Are brands measuring social media marketing incorrectly?

Seb Joseph

A report from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) highlights the growing need for conversions, likes and engagement to be turned into something meaningful for marketers. Without data on the quality of online conversations, marketers can’t take full advantage of opportunities.

The study revealed that a third (35.5%) of the 900 UK marketers polled said that their social media activity was “not at all effective”, with only 13.7% reporting it was “extremely effective.”

Despite doubts over the effectiveness of social media, the study found that 74.5% of those surveyed expect to increase their investment in social media next year.

It’s a lot of faith to place in a medium that many are clearly still not sure what exactly they are getting for their money.

While Facebook – which the survey reveals to be the most successful social network for return on investment, with 16% of marketers saying it pays – can be a potent channel for building a loyal fan base, there have been very few instances of it used as a strong transaction platform.

Twitter on the other hand – which only provided 15% of marketers with ROI – with its enhanced profile pages and newly launched automated ad model could be different. Far more nimbler than Facebook, Twitter has the opportunity to present a simpler version of social commerce for brands and consumers.

We’re constantly told that the goal of social media marketing is to engage with people in meaningful conversations. So why do many of the most widely used social metric tools favour quantity of consumers, when measuring value, rather than the quality of relationships?

It’s a bit like measuring your success by how many business cards you have. You’re paying attention to the wrong thing.

It’s a thought not lost on Alex Pearmain, head of social media at O2, who says that social media has the potential to make money, but businesses need to have a broader view on how to do this and invest in something longer term.

He adds: “If someone invests in direct response and wants a return within 10 days, I would query the use of social media.

“However, if it is a longer-term approach to drive customer engagement and customer value, then social media is more appropriate.”

If social media marketing is defined by customer engagement and conversation, brands need tools similar to those used by customer services business to finally monetise it.

Activities like conducting qualitative surveys to understand why customers are behaving as they are and what sentiments are driving interactions, should be at the top of marketers’ minds. Until this is done, conversations with consumers will only serve to harbor good sentiment but no clear value.

Social commerce hasn’t yet been mastered, but the CIM’s imminent industry standard could be taking steps in the right direction to change this.

It’s time to stop assuming the advantages of one-to-one relationships with consumers. You’re either broadcasting or having a conversation. Both are natural bedfellows, but it’s time to stop confusing one with the other.

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