Social Marketers Move From Likes To 'Show Me The Money'

This week, a lot of attention has been given to politics and social media, all thanks to a retired Radio One DJ, a calypso song and a party that targets the huge promotional potential of social media.

Of course, this is all about the branding use of social media -- and it should be pointed out that despite all the hype, there is no proper video behind the calypso song and for those who have posted it independently, the video attracts more dislikes than likes.

It prompts the line of enquiry of how much hype there is in social media compared to substance. If there is substance, how will we know? How will we measure it?

It's something I've been looking into a lot this week, and it's very interesting to see that the "like," "retweet" and "share" metrics that are still used today are being supplemented by results that are altogether more business oriented.

The harsh reality is that Facebook has reduced organic reach to single-digit percentages and a Twitter user will see a similar low proportion of tweets on their timeline because they follow so many people. It is impossible to keep up with the rapid flow of information.

So, social media has become a paid channel. This is not news to marketers, and it means they need to justify budget going into what was previously seen as a free medium. Likes and shares are always flattering, but unless they lead to something more lasting, then they no longer cut the proverbial mustard.

A major development I have noticed is in brands promoting content or running competitions to get email addresses. This is, of course, an end in itself, allowing the brand to market to people directly to their email inbox. However, the next stage is really interesting. These email addresses can also be uploaded into Facebook's data vaults so a brand can then instruct the social media giant to go out and find a lookalike audience.

A travel company might well run a competition for long-haul travel and then use those emails to find similar people on Facebook. It then might run a short haul, city break competition to gather emails which lead them to more of a weekend away audience. 

Another interesting development is tracking social media influence and attributing it to sales. It's not a precise science, but the debate has definitely moved on from "like" metrics to what part a social channel played in a conversion.

Let's not forget direct sales, of course. I was chatting to a book publisher this week who uses social media to engage fans of particular authors by asking them which cover they would like for an upcoming book. By keeping a conversation going, the audience can then be given a link to buy the book and the retail partner concerned is then informed how well the publisher has supported them.

At the same time, special edition books that are too expensive to stock in the high street are sold to a similarly corralled audience. It means books or special editions of books are sold through social media followings and so are not only attributable to the channel -- they actually owe their existence to it. A recipe book from a trendy, high end chain of restaurants recently sold out its run of several hundred copies in just a few hours.

It's been really refreshing to see how savvy marketers are no longer hiding behind likes and shares alone. Of course, these are still very nice to have, but ultimately pointless if not backed up by a metric that shows what that sentiment has done to the bottom line. 

Now that social is a paid channel, it has to wash its proverbial face.

The message social marketers are going to have to embrace, before it is thrust upon them, is that likes are all well and good, but now show me the money.

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