NEW YORK – A Forrester Research executive at the ad:tech New York 2012 conference said that despite challenges marketers face in measuring social media, a way to justify its use within a company is to concentrate social efforts on one step in the customer journey.
During the “Advanced Social Strategy: Fresh Ideas to Maximize Your Social Reach and Frequency” session, executives discussed how it is impossible to measure the precise impact of social media. Rather, brands should look at social media in terms of how it assists in a specific stage of the customer journey.
“If you focus your efforts and your measurements where your program can have the greatest impact, you will have a better program and be better at measuring that program,” said Nate Elliott, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research , New York.
U.S. marketers will spend $2 billion on social media this year, per Mr. Elliott.
This figure does not include spend on advertising within social networks such as sponsored Facebook posts and tweets.
However, marketers still have no idea how to measure the impact of social media.
“It is hard for us to learn what is working and what is not,” Mr. Elliott said. “The problem is that we cannot test and learn as marketers, and if we cannot test different strategies, we are in a lot of trouble.”
One challenge of justifying social media spend is that different executives within a company tend to focus on one side of the story or the other.
Marketers must examine which stage of the customer journey their social program is targeting.
Then, it is most effective to focus all accounts – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and any others – on this one stage of the journey where it will have the greatest impact.
For instance, one part of the customer journey in which social media fits is driving new discovery.
Marketers can incorporate social tools onto their Web site. This gives consumers more in-depth information that helps them to explore what the brand has to offer.
Value from social media is not about how many people looked at those ratings and reviews, but what they do next.
“You are simply tracking if they got value, but you need to measure if you got value as well,” Mr. Elliott said.
“How did this move our customers through the journey?” he said.
Other executives discussed how social media helps their brand participate in consumers’ lives in real-time.
For instance, marketers can use social media to participate in culture in a way that makes sense, per Shiv Singh, global head of digital at PepsiCo , Purchase, NY.
The brand spreads its music initiatives via social media to engage consumers through one of their interests.
Pepsi also creates original, live and real-time scale experiences on social media such as its music program.
In addition, social media lets marketers bring their brand into a real-time conversation, per Janet Balis, publisher at The Huffington Post , New York.
There is an interaction between content and conversation. Content and conversation are integrally intertwined for Huffington Post.
If the publication captivates through this, it can drive a different level of impact.
Therefore, the brand works to create content worth sharing. The more consumers that share the content, the more consumers read the content.
Through this philosophy, the Huffington Post achieved notable social media results. The publication sees 58 million social actions per month.
Also, it has approximately 1.5 million daily referrals from Facebook and approximately 500,000 daily referrals from Twitter.
If the content is personally relevant to Huffington Post readers, it works with the entire landscape.
“We realized the importance of real-time, the value of bringing the brand into the conversation, and the importance of truly engaging consumers,” Ms. Balis said.
Tricia Carr, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York