Not all social media activity is created equally. We once dealt with an eCommerce client; were badly advised by a marketing manager and ended up buying ‘likes’ on Facebook, the results were predictable. Not all interactions on social media are going to lead to sales, so we thought it would be worth exploring which are the most valuable for a business. As you know, each social media channel will have its own nuances and will be used by the audience for different things i.e. Facebook has friends and Twitter has followers, but the levels of engagement (from a brand’s perspective) will be similar across platforms.

The most valuable engagements

Regardless of the channel, someone who ‘looks’ at a post and doesn’t take action isn’t really a thumbs up for your brand. A ‘like’ is the next level up in terms of the quality of interaction. ‘Liking’ a post on Facebook delivers (literally) a thumbs up to a post and this then gets shared on the user’s timeline. People like Facebook and Twitter keep how their algorithms work secret for very good commercial reasons but we know, anecdotally, that engagements with content are visible to a user’s network of contacts or friends. The most valuable interaction (from a brand’s perspective) is someone commenting on a piece of content and, assuming that the comment is an endorsement, this is every marketer’s dream. Next, and arguably, most valuable, is if a social media user shares some content.  The best recent example we can point to illustrate this is the recent work by Nike with Colin Kaepernick, this image was widely shared on social media thus effectively delivering free advertising for the brand.

Social Listening Tools

It’s quite easy (and lazy) to simply make assumptions about your audience. Remember the point of social media is to be just that, social. Social in a digital context should be no different to a ‘real’ context, a social person is conversational and the best conversations are interesting ones. So, in order to create a dialogue with your customers or potential customers, you need to know what they would like to talk about. In order to do this, you should listen to them. Social listening, in essence, is the process of identifying what is being said about a person or brand on social media.

Social listening is important as you can quickly understand what channels are being used to quickly understand what (if anything) is being said about your brand. Social listening can also help you understand what is being said about your competitors. Many tools will also give you a steer as to the demographic makeup of your audience on social media. From here all kinds of inferences can be made around the tone of voice, interests, age and gender.

There is a huge range of tools out there which can help your anecdotal research too including Google Alerts, Klout and Social Mention. Many of these tools are free to sign up to and are then typically billed per month on a subscription model.

Content Strategies

You now know your audience, what they talk about and hopefully, the content they want to engage with so it’s time to create a plan and time invested wisely at this stage will pay dividends later on. If you would like to know more about content marketing strategies for B2B we did a big piece on this which you can see here, so we shall keep this bit top line. The key things to remember here are to plan and align that plan with other marketing activity (seasonality, forecasted sales humps), manage by leveraging all of the tools and channels available based on your social listening and to adapt. By adapting we mean balancing between your planned activity and your reactive activity (news items, weather etc.).

Analysis

Now you have your strategy and you have started your activity it is time to set to work understanding how effective your approach has been. Remember social media should never be judged in terms of ‘I posted this and I sold this’. Social should be there to influence your audience and should be seen as part of the user journey; a ‘helper’ channel, if you will. We have discussed how Google Analytics should be the primary tool for assessing the effectiveness and building a long-term plan so we shall suggest some topline metrics for success:

  • Customer Services – how quickly are queries respond to – and what is the overall sentiment?
  • Product – what do people think about what you are selling from what you can see?
  • Marketing goals – using analytics how has social influenced the sale of specific products in a marketing funnel?