I am really astounded at much of the conversation that the Facebook IPO has ignited. It appears that most people are equating Facebook and their valuation to a barometer for all of social media marketing success. This is ludicrous. Facebook’s valuation is simply speculation on Facebook’s revenue and profitability. Facebook’s revenue (at least so far) has been a measure of their ad revenue. Let’s be clear … Facebook ad revenue is simply a “digital display” offering. Display, although an important element of a holistic digital marketing plan, is not social media. So in the face of all the Facebook misconceptions, I want to set the record straight on social media success … you need to understand what it looks like before you can make sure you have a strategy to get it!
As I have defined in the past, social media is the combination of social + media or seeking or enjoying the companionship of others by the means of digital communication. I am a marketing executive and thus I look at social media from a marketing perspective. (Yes, there are other uses of social media beyond marketing.) As a marketer, we look to change consumer behavior and drive transactions. That is what successful marketers do.
Thus, as a social media strategist and marketing executive, I look at social media as one piece on an integrated marketing plan to change behavior and drive transactions. So it is those actual social media activities we need to concentrate on to change behaviors and drive transactions.
In the past, I have used the social media marketing funnel to describe the progression of changing behaviors and driving transactions. While the funnel shows a “typical” progression of the customer journey, the emergence of the digital world has turned typical to atypical. The funnel shows a linear sequence, even with its cyclic nature where advocacy re-feeds awareness. My experience examining customer behavior for the brands I work with reveals some slight variations. Yes, the funnel states are still there, and individual consumers can traverse the funnel states in a linear fashion, but we see more and more variations away from a linear movement as shown in the diagram below.
As we examine the new construct of social media relationships to change behavior and drive transactions, notice “conversion” is not part of the social media activities. Awareness, Consideration, and Loyalty states “tee up” a conversion. Social media is not a strong channel to promote a sale. (Yes, there are some examples where companies have done this successfully, but 95% of the time, social media should not be for direct conversion.) Think of forming a social media strategy to increases Awareness, Consideration, Loyalty, and Advocacy. Social media provokes these behaviors and these behavior changes drive transactions.
Awareness promotes consideration. Awareness can also drive a transaction. Consideration yields conversions and has a higher probability of doing so than simple awareness. After a purchase is made (conversion), social media activities can help to generate loyalty. Loyalty can result in repeat purchases as pictorially shown with a double arrow in the diagram above. Loyal customers can become advocates as well. You should think about post-sale follow up content and engagement to move your customers to a loyalty and advocacy state. And once you produce advocates you have a most powerful outcome. Advocates inspire awareness, consideration and loyalty. They work as the most trusted source of marketing your brand.
So when I say “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like,” it means that you have a strategy and plan that consciously addresses how you are going to use social media to measurably increase awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. Not only do you need the plan, but you must measure results of your plan. Only in the rarest of rare situations does a social media plan hit perfection out of the gates. You modify your social tactics based on empirical results.
And how would you measure social media results? At MediaWhiz (the marketing agency where I head the social media practice), we have something called the Social Media BrandAction™ Index. This index is a complicated algorithm that has four sub-index variables that are measure – Awareness, Consideration, Loyalty, and Advocacy. Here are the inputs to the Social BrandAction™ Index.
Even if you have not derived a social media index equation, you should measure these parameters in the groupings as above and have a sense of your social media performance.
So hopefully now you have an idea what successful social media looks like. It is an ongoing effort that changes behavior and drives transactions. It is a continuous program that produces measurable results in awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. All of these elements contribute to the ultimate goal of conversion. But they not only contribute to conversion, they work to continue the relationship with the customers and strengthen brand reputation, loyalty, commitment and on going word of mouth marketing. Concentrate on your brand’s appropriate social activities that increase measured awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy.
Make It Happen!