Tying Social Media to the Most Important Business Question

If you had one, just one, business question to answer, what would it be? The most important one is “What does success look like?” If you can’t envision this or answer it, you can not obtain it. If you are an executive, you must communicate it. If you are part of a team in a company, you must understand it.

In the past year, much of the social media debate has changed from “should be it be done” to “how should it be done.” “How” must include a definition of successful outcomes. If you aren’t sure what success looks like, then you shouldn’t be doing social media. Most good suggestions start with having a strategy before “just doing it.” (Sorry Nike 🙂 ) But I would back this up one more step – to an area that is often not formally stated. A strategy must be formulated around a specific objective of success and the success definition needs to continue to be formally recognized at every part in the execution.

Does success mean increasing the number of people that go to your website (unique visits)? Decreasing the number of calls into customer service? Shorten the sales cycle? Define your success!

Okay, so what about the social media tie-in? Let’s start by defining positive outcomes of social media. Take a look at the social media marketing funnel to get some ideas.

From a funnel state perspective, social media can increase awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. It is not really good at generating sales, but rather increases the probability of a sale. (See more at “Social Media Conversion and the Social Media Marketing Funnel.” )

The social media marketing funnel addresses marketing. Social media also generates positive results for customer service activities. Dell is a great example as highlighted in the book Groundswell (by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li, page 159). Groundswell explains how Dell supported one of their customer advocates who worked as an informal customer solution solver on behalf of Dell. He kept his on website to do so and was actively engaged with Dell customers. The ultimate end result was greater customer satisfaction and reduction of operations costs.

So whether “success” is increasing sales or reducing costs (hopefully you are a little more detailed in your definition of success), social media is an excellent channel for producing measurable results.

Dell is a poster child for the successful use of social media dating back as far as 2007. Back then, Dell had stated social media objectives:

1. Enter into conversations with customers everyday in every major language (awareness, consideration, lead generation)
2. Address any form of customer dissatisfaction head-on knowing that not everything will be solved and some of Dell’s weaknesses will be exposed (customer service, brand reputation, QA, operations cost)
3. Encourage crowd sourcing as the next step in listening to customers (awareness, requirements capture, yield cost reduction)
4. Use video to personalize the Dell story (loyalty, advocacy)

Thus, social media isn’t something new for Dell and they have stayed committed. Dell has worked hard to have a fully integrated social media marketing plan and execution. They are one of the very few companies that use a social media channel well to promote sales. Their twitter sales presence is @DellOutlet. While I have been very adamant professing that you should not sell in social media, Dell is the one exception that I can think of. In 2009, Dell announced that they had surpassed $3M in sales via twitter. Dell sales success could not have been obtained if they had just started in social media to sell. Go back to the four objectives above. Two years after they were accomplished, they met a social sales milestone. @DellOutlet currently has over 1.5M followers. Now granted, $3M in sales is a relatively small number for Dell. But as Seth Godin points out, small percentages of swing can make a large impact.

Looking for success? Define what it looks like first and then define how to use social media to back into the success vision.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve



Filed under brand marketing, brands, marketing plan, sales conversion, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Twitter, Uncategorized, Word of Mouth Marketing

4 responses to “Tying Social Media to the Most Important Business Question

  1. Steve; brilliant bringing the customer funnel into consideration. This would have a strong implication in measuring return, as well – that is, to look at how social impacts the organization across that funnel.

    I think one of our great challenges as social media marketers is to find AFFORDABLE metrics. For instance, it isn’t always feasible to measure awareness or consideration. Radian6 or one of the other social media tools won’t quite do that for you (although you could get a read off the ‘buzz’).

  2. Really enjoy how you framed the discussion and used Dell as a solid example. It is important to note that no tool will give you these answers. You must set objectives, use a combination of tools and invest in anlysis of data to determine whether objectives have been met. You are spot on.

    Lauren Vargas
    Sr. Community Manager at Radian6

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