At the second annual Goldman Sachs Social Media Forum earlier this spring, Wendy Clark, SVP of Integrated Marketing Communications at Coca-Cola, covered a lot of ground with fellow panelists, including the topic of how highly engaged social media participants can shift to higher consumption patterns.

For consumer packaged goods companies (or any company that has to deal with competitive issues related to share of market and share of wallet), that’s a huge deal because most of the marketing and advertising dollars spent within the consumer packaged goods category are focused on preference change and increasing consumption of the product.

Major brands don’t have an awareness problem. Therefore, marketing and advertising is about consumption and share of wallet. 

(Interestingly, shortly thereafter a report was presented and released at the ARF Re:think 2013 conference showing that social buzz doesn’t drive incremental sales).  

Of course, buzz and social engagement are quite different, and Wendy clarified matters in an article for both AdAge and Coca-Cola’s blog.

Her comments at the Goldman Sachs conference were even more specific on how social media engagement can drive incremental sales.

During the conference, she indicated that not only are Facebook fans twice as likely to consume and ten times as likely to purchase, but when those fans are activated and marketing efforts are put towards them, the sales needle can be moved significantly. Consumption rose by 7%, and purchases rose by 10%t off of the already higher baseline.   

Overconsumption among loyalists

There are two ways to move revenue in consumer products and many other businesses: raise share of wallet against competitors by making sure you always win against them for the switchers, or increase consumption of existing loyal fans. It would seem that social media can make fans more loyal and get them to over-consume if they’re already loyalists.

One additional point Wendy made during the Goldman Sachs discussion stood out: the importance of monitoring social media disconnects.

It hadn’t been obvious to me before, but the larger the marketer, the more likely it is that they’ll be able to measure changes in customer engagement as a result of specific initiatives and posts. 

One critical data point would of course be consumer disconnects from the brand. In social CRM, one loses the opportunity to communicate with consumers if they opt-out of their social relationship with you. 

Most marketing departments and agencies (particularly those rewarded for growth in fans/followers and engagement) spend a ton of time looking at positive KPIs within social media reporting dashboards.

Those marketers may also use sentiment measurement to determine whether buzz is trending positively or negatively as a result of online and offline news, marketing communications, events, or advertising.  

Social, take a cue from email

However, after thinking through Clark’s comments, it’s clear that the vast majority of online marketers are missing some very important metrics. There’s a powerful lesson they can learn from the email marketing industry. Email marketers have always understood that there’s a significant downside to email messages that are poorly targeted, non-timely, or simply have creative that sucks. 

Social media managers must also establish metrics and reporting that helps them learn which messages and tactics produce negative consumer responses, particularly social media disconnects or proxies for disconnects. 

In Facebook, disconnects from the brand can manifest themselves in a variety of different ways. The most dramatic is “unlike.”  The “unlike” is actually pretty hard for a consumer interacting with feed ads (sponsored ads within the feed) to accomplish.  

So, if you’ve upset fans sufficiently to have them disconnecting in appreciable numbers, you must really have hit a nerve. Twitter unfollows, on the other hand, are very easy because the consumer can unfollow from any tweet.

Therefore, Twitter as a social media vehicle is likely more sensitive to discontentment in a way similar to email, where an unsubscribe is nearly always prominently featured at the bottom of any legitimate email marketing campaign.

Other major marketers I spoke with had varied thoughts regarding the ease by which social media disconnects could be measured, with some preferring to use sentiment analysis and other ways to monitor complaints rather than focus on disconnects (the final straw).

Alexandra Wheeler, vice president of global digital marketing at Starbucks, spoke at the AdAge Digital Summit, and we chatted after her session. Her words of wisdom regarding social media KPIs focused on engagement. She indicated that she far prefers highly engaged and authentic social media followers to larger numbers of less motivated fans and followers.

The L word 

Another great marketer at the AdAge Digital Summit was Bob Kupbens, VP of marketing and digital commerce at Delta. Bob indicated that he uses all the sentiment monitoring tools at his disposal but also warned marketers not to confuse passionate or active social media participants with one’s best customers.  

His presentation included the concept of the “love brand,” a brand that inspires passion and loyalty approaching love. Clearly, Delta is aspiring to become a love brand, and even its current campaign tagline, “Keep Climbing,” communicates continuous improvement.

Bob indicated that one social media marketing objective at Delta is to get an increasing percentage of the most loyal Delta customers to engage more heavily with the brand via social media. 

If I were to summarize the words of wisdom coming out of the major marketers when it comes to social media, it would be to find KPIs that align with your business objectives and avoid promotional gimmicks that drive up likes and follows without engaging your truly loyal and passionate fans.