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One of the difficulties of social marketing is that there are relatively few accepted best practices and KPIs, which means it's easy for those holding the purse strings to be sceptical of the potential ROI.
But coming up with a robust framework for social media that can be applied across a range of businesses and marketing campaigns isn’t an easy task. However that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible.
Digital agency Yomego hosted a roundtable last year with the intention of coming up with the aforementioned social framework for how to value social media advocacy, and has now published its findings.
The idea is that “until a sensible and workable approach is cracked, social’s progress will be stilted, and its full potential is unlikely to be fulfilled.”
Yomego MD Steve Richards set out to create a transparent and academically sound methodology, though the white paper does include the disclaimer that it is never going to be 100% accurate.
The outcome should enable brands to:
- Better understand what customers want.
- Understand how to build engagement and affinity.
- Develop a relevant a content plan.
- Join up KPIs
- Allocate a justifiable budget accordingly.
To this end, Yomego came up with this three-part framework for social media advocacy.
And here’s how it defines each stage...
At this stage, brands need to combine a social media monitoring platform “with human analysts to identify and assess relevant comments in social spaces.”
By analysing the nature of each social mention you can gauge its reach, relevance and comparative usefulness. Mentions can then be segmented in terms of their depth of engagement, and labelled as either ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’.
Direct interactions are defined as conversations or mentions that are aimed at the brand, while indirect mentions are those discussing the brand away from the official social accounts.
You can attribute ‘depth’ to direct interactions using these criteria:
Similarly, ‘depth’ is attributed to indirect interactions using these criteria:
But how do you attribute value to differing levels of social engagement? The author states that to avoid making spurious conclusions, the default position is to treat all mentions with equal value.
For some clients, there might be good reason to apply extra value to posts from key influencers or to comments on a particularly influential forum, but this would be applied on a bespoke basis, with rationale derived from specific client data.
To deliver meaningful ROI, the value needs to be calculated in context with each client’s relevant strategic objectives.
The model therefore suggests 11 common strategic objectives – individual brands then have to choose which apply to them and value is attributed for these elements.
A date range for extracting data is then established. Finally, keyword analysis is undertaken to make sure relevant mentions are tracked.
11 common strategic objectives
The author leaves the exact number of objectives in the framework up for debate, but suggests that a shortlist is necessary to give clients a starting point.
It’s possible to estimate a reach figure for an audience in social media, and agencies commonly quote the maximum number of people a particular campaign could possibly have been seen by if everyone actually read every tweet that cropped up in their timeline.
But the author suggests that it is more useful to track direct interactions and apply a value based on how much it would have typically cost that brand to stimulate an equivalent response via advertising, e.g. via promoted tweets for Twitter mentions or promoted posts for Facebook mentions.
Media value attribution can be refined if clients have advertised on relevant social platforms, so their actual costs can be applied.
One problem is that the white paper doesn’t have an answer for applying value to mentions outside of the major social platforms, such as blogs or forums.
It suggests that this might be done using an aggregated rate card on a client-by-client basis, but leaves it open ended.
Client input is required if the framework is to work effectively for sales, as existing ROI metrics for sales attribution for other disciplines can be applied to social.
For example, if we know x,000 unique users are delivered to an ecommerce site from social, an average profit per transaction or average new customer value can be attributed.
Similarly, if investment in social CRM has increased the efficiency of targeting, and sales/savings have resulted, the value can be attributed here.
The author suggests that this is the easiest metric to track as many brands are already using social as a cost reduction measure in areas such as customer service.
Many clients have also used social media spaces as a cost-effective route for pre- and post-testing of new products and services.
Social can also be used as a giant focus group that’s constantly running, so the net saving should be factored in.
Attributing an increase in share price or market share to social media is practically impossible, but the white paper suggests you can at least plot a correlation.
Yomego apparently received a call from a broker in New York recently asking if the company could apply its Social Media Reputation index scores to a handful of companies to provide an indication of future share performance, so clearly some people feel it can provide an accurate measure of success.
So, identify the relevant objectives, calculate and attribute values, add them together, then subtract the investment in social media (in terms of marketing spend, manpower and any other overheads), and the net gain, in financial terms, is revealed.
Personally I’m undecided as to whether it’s possible to create a universal framework for social marketing, but I am interested to see if it works.
Yomego has already started trialling the framework with some of its clients in order to get feedback and adapt it as necessary.
Whether it works in the long term remains to be seen, but if you have any thoughts on this framework, or whether it’s even necessary to create one, please do share your opinion in the comments below.