Monday, May 31, 2010

Should You Be Social?

I don’t have a ‘real’ website. Initially it was because I was too busy delivering for clients to focus on building one, and then it became an interesting experiment. Do you really need a website to do business?
I do own but the URL redirects to my blog which has one post on my business. On the other hand I have 1000+ connections on LinkedIn, 250+ senior marketers are members of a by-invitation-only Roundtable I host on LinkedIn, hundreds of friends are connected to me on Facebook, 2190 followers on Twitter and a regularly updated blog. I also speak and write at relevant forums. This seems to make me sufficiently accessible by those who wish to do business with me, and provide sufficient channels to talk about my firm’s offerings.
Clearly, social media is effective in building a personal brand and in communicating a business’ value. This is probably why marketers around the world drove their CEOs on to various social media channels – most prominently Twitter – last year. Here’s a quick look at how successful they have been in attracting followers, that is, those interested in receiving their updates:
Michael Dell ( - 2800+ followers
Bill Gates ( - 899,499 followers
Vijay Mallya ( - 75,000+ followers
Anand Mahindra ( 55,000+ followers
S. Sivakumar (, CEO or ITC’s Agri Division - 930 followers
Suresh Vaswani (, Wipro Jt CEO - 673 followers
S. Gopalakrishnan ( of Infosys - 469 followers
Vineet Nayar ( of HCL - 868 followers
With the exception of Michael Dell, none of the other CEOs are equally active across LinkedIn, Blogs, Facebook. President Obama, the master of harnessing social media for branding was present not just on all of the above sites but also YouTube and MySpace.
I think that in order to benefit from social media, you need to be present in all the places that matter, and ensure that your digital presence is neatly connected both to itself and your offline presence.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Separating the Stuff from the Fluff (via

Assuming that social media is right for you, you probably want to know how to measure its effectiveness. Marketing metrics are always a contentious issue, but in the case of social media it is further complicated by the newness of the media, absence of standards, and plain ignorance. For example, 41 per cent of those surveyed in a 2009 study conducted by US-based firm Mzinga-Babson Executive Education were not even sure if the social media they use can support measuring ROI.
At this point I think I should make a clear distinction between ROI and metrics. Social media makes it very easy to track data. The challenge – as always – is how to make sense of that data and connect it to impact. Measurement and impact are also tightly coupled with the expectation of the media, so it makes sense to structure this discussion along that dimension.
Observers: Hello, World
This is usually at the early phase of adoption where the company is first trying to understand what is the external perception and who is interested in them. As Ankur Anil of Serena Software which dipped its toes into social media marketing two months ago says, “We measure headlines and summaries of social media hits, number of search results per day by region and time, search term, search category, popularity, network analysis (Wikipedia, Linkedin, Twitter).”
Metrics here are similar to those used in old-school PR - number of mentions, reach, sentiment, share of voice. Free tools such as Samepoint, Socialmention can help you listen in on conversations.
This can be a powerful way to learn what customers want from you. Since this is primarily a listening post functionality, ROI should be evaluated in the same way that you would a customer service hotline or satisfaction survey.
Digital Salesperson: Leads, leads, leads
Here social media is being used almost exclusively as a lead generation tool. This is typically the entry point into the social media landscape. It allows the company to gain comfort with the media, while providing quick data to justify ROI and further investments. This includes both outbound (push) and inbound (pull). Social media is more effective at pull with a Hubspot survey finding that companies that spend 50 per cent of their budget on inbound marketing experienced a 61 per cent lower cost per lead than outbound oriented organisations.

In this case, the data measured is cost per lead and/or cost of revenue generated through this medium. Typically the cost is only that of cash spent, and does not factor in effort – that should be done as labour costs are pretty high in social media.
Connectors: Let’s Get Engaged
The program is intended to create a touchpoint, or engagement with the customer as opposed to generating a sale. For example, Dell, which is one of the few companies to publicly state its revenue generated through social media ($6.5 million) is using that media to highlight its green philosophy with its Dell Go Green campaign Competitions, events are being used to create awareness and excitement around the concept. When asked about metrics, the team says, “Since we are an ideas contest our baseline metrics include: Number of ideas submitted, number of registrations, number of votes, and number of comments. We also track all the metrics provided by Google Analytics. For our presence on Facebook we track: Number of fans, number of interactions (likes, comments and wall posts by fans). For Twitter, we are only tracking number of followers and mentions.”
Integrators: Social Is Just Another Media
Companies that view ‘social media’ as a new category and look for ways to explore it are likely to be in one of the above slots. They will measure the metrics, but it is very hard to show true business impact, and it is shame to be locked into these boxes by the pursuit of numbers.
A more evolved approach is to take the company’s business strategy and see where social media can be applied. Social media then becomes a tool to execute the company’s vision and is tightly aligned with business goals, and hence more impactful. While Dell is well known for having embraced this approach, closer home Ching’s Secret has integrated Facebook into its marketing strategy, and Tata Tea’s Jaago Re used digital media effectively in conjunction with traditional media.
Rob Leavitt of Solutions Insights, a consulting firm, says, “Some of the more advanced companies are trying to get more strategic with social media metrics, and are looking at things like: Competitive insight, New opportunities, Cost avoidance (for example if using social media for customer service and support), Employee satisfaction.”
I would also factor in the cost of not being available on a channel that customers frequent, or worse allowing negative conversations to take place without any intervention. The tools for this are evolving too – LinkedIn recently launched a feature which allows you to “follow” a company – so you can find out who is joining (or leaving) your competitors, news articles, etc.
The metrics for social media ROI are similar to that for traditional media. The bigger driver for ROI is whether the social media strategy is aligned with the business strategy.

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