Hey CMOs, Here's Why You're Doing Social Wrong

by , Dec 12, 2013, 8:00 AM
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Ninety percent of brands measure social engagement, according to recent research by Ragan/NASDAQ. Yet for all that measurement, a study earlier this year by The CMO Survey found that only 15% of CMOs can actually quantify their social ROI. Something is really, really wrong here.

The problem starts at the top. Social, for all its growth, is still a grossly misunderstood marketing channel among the C-Suite.

It's not hard to discern why. Conceptually, social is incredibly simple to understand: It's a highly personal channel that enables immediate connection and conversation. But the nuances that drive true social success -- how to mature leads from acquisition to conversion, how to share content without fatiguing users, how to turn retweets into revenue -- aren't as apparent. They are also incredibly fluid and fragile -- nearly impossible to account for unless we are immersed in them every day.

Fortunately, achieving social fluency is readily attainable. But to do that, brands need to first get real about what does and what doesn't work in today's social ecosystem, and that means debunking a few myths that CMOs love.

Myth #1: Social is great for sharing brand content.

Every social marketer knows this scenario: A piece of content or press release lands in your inbox with the note: “Can you make sure we tweet this out?”

Inevitably, we say yes. But there is one problem: Just because we tweet something doesn't mean anybody will care.

Here’s why: Social users are so inundated with content -- more than 5800 tweets are shared each second, according to Twitter -- that mere posting doesn’t guarantee engagement. In other words, it's not enough to have a great piece of content, or even a great brand name. Instead, it's about how you deliver that content -- namely, through experiences that are convenient, accessible and clear for the user.

Myth #2: Social engagement is awesome.

Engagement alone isn’t enough to sustainably build business. Likes, followers, share of voice -- they’re all great, but they don’t linearly indicate revenue growth. They also all skew toward the “volume” side of metrics, when what’s truly important is “value” -- value as in concrete, easily understandable ROI.

Focus instead on key conversion metrics: leads acquired, sales generated and the cost-per-each. A few quick tips: Get to know your analytics tool really well. Make sure your digital properties are tagged correctly. And create unique campaign IDs that allow you to measure every single tweet, post and update.

Myth #3: Social works best when you post 24/7.

Most CMOs do a great job of establishing editorial guidelines that provide a solid framework for social success. But these guidelines also often include rigid content schedules that turn posting into obligation or habit rather than purposeful, meaningful actions.

Avoid this mistake by clearly defining when to be socially silent. Seriously --focus on when to say nothing at all. Articulate when it's smarter to let the conversation pass, and you’ll slip past the common traps of over-posting, excessive self-promotion and user fatigue.

Myth #4: Social is great qualitatively, even if we can't put a number to it.

36% of CMOs say they have qualitative stories of the impact of social, but still can’t put a solid figure to it, according to research by The CMO Survey.

All of those qualitative stories reflect a simple truth, however: Social works. Quantifiably.

The takeaway

Debunking social myths requires proactive change from both the executive and practitioner level. 

CMOs -- demand cold, hard numbers from your social. Make them go beyond impressions and reach; focus on the same conversion and revenue numbers you get from other channels. Real social growth only comes when you put the pressure on to quantify the value of every post, share and click -- and it's 100% doable. You don't need to be subject matter experts, but you do need to understand the intricacies of what drives genuine social success. Know that social has evolved beyond feel-good stories, outbound communications and branding. Push your team to operate in an environment of measurement, accountability and value.

Social marketers -- communicate the ever-changing nuances that make social tick. Capture and analyze the metrics that matter. Post with purpose, optimize user experiences over content, and be bold.

And everyone -- no more excuses. Social deserves the same accountability and scrutiny as other marketing channels. Do that, and social will explode on you in a way you never thought possible.

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