Capture The Conversation

2011 February

How To Align Social Media Objectives to Business Objectives

February 24, 2011

Now that most businesses “get” that social media is an integral part to their business, we have moved away from the novelty of Facebook and Twitter and into the era of social media ROI. In a recent study, Bazaarvoice and The CMO Club surveyed CMOs about social media ROI and found that in 2010, 81% of these CMOs said they planned to track ROI for social media efforts, but only 40% reported that they did so successfully.

So, why is social media ROI so hard to measure? Many people have tried to create formulas or methodologies for measuring success. Jeremiah Owyang even created a framework, The Social Media ROI Pyramid, which I think is one of the best out there so far.

However, I think the missing piece lies at the strategy phase, not the measurement phase. Many businesses setup social media programs without first aligning their social media objectives to their business objectives. Forgetting this integral step makes it hard to understand the effectiveness of social media, and can leave community managers scrambling for metrics.

So, how do you align your social media objectives to your business objectives? Here are 5 key steps:

1. Write down your business objectives.
This is an obvious, yet frequently skipped, step. Understand what your CEO thinks is the main objective for the business. Is it product sales? Is it becoming the most forward-thinking company in your industry? Don’t just make an assumption here. Ask key business leaders so you’re clear on what’s important.

2. Consider how social media can help achieve these business goals.
If your business objective is product sales, and you sell your products online, this is easy. You can simply track how many sales came from social media referrals via Google Analytics. Most of us aren’t that lucky. Let’s say you only sell your products in brick-and-mortar stores. Social media can help generate awareness about your product or educate consumers on the benefits of your product.

3. Determine how you will measure both your business and social media objectives.
I teach a marketing dashboard class through the American Marketing Association, and have heard a significant number of class attendees say “brand awareness” is a key marketing objective for them. Last time I taught this class, I asked how many of these attendees knew how to measure brand awareness. Only one person raised his hand. How can you measure success if you don’t even know how to measure key objectives?

Write down the KPIs (key performance indicators) that will help you track success against these objectives. In the case of brand awareness, you can track things such as online conversations about your brand or number of unique visits to your website. You can also pay research companies to run brand awareness studies.

4. Set benchmarks.
Before starting a social media program, know where your company stands on major business objectives. Get average sales numbers, do some research on brand awareness among your target, or understand consumer opinions about your brand. Having these benchmarks setup ahead of time will better help you understand what impact (if any) your social media program is having on the bottom line.

5. Use a dashboard to track KPIs over time.
The reality is, understanding the effectiveness of a social media program takes time. Create a dashboard with the KPIs you wrote down in Step 3 and start monitoring it frequently. Look for trends and potential correlations between your social media efforts and your overall business objectives.  Do you notice that sales have gone up since you increased your Facebook community? Is consumer opinion starting to shift now that you’re active in Twitter?

In conclusion, consider this: there is no one-size-fits-all formula for calculating social media ROI. However, if you align your social media objectives to your business objectives in the strategy and planning phase, you are going to set yourself up to be more successful in determining the effectiveness of your campaign.

5 Ways Facebook Could Improve Its Ad Platform

February 17, 2011

Today’s topic of discussion: Advertising on Facebook. Simply put, if you are trying to grow the number of likes for your brand page, you should be running ads on Facebook. Running ads on Facebook for your brand page is both easy and effective. Moreover, Facebook allows for hyper-relevant targeting based on a users specific likes, interests, location, friend connections, date of birth, education and so on. Literally, you’ll know exactly how many people will see your ad based on what targeting you have set up. This helps you control your cost-per-click, which in turn will likely be far lower than your other PPC efforts on platforms like AdWords or adCenter.

You don’t even really need to spend that much to see real ROI. We’ve helped several clients with smaller budgets see big increases in their fan bases from effective Facebook ads. Speaking of ROI, Facebook’s reporting gives you the ability to see exactly how many users clicked “Like” on your ad, allowing you to determine a cost-per-fan number.

