Win The Social Marketing Measurement Game

White Paper

For the interactive marketer, social is both a huge opportunity and daunting challenge. You've no doubt heard the question: "How do we know that social marketing drives sales?" but, just as not all TV spots or billboards are intended to drive direct response, not every social marketing programme is designed as a sales trigger. The Forrester Research paper addresses the different approaches to measuring the value of social media campaigns. Download now.

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Key Takeaways

Avoid The Temptation To Oversimplify Your Metrics

Blended single “engagement” metrics may look appealing -- but they’re overly simple and risk undermining your measurement plan. The first problem? They’re fatally circular in nature, often reflecting nothing more than the biases of the vendors that create them. ! e second problem? Engagement is only ever a means, not an end.

Measure Social Marketing’s Value By Whether It Supports Your Customers’ Journey

If your social programs are designed to appeal to customers at a speci" c stage of the customer life cycle, the success of each effort can only be defined by whether it guides customers to the next stage: from discovery to exploration, from exploration to purchase, from purchase to engagement, and from engagement back to discovery.

Think Of Social Marketing As A Board Game

Use site surveys and web analytics to measure whether discovery drives exploration. Use web analytics and ad tags to measure whether exploration drives sales. Use surveys to measure whether engagement drives discovery. And " nally, use attribution tools and marketing mix models to tell your CEO if you won the game.

Why Read This Report

You’ve no doubt heard the question: “How do we know that social marketing drives sales?” But just as not all TV spots or billboards are intended to drive direct response, not every social marketing program is designed as a sales trigger. To measure the success of social marketing — indeed, of any marketing tactic — you need to think of your customers’ journey as a board game like Monopoly. !en follow three simple steps: 1) identify which stage of the customer journey your social marketing program is designed to support; 2) measure whether your social marketing e%orts have moved your customers to the next stage of their journey; and 3) count how many times your customers pass “Go” so you can collect $200. If you keep your customers moving around the board, eventually you’ll win the game.

Avoid the Temptation to Oversimplify Your Metrics

Social marketers have access to hundreds of metrics — so it’s no surprise that many social sites and vendors are pushing simpli"ed single “engagement” metrics that blend a number of social data points. The problem? These blended metrics are overly simple and risk undermining your measurement plan:

  • They’re excessively reductive. Not every marketing program has the same goal or serves the same purpose. Just as some of your media buys build the long-term value of your brand and others are designed to boost short-term sales, so can social marketing do a variety of jobs. Single metrics just can’t capture the breadth of what social offers.
  • They’re fatally circular in nature. You already know that simply counting fans and followers is no way to measure the success of social marketing. But you may not realize that most single engagement metrics are built primarily from such unsophisticated data points. The result is a group of tools fundamentally biased by their own inputs. Garbage in, garbage out.
  • They’re a means, not an end. Engagement is a tactic, not a metric. If you’re lucky, your customers will want to engage with your brand or company. But engagement is their goal, not yours. Your goal is to use that engagement to drive customers toward actions that create value for your company.

Measure Social Marketing’s Value By Whether It Supports Your Customers’ Journey

Rather than reduce all your social measurements into single metrics, you need a measurement process that more precisely links social programs with marketing and business objectives. To do so, measure success based on where each social program fits into your customers’ journey. For instance, our customer life cycle model consists of four stages — discover, explore, buy, and engage — and social marketing can support your customers at each stage (see Figure 1). If your social programs are designed to appeal to customers at a speci"c stage of the customer life cycle, the success of each effort can best be defined by whether it guides customers to the next stage:

  • When your customers are discovering, track whether social encourages exploration. You can’t create discovery without reach — and word-of-mouth marketing can o%er that reach. But measuring reach alone isn’t enough; if the customer journey ends with discovery your marketing plan has failed. To gauge whether social marketing programs focused on this part of the life cycle succeeded, you must determine whether they drive customers to explore your offer in greater detail.
  • When your customers are exploring, track whether social drives purchases. Owned social communities and detailed customer reviews can provide your customers with the depth they’re seeking when they explore your products. But again, simply supporting your customers’ needs isn’t enough; you must measure whether social tools targeted at this stage of the customer life cycle create sales.
  • When your customers are engaging, ask whether social creates new discovery. After customers buy, they may engage to learn more about using your products or to seek customer service — and your Facebook and Twitter accounts are natural magnets for such engagement. But customers’ engagement alone doesn’t define your success. To measure success at this stage of the life cycle, track whether you drove new discovery — either by helping your engaged customers to discover additional offerings or by using them to create discovery among their friends.

[Download PDF to see Figure 1]

Think Of Social Marketing As A Board Game

Figure 1 is based on Forrester’s customer life cycle — but it doesn’t matter whether you use our model or another one. No matter how you visualize your customers’ journey, winning at social marketing is like winning at the board game Monopoly. If you move your customers from one square to the next, eventually they’ll pass “Go” — and you’ll get to collect $200 (see Figure 2).

