Commentary

4 Top Mistakes To Avoid In The Search For Social ROI

Any online marketer that has dipped a toe in the social media waters in the past few years has heard the word “engagement” a million times -- and for good reason. Engagement is a key element in driving word-of-mouth. However, engagement and word-of-mouth are really a prelude to the ultimate goal of driving more sales.

The problem is that most social engagement strategies today are not actually increasing sales. Consider Forrester’s recent State of Online Retail study (SORO), which shows that 62% of retail brands say ROI from their social-marketing strategies is still unclear.

As marketers look beyond engagement to get ‘hard ROI’ from their social investments in the coming year, here are the most common mistakes for them to avoid.

Counting on Facebook Fan Pages to Drive Sales.
In the race to get social, marketers have invested a lot of money and time into Facebook Fan Pages, trying to build a large fan base and activate them with weekly posts and promotions. These efforts are inherently not very social, but just a form of business-to-consumer “push marketing.”

The socially empowered consumer is now expecting and demanding input and advice from their peers, not from manufacturers or retailers. So it should be no surprise that traffic from Facebook Fan page marketing is not driving sales.

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Recommendation: Capitalize on your existing ecommerce investments by engaging the millions of visitors to your Web site with social features that cause consumer-to-consumer sharing. Unlike posts to fan pages, 100% of friends’ messages get into their friends’ newsfeeds. They cause click-backs to your ecommerce site, where you are best equipped to convert them.  

Relying on the Like Button to Drive Sharing.  
Early attempts to drive consumer-to-consumer sharing on ecommerce sites have centered on Facebook Like or Share buttons. The click-through rates on both have been extremely low, as there is no clear reason or benefit for consumers to “Like” a product while shopping.

Recommendation:  Provide engaging social experiences tailored to your target consumers that present compelling reasons for them to share with their friends. Prioritize solutions that leverage user site interaction data as well as full social graph data about the user and their friends on Facebook.  

Waiting for a Well-Formulated Social Road Map to Start.  
While the potential revenue that on-site social applications can generate is huge, waiting to create the ideal social road map may actually reduce your chance of success. It’s still a nascent space, and it’s hard to predict what will work best with your consumers and your product categories. And while you are discussing, planning and building consensus across the company, your competitors may dive in and start getting real customer feedback to know what really works.  

Recommendation:  If you don’t already have Facebook-trained engineers and product managers on staff, you may need to partner with a social commerce vendor, regardless of your plan. Picking the right partner can give you those necessary skills, and allow you to easily try, test and improve upon different social experiences across your site.  

Looking for the “Silver Bullet” in Social.  
Social technologies are evolving at warp speed, as is consumer social behavior. Forrester’s recent SORO study shows there is no proven solution in social marketing, although efforts to integrate social features on ecommerce sites have been proven to work the best for growing sales.

Recommendation:  Look for a social solution that provides a wide range of on-site social experiences -- explicitly aimed at increasing the metrics that matter most: referral traffic and site-wide conversions. Solutions with built-in A-B testing capabilities ensure the greatest opportunity to know what works and doesn’t work for your business, allowing you to optimize for the greatest user participation and overall lift in sales.

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