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Q-and-A with Susan Bratton: 23 ways to look at social media ROI

4 min read

Brands & Campaigns

This blog series, featuring interviews with speakers from the SES Conference & Expo, scheduled Aug. 15 to 19 in San Francisco,  is brought to you by Incisive Media.

This interview is with Susan Bratton, CEO of Personal Life Media, a lifestyle brand that publishes 20 online home-study courses. She founded, took public and sold eight consumer-publishing and tech companies and two industry associations.

Is content truly king when it comes to social media? Do businesses need to become publishers to make the most of social channels?

Social media include Flickr, YouTube, webinars and blogging — the list of social outlets and platforms is endless. Content is not king; it’s simply one tactic. Where is your audience? What are your existing programs? What are your corporate assets, talents and budgets? How will you measure return on investment — what are your bottom-line goals? Before worrying about creating content, think about the broader role that social media can provide to your business and customers.

The only aspect of social media that I think is mandatory, and only if your brand registers any noise in the social sphere, is a social-listening strategy.

What advice do you have for companies that succeed in developing thought-leadership content but then have trouble promoting it?

Make it someone’s job internally to promote the content on a regular, editorial schedule. Find someone who would like the job. It can’t take that much time; how much thought-leadership content could one have? If the content is that great, hire a public relations firm or hand it off to an agency so it’s well managed, if there are no resources internally. Having a thought leader who’s willing to produce content is a valuable asset. Treat it as such.

How do you approach the social media ROI question? Are you looking at sales? Connections? Something else?

Whatever strategy you choose will determine the ROI you can track.

Brand buzz? Market presence? Brand building? Reputation? Networking with customers and prospects? Customer service or social customer-relationship management? Customer insight and market research? Prospecting and lead gen? Direct response? Competitive tracking? Crisis management? Customer segmentation? Campaign development and design? Share of voice? PR outreach? Thought leadership? Revenue generation? Collaboration with customers, vendors, partners or employees? Product feedback and research and development? Universal search linking? Local and geo-location? Loyalty or advocacy programs? Credibility via ratings or reviews?

This is a short list of the myriad ways social media can be used by a brand. Trackable ROI depends on the strategy, the channel and the available metrics.

Download my Social Media Super Powers slide deck for free, which leads any brand through the decision logic for determining the best social strategy by taking into account all of the ramifications of the decision. At a top level — there’s significantly more detail in the presentation, and you can paste your logo on it and call it your own — consider:

  • Who is my audience, and where do they aggregate socially?
  • Can I target customers and prospects?
  • What are my business objectives?
  • How would a social strategy align with existing messages?
  • Who are the stakeholders, internally and externally?
  • What are my customers’ desires? How could I delight them most?
  • Which channels work best for me based on reach, assets, capabilities and strategies?
  • What are my internal and external assets and employee talents or skill sets?
  • How will I monitor the metrics and ROI?

How much can you budget, not only for launch, but for maintenance and growth of your successful programs?
When will you kill programs that are not providing results?

How can marketers use social media to better understand potential customers?

There are clever marketers who use social to understand customers, especially with insight, R&D, collaboration, feedback and customer support. The oft-quoted IdeaStorm concept by Dell proves this is useful. Yet I still like good, old market research — surveys, verbatim, focus groups, interviews and questionnaires. If you want to understand potential customers, use the classic tools and check in with your social-listening platform as well.

To find out how to enter the conversation that your prospect, and customer, is having in his head, download my free Conversion Triggers presentation, in which I show how the Four Realms of Persuasion: copy writing, storytelling, neuro-marketing and structured communication. They significantly increase conversion to sale when fed with empathic market research that’s easy to collect.

Image credit: peepo, via iStockphoto