Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Measurements Matter

This blog article is the first in a series of five articles discussing basic social media strategy.
When I was growing up, I was only able to visit my grandmother once a year.  One of the first things she did after we’d arrived, after presenting the freshly baked cookies from the oven, was to line the four of us up and mark our heights on the doorframe of her kitchen entranceway.  Eighteen years of marks miraculously never faded or disappeared.  We always walked away smiling and standing taller, proud of her compliments and admiration for how much we had managed to grow since the last time we’d come to see her.  It was always something we managed to do well.
When setting up your marketing and social media strategy, that same kind of measurement is equally important. Technology has now given us the ability to create vast networks interacting in real time.  We are now where our friends are, 24/7, and today for more than 75 percent of the planet, our friends are all connected to us through phone, text, email, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.  Outcomes from each social media channel must be monitored and analyzed to make sure you are connecting with your intended audiences and reaching your goals.

Many business leaders still do not take social media seriously to expend this kind of effort.  Customers take it very seriously, however.  As everyone knows, customer opinions are a business’ lifeline.  As has always been the case, a person’s strongest opinions are formed through interaction with friends, family, and co-workers.  Now that these social interactions have expanded to the Web, social networks are becoming increasingly important in influencing customer decisions, communications, and preferences.  In the same way, diligent measurement is more important than ever.
The impressions made in these channels are fast, far-reaching, and indelible.  Starting in the right place is critical.  But that must be determined by where you want to go and how you want to get there.  It should also be determined in part by how you plan to measure your results and justify your decisions as a business person.
By continuously monitoring performance and outcomes, you can also make adjustments and keep your market response as flexible as possible in the long run, thereby reducing your risk of failure with social networking endeavors.
From that perspective, there are four critical success factors for social media strategic planning:
I.           A foundation built upon clear business objectives
II.          Relevant key performance indicators (KPIs).
III.         Social media channels chosen to leverage KPIs to their full potential.
IV.        Outcome measurement and strategy realignment.
Some general principles at work in this approach include:
  • Build your social media plan strategically, one careful step at a time.
  • Always start with your objectives, add the proper methods for measurement, and proceed from there.
  • Your objectives must be customer-centered, building upon the foundations of sound marketing and effective customer-relationship management (CRM).
  • Create a diverse, interactive channel selection, built up congruently over time, which is critical for your business to obtain its furthest reach.
  • Measureable business objectives provide opportunities to learn about your customers, their preferred interactions, their understanding of your brand, and value received from your product or service.
  • The data gathered in this process will also help you take more decisive, effective action for change as your strategy moves forward.
  • Leverage these assets for a competitive advantage by differentiating yourself and making yourself more flexible and responsive than your competitors.  You will be able to measure, assess, and enhance your performance.
  • Measuring outcomes will also help reveal opportunities to maximize the effectiveness of your process and workflow relative to your social networking goals.
For most organizations, these four goals are the key components of a successful social networking strategy:
  • Dialogue – get people to talk to you.
  • Advocacy – get people to talk about you.
  • Resolution – make sure you are listening and you talk back.
  • Innovation – ask your customers what they want.

Once you are able to accomplish these things, your customers will be naturally compelled to engage with you and seek out your products and/or services on their initiative – your ultimate goal in any marketing or public relations endeavor.
Article 2 of this blog series will discuss Key Performance Indicators and the things you should look for to measure your progress.
Article 3 will present measurement tools available for basic media channels.
Article 4 will discuss strategy realignment and possible issues you may encounter as you engage your customers.
Finally, we will present some ideas for giving your customers added incentives to engage with your company and ultimately seek out your products and/or services.
In the meantime, keep making those marks on the wall, and be proud of the progress you are making!

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