Facebook advertising has already come a long way. A lot of processes that were once manual have since been automated. Targeting continues to get better and more relevant. Competition is still low compared to other PPC platforms. That being said, the Facebook ads platform still has a long way to go. If you’re expecting the polish and UI of a Google AdWords, you’ll be in for somewhat of  a rude awakening with Facebook advertising. If I were working on the Facebook ad platform, I’d take a look at the following five ways Facebook could improve its ad platform.

Prominently show actions and action rate across all dashboards & improve dashboards in general

This is pretty much a no-brainer. In order to see actions and action rates, you have to click a few times from the main dashboard to a specific ad. You can’t see campaign or account level action/action rate data. This information needs to be prominently displayed across your Facebook ad dashboards.

Further, the dashboard (even the brand spanking new iteration of it) needs work. You need to be able to see all your ads and their performance in one place. You need to be able to see your different campaign targeting, all in one place. And you certainly need to see your account, campaign, and ad action/action rate metrics easily. In one place.

Allow for real A/B split testing

If you want to properly A/B test ad variations (with the exact same targeting and bid) in a Facebook advertising campaign, you’re going to run into problems. 99% of the time what will end up happening is whichever ad you create first will suck up the vast majority of the traffic. You can’t create two ads at the same time (think AdWords Editor) to alleviate this. To compensate, you can increase the bid for the B variation to show more, but then your CPC will go up as well, defeating the purpose of said A/B testing in the first place.

You can also create another campaign with the same targeting settings and bids, but then best of luck to you trying to compare performance between the two. That’s where the whole action/action rate metrics bit comes in to play. Facebook at the very least needs to let us upload ads paused, and then make them go live at the same time. Or just serve up ads equally, which would be ideal.

Improve consistency regarding ad creative approval

Stop allowing ads that clearly break your guidelines (especially in regards to words in ALL CAPS) and occasionally disallowing ads that adhere to them. Often times re-submitting the same ad a few minutes later will get it approved. No one knows what is going on. Regardless, I think we all can agree this whole process needs to get tightened up.

Case in point: the advertising guidelines specifically state “Ads cannot include excessive capitalization (such as “FREE”) or incorrect capitalization (such as capitalizing the first letter of every word in a sentence).”

Interesting, since it took me literally 8 seconds to find and screenshot this Madden ad from my Facebook account, which is clearly not adhering to said capitalization rules. (PS – Go COLTS).

Associate credit cards with ad accounts instead of individual users

The MCC within Google AdWords is something you take for granted after a while, especially when you’re helping your clients deal with all sorts of billing issues and adjustments. From the MCC you can dive into any clients account and adjust billing settings. It’s that simple.

Compare that process to Facebook. For whatever reason, only one credit card can be associated with one user, instead of each account that has ads running. Why is this bad? Well, when you want to create a new ads account, you’re either going to have to get your client to create the ads account with their personal Facebook account and give you access or break Facebook’s TOS and create a fake account to tie a credit card to. Neither of which is a good option. Since we like to generally avoid angering our Facebook overlords, we go with option #1. Most clients don’t have an issue with this, and you can always do it for them, it’s just a silly workaround for an issue that needs to get fixed.

Offer certification

I’ll be the first to admit – getting Google AdWords certified was a pain in the _____. But here’s what it did – it made me learn things about the platform I didn’t know about before, even after months and months of experience. It also gave Room 214 credibility to potential clients. Facebook could certainly use a program like this. They could even extend it out to other components of their platform (think: Applications, Pages, TOS, etc). With the amount of money brands are already spending in Facebook, it makes sense to roll out a certification program for agencies and individuals to show their competence. Facebook would also make a pretty penny off it. I think I just helped Facebook realize their $50 billion valuation in one fell swoop.

As it stands, Facebook advertising works. Really well. If you have the budget, you WILL bring in the likes to your page. It’s that simple. While it can be frustrating at times dealing with the current iteration of the Facebook  ad platform, it goes without saying that Facebook will continue to update it and hopefully address some of these issues I’ve outlined above.

If you have any questions about Facebook ads, feel free to leave a comment below or fill out our contact form. We’re happy to help!

Is your business thinking about mobile yet?

