Social Media Marketing: Network Responsibly

I think many internet marketers these days are high. That is to say, I think they are riding this wave of elation and euphoria while they ignore their responsibilities. Their drug of choice? … Social Media.

I mean to say this in the kindest sense, both to marketers and Social Media itself. Social Media has changed everything. It’s given us a channel that provides immediate and unfiltered observation and communication with our target audiences. Heck, it’s blown apart the concept of “target audiences” as we know it. We no longer have to conjure up archetypes from our imaginations to give a face to those demographic homogenies that we use to target our campaigns. We merely have to “follow” someone to learn how a typical customer ticks, their likes and dislikes, their hopes and their fears… We can get feedback and answer questions in a direct way that contact forms and one way copy never could. It only makes sense that we direct resources and time into these new arenas.

But, like any good crack addict, some become hooked. First it’s just a couple times a week. Then it’s an hour a day (just a little social media after lunch to get in touch with our customers, man…) Pretty soon you are shoving aside the time you spent optimizing your paid search accounts, traditional SEO activities and even detailed analysis of traffic and A-B testing of your content. But, you don’t mind, because it “feels” so good. When the executive board of your company asks for you to give them the ROI and performance data on these new efforts you can only throw up the peace sign and say, “How can you hang a price on the love and outreach we are experiencing with our customers, man. That’s like, bringing me down, man.”

Then they fire your hippy ass.

So, we all know there is something potentially valuable to be gained from engaging your customers in Social Media platforms. Why do you have to resign yourself to not being able to assign real value to it? Heck, you should DEMAND it of yourself, especially if you are devoting a second of time away from other marketing pursuits. You wouldn’t stand for your paid search or display advertising efforts to continue without knowing impressions, clicks, and conversions down to a very small margin of error. You should require as much from your Social Media campaigns as well. I guarantee you those who cut the checks and approve the budgets will. So, sober up and dust off those books you bought about metrics and analytics and get back to business.

I don’t believe in intangibles when it comes to marketing. Intangibles are just tangibles that you haven’t taken the time and effort to apply a measurement scheme to yet. The best way to tackle this is to make your Social Media metrics analogous to your other campaigns’ metrics.


You monitor how often you ads are viewed don’t you? Well, then do the same for how often your brand comes up in discussion. Make online conversations = impressions. With Social Media you get the extra added benefit of being able to measure your impressions in terms of varying contexts. By that I mean, positive, negative or neutral, etc… Are people bashing you on a forum thread? 1 negative impression. Did someone post a blog about a great experience with your staff? 1 positive impression. Find a tweet where someone asked a general question about your product? 1 neutral impression. Feel free to make the impression categories as simple or complex as you like. Count every post in a thread or the whole thread. Classify impressions as questions, answers, praise and criticism. Whatever it makes sense for you to count is fine, the important thing is that you are counting.


This is probably the easiest one to do. Virtually any analytics package out there is going to provide you with referring page data. Simply give any of those impressions you counted a “click” if your site received traffic as a result of that online conversation.

Congratulations, you now have a click-through-rate for that blog post or thread. Not only that, you can now see CTR on negative vs. positive impressions. You can report a CTR on Twitter traffic in relation to how many brand mentions you had. All of the sudden you are able to see a relative value of scaling efforts in one Social Media platform over another in terms of driving traffic, not just current sheer volumes.


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To me this is the most important piece to the puzzle. You have to know the bottom line or it’s all just fun and games. Pulling a conversion metric out of that “fuzzy cloud” of Social Media is where you can impress the boss (or your bank account) and gain true support for ramping up Social Media efforts.

You’re going to need to use some kind of analytics package that tracks conversion or goal data. The easiest option might be to use Google Analytics with it’s built in goal metrics. It may take some work tagging your lead forms, or cart receipt pages, but be sure to use the full depth of what your analytics package provides. If you are e-commerce based, then try to gather total order value. If lead generation, then make sure to gather the type of lead (if you collect multiple interests.)

Once done (and really, you should already being doing this if you do any paid advertising) you’ll know what platforms and types of conversations convert at what rates. These numbers should truly define where you priorities get placed, both among your Social Media initiatives and in relation to your overall marketing strategy.

Cost Per Action and ROI

Social Media is free, so your Cost Per Action is $0 and the ROI is infinite!


Thinking like that is how Social Media efforts get hamstrung and tossed onto the plate of an already busy person, doomed to never be scaled up. Take the time spent on Social Media and multiply it by the implementer’s hourly rate, or their entire salary if you have dedicated personnel. Are you going to Social Media conferences, spending money at “Tweet-Ups”, or buying books to learn new strategies? Count it all up, and don’t be scared you are going to blow that “marketing freebie” image of Social Media. It’s much worse to report a $0 CPA and then ask for budget money than it is to provide a real an accurate accounting of what it costs to manage your efforts right. If you don’t get an accurate CPA and ROI down now, you are going to run into big problems when you try to scale your efforts up and run into budget shortages.


Okay, so that may all be pretty much a no-brainer for most marketers. You know how to do all that. But, are you doing it? Are you keeping a spreadsheet or database of those data points broken down by each month, week or day? Are you graphing out the changes in impressions, clicks, CTR, conversions and conversion rates over time? Are you comparing that graph with the timeline of your Social Media activities? If not, get to it! You need to know the impact of what you are doing and take informed deliberate actions based off your data.

So now that you have all this data gathered, you simply factor in Social Media platforms into your marketing mix and optimize like any other source you are using. Examine your data points and see if creating or engaging in existing conversations about your brand drives more clicks, or even improves your CTR. Learn what types of activity you initiate give you a better conversion rate. Find well performing scenarios and work to scale them up to maximize your potential in those instances.

Compare these efforts to other things like paid search networks, and display placements, and then prioritize your efforts based on what the numbers tell you are the most productive and have the best ROI. You may learn that spending half your day chasing down detractors or answering questions on blogs yields considerably less sales than using that time developing ad campaigns. Or, you may find that your audience converts ten fold when you interact. the numbers may tell you hiring a staffer full time to man that effort would increase business 20% while raising your overall ROI.


The point is, let the numbers tell their story and be prepared to respond appropriately, even if you don’t like it. Sure, it may be more fun to make a Facebook app than adjust bids in AdWords, but you have a job to do. Always be sure to measure what you market and don’t let the glitz and glam of Social Media turn you into a junkie. Network responsibly!

Terry Howard is the Internet Marketing Strategist for

One Comment

  1. Posted 4/2/2009 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    Very interesting article. Enjoyed reading.

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