The Importance of Social Media ROI

Over two-thirds (68%) of UK companies plan to boost their digital marketing spend this year, with social media and mobile particularly benefiting from this trend.

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As well as the planned boost in marketing spend, big brands are leading the way, with P&G announcing in February that they are shifting their traditional advertising on television to digital and mobile advertising. If you are looking to increase your digital activity and customer experience the most important thing you can do is measure engagement to understand your Return on Investment (ROI), which will help justify next years budget.

GOSS Interactive took part in an online discussion hosted by the Guardian recently, titled " What's wrong with local government communications?" The discussion swayed towards social media and whilst it was public sector focused, there were some insights for all. Of particularly interest was the perception the public sector had of the channels through which customers preferred to receive communications. They still think it is predominantly via print media. This is contrary to  eConsultancy recent trend report and the activity that firms like P&G are undertaking.

Bob McDonald, Chairman/President/CEO, P&G has stated he plans to shift from traditional to digital channels, "We're using technology to shift our spending from more traditional advertising on television to digital and mobile advertising."

Investing in social media, and measuring the ROI, is equally important for the public sector as it is for the private sector. Public Sector organisations need to stop being scared of social media and begin to embrace this. Why are some organisations making the shift whilst others are not? Is this because of comfort zones and fear of new media?

There were several people in the online discussion that clearly saw offline marketing as the only channel for delivering information to their customers. They seemed to be stuck in an old school attitude and are in need of shaking up. Some could not see that with the need to cut budgets, and given the cost of using print media, it would be more sensible to move budget to (lower cost) digital channels. One challenge that was highlighted in the discussion and supported by the GOSS survey into Public Sector Digital Engagement and Social Media, was that all organisations need the right tools and need to increase their knowledge of how to use social media. The report showed that 67% of respondents saw the challenge of using social media as not having the necessary skills. This is particularly acute when there are so many social media channels to manage.

Public Sector survey social media usage

There were different views about the control of social media too. Some were advocating an open approach of "just do it" and that it was over-complicating to have social media strategies, instructions and guidance for staff, as well as not needing policies for social media.

But you do need a strategy, training and policies so that the right experts can respond quickly and with creditability to opportunities. We've seen some very poorly thought out and executed social media strategies. Social media engagement is too far along for business to 'just give it a try' - the consequences of not doing it properly are difficult to live with. See the top 3 Facebook marketing mistakes of all time for examples..

If you don't get it now, you need to find the internal or external skills to devise and deliver your strategy.

So what is digital communication and social media best practice?

The great strength of digital marketing and Customer Experience Management is the ability for communications teams to:

  • Measure their activity
  • Understand what is happening
  • Make dynamic changes that improve the service customers' receive
  • Focus on ROI for the organisation

The GOSS Interactive survey highlighted that the number of organisations analysing the effectiveness of their digital engagement and social media was low, at only 43%. If you don't measure it how can you improve it?

To address this there are several key steps all organisations should make.

1. Define your digital strategy, (including social media)

  • Set objectives
  • Create tactical plans for each platform (e.g. Facebook or mobile) understand and define the reach, engagement and sentiment required
  • Identify risks such as knowledge gaps and tool needed
  • Identify the resources you will need
  • Define how you will measure success
  • Measure the results to build a picture of customer experience using tools like
    • Google Analytics
    • Social Media Monitoring
    • Marketing Dashboards

2. Make changes to your implementation based on the results

  • These will be incremental changes from the lessons you learn
  • Strategies are long term, so do not expect instant results
  • Use insight to avoid
    • Wasted time
    • Wasted effort
    • Backlash
    • Missed opportunities

To summarise - there are some great tools and digital channels that can deliver robust marketing communications and ROI with careful planning and investment.

However, there is clearly some misunderstanding on how to set a strategy for engaging with customers via digital channels, how to implement digital channels across the organisation, and how to measure the results to prove ROI/savings and to improve service delivery. If you do not currently have the internal skill, I strongly recommend you skill-up by hiring or buying in experts. If you don't get it right now, there could be major consequences for years to come.

Posted by Rob McCarthy 26th March 2012

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