February 15, 2011

Ok. So, you aren’t in the game, you have no mobile offering, it’s not on your road-map, nor do you have any idea where to start. Don’t despair, keep reading & K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

Read More

Video Scribing, Infographics and Data Visualization

February 12, 2011

This post includes the full article I wrote for Search Engine Watch about data visualization at the end of 2010. I will continue copying these articles to Capture the Conversation on a monthly basis, but will also include follow-up insights based on feedback from the original post or recent activities within our own agency.

On that topic, one item I did want to share more about in the first publishing (but was unable to due to its self-promotional nature) was on the concept of video scribing as an effective means of story telling.

As a social media agency, we at Room 214 believed scribing would enable us with a great asset to tell our own story. It also equipped us with an offering we could extend to our clients – and since the resulting production below, we have been providing scribing services (consulting, scripting, illustration, audio and video production) for others as a core competency under 214′s social media program management offering.

OK, commercial’s over. I hope you enjoy the article below:

As marketers, we should all pursue how to better communicate a message — yet many of us naturally limit our opportunities by focusing only on what we know. For example, when you hear the phrase “content is king” in the context of sales and marketing, does your thought process default to content that should be written?

We’re all familiar with the old adage of “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In this attention (deficit) economy, what’s old has become new again.

Many consider visual assets (e.g., images, diagrams, illustrations, animation, video) as secondary marketing elements. However, these are the assets people are most interested in sharing.

You may think this is obvious, but consider what Facebook had to learn, as stated by CEO Mark Zuckerberg in his recent “60 Minutes” interview:

“Photos originally weren’t that big of a part of the idea for Facebook, but we just found that people really liked them, so we built out this functionality.”

“Liked them” couldn’t be truer. With more than 100 million photos uploaded to Facebook daily, it’s no wonder their latest update centers around everyone’s new user profile page having greater accessibility to photos.

The Power of Data Visualization

Data visualization has the power to facilitate a wide range of insights by visually simplifying what are typically considered complex data sets.

The goal is to efficiently illuminate greater meaning from data patterns and connections, essentially developing a story from a collection of important information that might otherwise be relegated to statistical factoids with incomprehensible points of reference.

For example, how do you meaningfully process a comparison between $3 trillion vs. $30 billion? Doing the math only provides another number. But showing two circles proportionally sized next to each other (or one inside another) visually demonstrates the difference through different cognitive layers.

The best way to get a taste of what I’m referring to is by checking out David McCandless’s Ted talk from this summer. As the McCandless talk suggests, a key objective is getting people to better focus on the information that matters most.

The Re-Emergence of Infographics

Although cave paintings by early man are considered the first information graphics, or infographics, the elements have remained constant: data, information, and knowledge.

Given the increasing availability of data, along with what’s being learned about media most likely to be shared, we’re seeing more organizations look to visualization tactics to enhance not only their social media, but overall marketing efforts.

While some suggest the use of information graphics to support social media efforts as trendy, a deeper look at type and common attributes leveraged should quickly dispel the idea of infographics as a fad:

  • Statistical infographics: Leverage pie charts, bar graphs, tables
  • Location/Geographical infographics: Leverage maps, icons, symbols
  • Timeline infographics: Leverage chronology, sequencing, events
  • Process infographics: Leverage icons, symbols, instruction
  • Conceptual infographics: Leverage various visual attributes to depict an idea
  • Anatomical infographics: Leverage various attributes to show inner workings

A more detailed summary of the above can be found on Andrew Ross’s post on InfoGraphic Designs: Overview, Examples and Best Practices — but the main takeaway is in understanding the importance of infographics as potentially foundational elements to a number of marketing and communications efforts

Applying Your Own Visualization Tactics

In consideration of media that quickly resonates with an audience, gets actively shared, and now increasingly indexed via social search optimization, business benefits can be realized from the use of simple infographics to more complex storytelling endeavors leveraging tactics such as video (whiteboard) scribing.

As we continue becoming accustomed to content consumed in bite-sized fashion, what flashes before our eyes has seconds to work or fail. Inevitably, part of your differentiation as a marketer will rely on growing your content beyond the written word.

Consider a few of the following resources for additional guidance and inspiration: