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Done Right, Social Media Strategies Put the Brand to Work for Customers



Reducing social media strategy to a mere measurement problem would be a mistake. Although measuring the ROI of social media efforts is important and necessary, it is far more important that managers make sure their social media efforts are effective, even if the state of ROI measurement may be less than satisfactory. In order to maximize the effectiveness of their social media efforts, managers must recognize two important facts of social media life when implementing social media campaigns.

First, while it is certainly true that consumers have much greater control over their online experiences, managers also have — and must exercise — a fair amount of control over the rules and framework for brand participation in social media. For example, a manager can control who posts to a blog devoted to the company’s brand. More generally, managers certainly have at least some control over the rules and the participatory framework of how consumers will engage with their brands in the social media space.

Second, managers must appreciate that the social media environment is highly dynamic and rapidly evolving. While this may seem obvious, it is mostly overlooked when campaigns are conceived and launched. Many managers still approach social media as if the practices — and consumer behaviors — are largely fixed. Social media-savvy managers know this is not the case, but traditional beliefs about how to reach consumers and potential consumers die hard.

Our premise is that social media efforts that are developed in the context of the 4c’s — connections, creation, consumption and control — that underlie consumer motivations to participate will lead to higher ROI because the company’s marketing investments can better leverage the active “investments” its customers will make as they engage with the company’s brands. These investments can take the form of blog comments, registration and active participation to become a part of a brand-related community, private endorsements of a brand or product (a tweet or retweet, Facebook comment, review, blog post or offline recommendations to friends) and the like. While the content of consumers’ interactions is largely out of managers’ control, setting up the framework to facilitate that interaction is squarely in their control.

How managers design, launch and actively manage their social media campaigns plays a largepart in determining whether and how consumers will participate and interact. Savvy managers understand that there is a feedback loop. They don’t sit back once the social media campaign begins. Instead, they listen carefully because they know that consumers not only “consume” the campaign, but can comment on it (“create”), share it with their friends and anyone else (“connect”) and provide their uncensored thoughts about it (“control”) for any and all to view. And this listening must then lead to action. For example, if a consumer posts a question to the manager’s blog, someone with a face in the company must reply. If a video is uploaded, someone must monitor the Twitter stream for comments and be prepared to react if problems appear. You can learn more from the below video.



Traditional marketing metrics with narrowly defined ROI tend to lead to social media campaigns that maximize short-term benefits for the brand (or the manager!), without worrying too much about customer motivations and the long term. The result tends to be campaigns that expect the customer to work for the brand. In contrast, effective social media strategies put the brand to work for the customers by satisfying their needs to create, consume, connect and control in the social Web.

In a well-designed social media campaign, consumers are likely to spread viral videos, create additional brand-related content, tweet about the brand and post about their experiences on Facebook. The social metrics that reflect these kinds of social media behaviors are important not only because they let marketers measure the bottomline impact of their social media efforts, but also because they focus marketers’ attention on social media strategies that take into account the objectives of both the brand and the online customer.

There is reason to be highly optimistic about improving the effectiveness of social media. The social Web is a highly measurable environment, and it is a relatively simple matter for a manager to measure the number of product reviews, blog posts and comments, retweets and appearances in the social network timelines of the company’s brands. At the same time, managers are often able to measure clickthroughs to transactional websites, as well as capture the number of leads generated or conversion rates for online sales. While there will still be those situations in which behavior cannot be completely and accurately traced (e.g., offline purchases or offline word of mouth), we think that carefully planned social media campaigns afford phenomenal opportunities for relatively easy and cost-efficient measurement of customers’ online investments in a company’s brands.
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