With more than 40,000 Twitter followers, it’s no wonder that Steve Farnsworth (@Steveology) is looked upon as a PR/social media influencer.
Steve advises a variety of companies on how to increase brand loyalty and make high impact changes to online social marketing and branding programs, and offered his thoughts to the PR at Sunrise readers on a variety of social media issues.
Q) What Are The Biggest Mistakes Companies Are Currently Making With Their Social Media Strategy?
The problem is that many companies have implemented a tools-based strategy, which is not a strategy. When companies use this half-assed approach, it’s going to look half-assed and will be a waste of time and resources. They should either do it the right way or don’t do it at all. That means asking why they are doing it, and what will be different after they are done with the project.
Where companies and senior executives go off the rails is that they see social media as a new and questionable expense. Fundamentally, marketing has always been about conversations between the maker and buyers of goods or services. In the past it was always one-to-many, like broadcast advertising. However, given the roll of the Internet in our everyday communications we now have a many-to-many, or omni-directional, conversation, with consumers talking and sharing with others on a social media channel.
To create an effective strategy brands need to ask which channels are most relevant to their audience. Not every company’s fans are on Twitter or Facebook. It might be a niche message board or other specialty community. They need a reality check to see where their audience is and in what context those consumers talk about their brand. If they can afford social media monitoring, I highly recommend it. If used correctly it will pay for itself. If that’s not in the budget, at the very least they should be asking their customers in what communities they are talking about the company’s products. Figure that out and you’re on the way to developing a cogent social media strategy.
Q) Is It Really All About ROI (Return On Investment)?
The goal should be ROI, but the mechanisms to cost-effectively track that right now are not easily available. Regardless if your product is B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer), and costs $49, $4,999, or $49,999, we know that during the sales process a prospect goes through different phases in making a buying decision, and each of those phases has unique informational requirements. With social media and other Internet-enabled communications we can now see what’s most beneficial in persuading them to buy our products, and what effects the process at each point.
While difficult to show straight ROI, we can track what’s creating discussions or causing a desired forward action by a prospect, and that is good enough for now. So, what proof do we have that social media has a worthwhile return on investment? We have always known that customers seek social proof that they are about to make the best buying decision they can make, whether it’s choosing a restaurant or a million dollars of equipment. For that they look to friends and colleagues for recommendations and advice. Given this you would have to be pretty dim-witted not to grasp how a social media investment can help your company.
Q) So How Can You Truly Judge The Success Of A Campaign?
Well, ask yourself if you achieved your goals. Before you start a social media program, or project, it is imperative to have clear goals: goals that are S.M.A.R.T. While a familiar acronym, I make one crucial change. So, for my clients the acronym is Specific, Measurable, Aligned, Realistic, and Time-specific. Aligned is what is new, and it means, “Is the goal aligned to our department or business’s stated goals?” If it doesn’t support them, why are you doing it?
The second part of the equation is selecting what you measure. Most companies measure things that are irrelevant to meaningful achievement. You need to understand and measure both output (byproducts of what you are doing like the number of comments, fans or RTs) and outcomes (results that are impacting the business like brand sentiment, literature requests, product demos, or share of conversation).
Q) Companies Are Throwing Money At Giveaways And Prizes To Build Fan Count And Followers. Is That Really The Best Way?
To just grow fan numbers is really misguided. The impressive numbers of quickly generated fans doesn’t equate to more closed business, and the body count doesn’t equate to the value of your audience. Companies and large agencies like doing big gimmicky campaigns so they can point to numbers. If your goal is a lot of followers who want free stuff, than giveaways and prizes are the quickest ways to do it, but really how loyal or valuable are those fans? To grow quality relationships with fans, you need to do things that are truly relevant to your audience. Figure out what’s most important to them in the context of your brand. Find those overlapping areas of mutual benefit and interest. That’s the sweet spot where social media can make an impact to your company’s marketing and sales.
So, what’s more important to growing a business? Having a large number of fans or having more consistent, interaction with brand champions who influence other customers to consider your product before they make a buying decision? If you have only 100 passionate followers, is that bad? Some would be devastated with that kind of social media fan base. However, what if your industry has only a few niche communities where consumers talk about your product category, but five of your loyal fans are major influencers in those groups? Most companies would gladly buy that if they could. They can’t. They have to earn it.
Learn more about Steve Farnsworth and his company, Jolt Social Media, by clicking on his homepage, which can be found here.