Like many of you, my inbox is filled with the latest research on social media and how it will soon change the world for many email marketers. Unlike some of you, I happen to be a true believer that social media will become a critical part of not only direct marketing but email marketing specifically.
Of particular interest this week was the release of a report
prepared by Wetpaint
that looked at the world's most valuable brands and:
(1) Determined which were most engaged (via social channels) with their consumers
(2) Drew a parallel to that engagement with financial results.
The report found that companies investing heavily in social media (companies deeply engaged in seven or more social channels like blogs, branded social Web sites, Facebook, Wikis, ratings and reviews, etc.) surpass their peers in terms of both revenue and performance by a significant amount. While the report stopped short of calling the relationship causal, the implication is that deep social engagement with customers is at the very least a characteristic of the most successful brands in the world.
So, the report data (and all the pundits on the planet) suggest that social is the new "new thing," but how do we prove it? What metrics do we track to determine the contribution of social media at a campaign level?
Here are some data attributes that we are beginning to see clients track to determine value and contribution of the influencers within their email database:Contacts:
As email recipients engage with social content in email messages, the most basic sharing option they have is to forward the content onto their networks via email. To facilitate that, many systems give recipients the opportunity to log into their online address books and upload contacts to receive the shared content. Some systems can determine the total number of contacts in address books. These systems do NOT capture addresses, but they can let the marketer know the size of a recipient's network. From an email standpoint, this data is not valuable, but from a social marketing perspective, data around the extent of a recipient's network can be useful.Invitations shared:
Sharing content -- via Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or email -- is at the heart of every social program. Tracking the number of invitations sent by your email recipients over time gives you a unique view into the potential brand advocates within the email file. While Forward-to-a-Friend never delivered on this promise, new solutions that motivate sharing within a campaign are providing direct marketers the ability to track social engagement via invitations in a scalable way. Understanding invitation behavior lets marketers target potential influencers in new and exciting ways. Invitations accepted:
Tracking activity across multiple generations is even more telling for the direct marketer. Recipients within your email database may have huge personal networks and send a ton of invitations on your brand's behalf, but what if no one (including their close personal friends) cares what they have to say? Understanding what members of your database can drive actual participation within their networks allows for focus and the development of incentives for your most powerful influencers.Conversions:
As with any other email program, conversions are paramount. Tracking those conversions -- whether defined as a sale or a subscription -- driven by each member of your database from their networks is essential. This, combined with the elements described above, allows the email marketer to develop influencer segments and determine on an individual-recipient level the contribution to the organization.
All of these metrics are based on the fundamental principle that the initial sharing opportunity originated within an email, tied to a database record. As a result, activity can be tracked back to the consumer who "posted," emailed or tweeted about your brand. It is this extremely close relationship with the customer that makes the world's most valuable brands successful. With the right strategy, socialized email can help your brand develop similar relationships with your customers and their networks.