What are the best in class approaches for measuring the business value of content in social?
Since 'business value' is measured differently for every company, it is important for businesses to clearly outline social media goals before they begin their efforts. With a clear set of standards for what they are trying to accomplish, a social media team can then track their progress using existing analytical methods. Some of the best metrics for brand analytics include measuring website traffic, clickthrough rates, and customer engagement. It is especially important for companies to monitor engagement and build brand awareness through innovative content, because this is how customers develop a relationship to a brand and share that relationship within their broader social networks.
DEFINING BUSINESS VALUE AND SETTING GOALS
'Business value' takes on different forms for different types of businesses, which gives the term a variety of potential meanings. I choose to follow the lead of Lenskold Group when I discuss business value: social media can be seen as providing business value if a company can visibly tell that their efforts are helping them approach their goals more efficiently. This can mean higher customer engagement and satisfaction, increased revenue, or lower company costs, to name a few examples. In order for a company to accurately measure the business value of their social media efforts, therefore, it is imperative to set clear and specific goals for those efforts beforehand. The more quantitative these goals are in nature, the better.
Once a company has created a precise set of goals to guide their social media campaigns, they can choose the analytics they want to use to measure their progress on those goals. Web traffic, clickthrough rates, and customer engagement are all important metrics. But it is important to fully understand these concepts before looking at the numbers, because the raw data can be misleading and doesn't always translate cleanly into customer leads, purchases, or brand loyalty. Using software tools such as Google Analytics, it is possible to assign an approximate dollar value to ambiguous data points such as Twitter followers, Facebook likes and shares, or clickthroughs. These tools allow you to look more closely at your raw data; for example, according to QuickBooks, Google Analytics allows you to see what percentage of visitors to your site actually clicked to multiple pages, versus the number who stayed only on one page or clicked away immediately.
Forbes recommends conducting controlled experiments to measure the effect of a social media campaign on consumer purchases, as well as building data-based models to try to predict the outcome of potential campaigns in the future.
ENGAGEMENT AND CONTENT
Although it is theoretically possible to assign a rough dollar number to every Twitter follower and Facebook like, it is not always possible to do so accurately. Much of the business value behind social media efforts lies in the process of developing brand loyalty and increasing customer awareness of your product. Social media users who click through a link to your website will not always buy the advertised product, or any product at all. But if your company provides engaging and thoughtful content, those users could become followers who will eventually buy something as you gain their trust. Furthermore, those followers might share your links with a friend who will buy from you, even if they never do themselves.
Sprout Social, another company that markets analytic tools for social media, emphasizes the importance of putting out engaging content and communicating with customers via social media. They found that people are on average 57.5% more likely to buy from a brand they follow on social media than from another brand that lacks a social media presence. Similarly, 34.5% of customers prefer to look for customer service and care on social media platforms, as opposed to through other means. Customers are online, and they want to develop a relationship with the brands they like. They also prefer to engage with companies that have a personality or that share their values; for example, Sprout Social notes that up to 66% of consumers said they were willing to pay more for brands supporting environmental and social causes.
Customer lifecycle marketing company Right On Interactive recommends looking more specifically at ways in which customers react with your posted content. If the buzz behind a product or post is positive, that could be a good sign for profits. But if your content is off-putting to your intended customer base, it might be time to change your tactics. Lenskold Group notes that in the social media world, while it is good to maintain a buzz around your brand image, there is such a thing as bad publicity. A negative buzz might be worse than no buzz at all, so it is important to consider customer feedback and respond appropriately.
If companies want to examine the business value of their social media efforts, it is important for them first of all to decide quantitatively for themselves what that "value" represents. Then it becomes possible to use analytic software to look at raw data (such as traffic and clickthroughs) with more nuance. This data can be misleading if it is simply examined as raw numbers. The most important component of business value, according to the sources examined, was undoubtedly customer engagement and content development. While the precise dollar value of these engagement efforts differs for every company, research shows that customers are more willing to buy from brands they can follow, trust, and communicate with reliably.