Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like

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? I have defined something I call the Social Media Brand 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 Brand 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!
Social Steve



Filed under digital media, marketing, marketing plan, measuring social media, Social BrandAction, social media, social media marketing, social media performance, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

16 responses to “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like

  1. Tony Dowling

    I love the level of though you put into your post Steve, and this is another great example of your excellent insight and ability to explain some of these difficult concepts!
    One point I’d like to make, well, really, ask you to consider? Do you think that as social matures it might follow the pattern that other media have, in terms of what we might look for it to provide us as marketers?
    in other words, there is no doubt that right now driving awareness and consideration etc as you have stated is the number one task of SM, but is there a point in the future where it will be more capable in a direct response sense?
    Take radio as an example, here in the UK we have always laboured under the impression that radio is the ‘awareness’ medium. But radio sellers have worked hard to reposition it as a direct response mechanism, helped no doubt by the advent of text mechanics and the like.
    Can you see what I mean? Is it a bit early to pigeon hole SM and all its forms?

    • Thanks for the kind words, Tony. I do not think mature social will evolve to be strong for direct response. At least with the popular platforms today. Consumers use these platforms to be social, not to be sold to. It is a two media and “connections” are determined by consumer based on the ability for a brand to deliver valuable info, not be sold. However, I do see other platforms emerging that are specifically for selling and bargains that some consumers will join. Direct marketing will be successful there.


  2. Mark Longbottom

    Always so important to link what you do through these platforms strategically but also personably to gain that loyalty with regard the most important factor of the relationship – one of sharing.

    It is a massive area but no more than using what’s available effectively but importantly it has to be relevant to ‘you’ not your neighbour. That’s were the measuring and monitoring comes in to play.

    Tony I would say what you are suggesting is always going to be in the here and now rather than the future, personally I look for every opportunity to lead to direct response as can radio [many do and have doe for years]. This then depends whether you’re talking about audience interaction or selling though?

  3. Pingback: Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like | Hire Shai

  4. Great breakdown of some key elements and considerations. Thanks Steve!

  5. Molly

    “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.” In the land of B2B marketing this isn’t said enough. Great article!

  6. I have to say it depends on in which country. In Malaysia, everyone is straight forward, when comes to social media, it means drive sales. I as Internet marketing consultant has to show my customers how to make sales from social networking sites. I can’t ask them give me money and tell them only 5% make direct sales from social media marketing, it doesn’t work in Malaysia.

    But luckily, Malaysian buyers do look for seller directly on social networking sites.

    In Malaysia, I need to show my customers 95% social media marketing makes sales, 5% is customer service, awareness which is totally different from other countries.

  7. Hi Steve,
    Wow what a great article – thanks! I especially like your diagrams – wish I had younger eyes to really see the funnel but totally agree that the social media activities diagram is much more where we’re at with social. I think it could/should be used very effectively by marketing folks who are still negotiating the importance of social with their execs.
    I’m teaching a “Strategic Use of Social for Small Businesses” class. Could I share this diagram in that class? Of course I would reference you and direct them to this article.

    • Hi Deedee,

      Thanks … glad you have found this worthwhile. If you click on the picture, you will get an enlarged version you can read. And yes you can use for education if you attribute the diagram to “Steve Goldner (aka “SocialSteve”) from “The SocialSteve Blog” at” … was that enough SocialSteve in there for you? 🙂


  8. G’day Steve,
    A great post. Just yesterday i was trying to articulate the sales funnel, and why it was innappropriate to SM to a client, and struggling. Now, Wham, there it is.
    Thanks, I’ll link it, tweet it, all the other stuff so others can see the great thinking you share.
    Allen Roberts

  9. Love it! Bookmarking this post!

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