[Download PDF to see Figure 2]

Use Site Surveys And Web Analytics To Measure Whether Discovery Drives Exploration

Marketers often launch word-of-mouth programs to create discovery. But measuring success isn’t easy: While vendors like Visible Measures and Omniture can track the reach your viral campaigns create, few o%er solutions for measuring whether those campaigns drove customers to explore your products. Two strategies can bridge this gap:

  • Surveys can record inspiration for site visits. Thee website surveys you might use to gauge users’ satisfaction can also capture users’ inspiration for visiting. For instance, iPerceptions’ clients often use surveys to ask users why they visited the site. An increase in users who say that their visits were influenced by family and friends — or by social media sites — shows that viral programs are driving exploration.
  • Referrer data can show an increase in searches, as well as visits directly from social sites. Web analytics can tell you what pages your site visitors came from — even what keyword they searched if they came from Google. Kimberly-Clark was able to attribute 1.7 million site visits for its new Kotex brand to word of mouth on social sites with Twitter. Likewise, if Sony used viral marketing to help customers discover its new line of headphones, an increase in tra&c from Google searches for the new brand name could tell it that word of mouth was driving exploration.

Use Web Analytics And Ad Tags To Measure Whether Exploration Drives Sales

Customer reviews, corporate blogs, and on-site communities can all offer your customers the depth they need when they’re exploring your brand. To gauge the success of these programs, don’t just study whether customers used that depth — measure whether that depth drove increased sales:

  • Chico’s maps engagement with user reviews to increases in sales. In 2011, the US fashion retailer Chico’s worked with Bazaarvoice to implement social content such as ratings, reviews, and questions on its product pages. Rather than simply measuring customers’ use of these reviews, it links that use to sales — and has found that for one of its brands, customers who explore this deep social content convert at a 200% higher rate than customers who don’t. You can do this yourself using ad tags or analytics tools.
  • Lion Brand Yarn measures whether its blog drives increased conversion rates. The online yarn seller’s blog offers knitting patterns and tips designed to turn browsers into buyers. And it works: !e company measures the traffic from its blog to its commerce site, and has reported that users who visit the blog are 41% more likely to buy and that their order value is 39% higher than average.

Use Surveys To Measure Whether Engagement Drives Discovery

If your social programs are targeted to users in the engage stage of the life cycle, brand surveys should provide an easy way to determine whether a marketing program has created discovery. But Facebook and Twitter make it hard to run surveys. Until the social sites offer better survey options — or until canny survey vendors find ways to deploy effective invitations through the networks — marketers must choose between two imperfect options:

  • Post a survey invitation in a wall post or a tweet. !is strategy is likely to yield a small and biased sample. After all, Facebook admits the average brand post reaches only 16% of that brand’s fans — and the EdgeRank algorithm it uses to determine which fans see brands’ posts means that your survey invitations would surely be biased toward your most loyal fans. But despite the limitations, this is the best way to get frequent data on how your social engagement channels are driving discovery.
  • Use broader brand tracking surveys. Most large brands run annual or biannual brand studies, and you can use them to gauge whether social engagement tools encourage discovery. For instance, the agency Marcus Thomas runs a Facebook program for a national packaged goods brand. In the marketer’s next brand audit, the agency will study whether customers who are engaged with its branded Facebook page are more aware of all the brand’s offerings. A positive correlation would offer directional evidence linking social engagement programs to discovery.

Attribution And Media Mix Tools Tell Your CEO If You Won the Game

Measuring how well you move customers around your game board will help you make operational decisions and optimize social programs on the fly. But your CEO will still want to know how many times you passed “Go.” There are three ways to answer the question:

  • Mix modeling is the best solution. If you want to show how a marketing investment a%ects sales, there’s no better option than marketing mix modeling. !e problem? Building a model can take months and cost millions — and most modeling tools still aren’t great at reporting on social media. But leading vendors like !inkVine and SymphonyIRI are getting better and better at modeling social. Measuring social isn’t enough to justify the expense of a mix model its own, but if your company is already deploying a mix modeling solution, make sure it includes your social channels.
  • Attribution tools provide a cheaper — but more limited — option. If a marketing mix model is too rich, then attribution vendors can also help you gauge whether social tools contributed to sales. Unfortunately, these vendors specialize mainly in transactions that happen online, making them better suited to technology and so#ware marketers than those selling packaged goods or big-ticket items.
  • Coupons and unique identifiers are your last-ditch option. If you simply can’t "nd the budget for a technology-based approach, offering coded coupons to your social fans can prove that they’re buying. Remember, not every social tool is designed to directly drive sales — and the discounts themselves will probably be as large a factor in redemption as the effectiveness of your social marketing strategies. But as always, some measurement is better than none.

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