tells us the value of our efforts. But, it’s only the beginning. Because, what is a conversion worth if it ends there?

Jon Gibs of Huge, does a great job of talking about what’s next. He argues that your measure of social media success should be about branding, satisfaction and virality. It needs to align with your overall goals, which include:

  • Generating revenue
  • Reducing customer service costs
  • Shifting brand sentiment
  • Cultivating customer relationships
  • Gaining insight into target audiences

But it can also assist in non-traditional ways like meeting PR, research and marketing goals.

And for Gibs, the bottom line is that “ROI” is the wrong term to use when we think about the value of social media. Instead, we should be focused more on measuring the overall impact of our social presence on our relationships with customers. 

Yes, those clear connections tell part of the story, like how many people we’ve reached and who they are (which is great for segmenting and targeting). It just gets a little unruly when we try to find out if it worked.

Net Promoter Score

That’s where the Net Promoter Score (NPS) comes in. As described by Gibs:

“NPS is a measure that identifies how likely users are to recommend a brand to others. This measurement captures both the customer service aspect of social (Zappos, for example, has always had an extremely high NPS due to its well-known customer service), as well as its potential for virality. The uniqueness of this metric, and the ability to access it from many syndicated studies make it a strong option for social media branding analytics.” 

It’s clear that NPS is not the sole measure of success for social media, but it helps us to see social media for what it is without being clouded of our notion of what we think it should be.

Who knows, before long, that wolverine might be eating out of our hands.