Measuring the true sales impact of social media efforts his hard and sometimes downright impossible. In the early days of social media that was ok. Social media was the bright shiny object that everyone wanted and few understood. Social media gurus would quip, “what’s the ROI of your mother?” and folks actually took that as an intelligent and acceptable response to the question of the valuing social media efforts. Not anymore. Today, companies can’t afford not to understand the return on EVERY sales and marketing investment. They have to understand what their social media effort is worth.
That’s why, today, I want to focus on one aspect of valuing social media — one that seems to get the most attention — social’s ability to stimulate brand virality.
Social Sharing = Online Conversation
Social sharing means your content is entering the public conversation.
– Mark Schaefer
In his post, What is the true business value of social media engagement?, Schaefer made the observation above, and I have to say I completely disagree. Further, his view is dangerous because it appears logically correct and in fact, is likely shared by the majority of marketers and business owners today.
But his point requires one super important clarification — sharing doesn’t equal exposure and hence conversation any more than traditional reach (think magazine/newspaper) equaled exposure. Both simply are measures of an opportunity to expose. And unfortunately, increasingly in social, the platforms are throttling that reach/exposure. So while you may share something with your friends or followers, quite often they’ll never see it because some algorithm somewhere will suppress that content from their feed in favor of other, more popular content.
Further, as we’ve seen with our own clients’ data, sharing, especially on Facebook, is quite often no different than a Like. After analyzing shares across thousands of posts across numerous client and competitive brands, we routinely find that the majority of those shares don’t mention anyone or provide any commentary. Folks are just sharing the content instead of liking it.
So, while I’d still argue that a share is more important than a like because the person knows sharing the content publicly links the content to the sharer, unless the person attempts to start a conversation via mentioning someone or commenting on the shared content, I just don’t see how you can classify that content as “entering the public conversation.” It’s really just a fancy Like.
Sharing May Be Caring But Commenting Is Converting
The real money in social media is the comments. While Likes and Shares can create virality and publicly indicate support or alignment with a brand or content, Commenting is where the rubber hits the road. Comments provide three key benefits:
- Commenting takes more time and effort than Sharing or Liking — therefore it indicates a stronger sense of attachment or support for a brand or piece of content. That’s an important filter for busy sales & marketing executives that are trying to use social media engagement to generate new leads for their company or brand.
- Commenting provides sales signals. When someone comments, you can hear their voice, their issues, their feelings and thoughts. Buried within all of these words are potential sales signals, that when provided to a well trained sales team, are lead gen gold for both B2B and B2C companies.
- Commenting opens the door to conversations. It’s almost impossible to have conversion without conversation and the greatest application of social media is levering it to turn conversations into customers. Again though, it’s hard to have a conversation with a Like or Share. But when someone drops a Comment on a piece of content, regardless of platform, they’re raising their hand and inviting you to respond.
The True Business Value of Social Media Engagement
Now some of you may feel like I’m picking on Mark. After all, I took issue with 10 words out of a 2,500 word post. And I am kind of… but that’s why I subscribe to his blog — one of the few — because he writes things that make me think. And when I think I write.
But the one thing he and I are (I believe) 100% aligned behind is the value of social engagement — though maybe in slightly different forms. For me, social engagement, of all kinds, equals Guaranteed Brand Interactions or GBI.
That’s the gold folks… it’s so incredibly hard to quantify the value of social media efforts (both marketing and sales), especially if the product or service is purchased offline. Attributing offline sales to social media is often impossible.
BUT, that’s where GBI comes into play. When we’re working with a Converse Digital client, we can agree upfront how much a consumer interaction is worth. Once quantified, we can then begin to understand ROI because social engagement is indisputable data. Unlike marketing measures like reach, page loads, open rates, and other KPIs, every social media engagement is proof that somewhere a real live human being interacted with your brand.
That guaranteed interaction and the fact you can not just track it but actually SEE the person who interacted — that’s the true business value of social media engagement folks.
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