As I’m riding the commuter rail from Worcester to Boston on my way to catch my flight back to Boulder, I saw some really cheese-ball ads on and off the train that made me think about the “measurable” associated with community management development via social media. Where do you measure your impact or ROI?
I think the perspective of what a well developed social community is important in deciding whether a business should invest money into a social media strategy.
My perspective is this: the value of a single perceived interaction between a brand and a consumer through social media is greater than if a person drives by a billboard advertisement 100 times in a year.
The social media space allows for numerous dynamic engagement opportunities for brands to reach out to their current and potential consumers. There are a huge array of tools that allow you to monitor conversations that are directly or indirectly related to any idea, keyword or brand or person.
Some would say that there is too much “noise” in the social media space, even though it is so new to our world. I’d say the noise is negligible for brands and consumers because of the ways we listen. There are countless radio frequencies, television channels, billboard ads and other types of invasive, one way attempts of communication. People can’t shut their eyes when they drive past an advertisement, so they tune it out, ignore it and maybe even develop some resentment towards the brands that use hokey, tasteless ad techniques to get your attention for a split second.
There are plenty of goofballs in the social media space. It’s literally impossible to grab a hold of every message that is being sent out through the numerous channels. But, the difference between traditional advertising and social media community development is that people are purposely tuning in when they turn on their computers and some so finely that they’ll seek out exactly what they need and want through search engines.
So when a consumer signs up for Twitter or Facebook and starts to figure out how information flows and which tools to use to seek out specific keywords, hashtags or web-pages. If that consumers eyes come across your presence in social media without any sort of potential for engagement (a.k.a. you haven’t tweeted since 2009 or every message in your timeline consists of a link back to your blog and no @ replies), they will move on and find some other brand to buy from.
An example I like to use is of a national retailer that I’ve been a life-long customer of, L.L. Bean. My backpack broke after many good years of use and I happened to Tweet about how my stuff fell everywhere on the train. I mentioned L.L. Bean in the Tweet and within several minutes, their PR manager @ replied me reminding me of their return policy and that I could get a new bag whenever I wanted. It’s not like L.L. Bean was following me on Twitter and monitoring every little thing I said on a daily basis, but clearly they had some sort of keyword searches running so that when something like a broken bag or customer service issue came up, they could hop right on it and fix it.
I’ve always been a fan of L.L. Bean for the most part, but the fact that their PR person reached out to me the way she did and to this day will interact with me if I shoot her a message means that I’ll be more loyal to them than other retailers that have no channel of contact beyond stepping in line at customer service or calling a 1-800 number.
All businesses are competing for consumers short attention spans in one way or another. It’s like the eternal battle between good and evil, Star Wars vs. Star Trek, Soy Milk vs. Dairy. Something can be sail for clever ad campaigns that touch the hearts of people during prime-time like those mommy-focused Olympic commercials, but most businesses can’t afford that kind of exposure and it’s probably a better idea to make some friends on Twitter and Facebook than it is to pay thousands of dollars to annoy your potential customers with cheesy billboard ads and radio commercials on their morning commutes.