Sunday, May 4, 2014

Digital Marketing Managers: Your secret weapon to measure the impact of social engagement on purchase decisions.

As an executive in the digital marketing industry, you often hear the question “Does more conversation lead to more sales?” and need to justify to clients clamoring for social proof. As a graduate student in Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University and my prior experiences in the marketing team at Google Singapore, I have been exposed to data driven customer focused marketing, and have found two articles related to the impact of social media on purchase decisions, that you will find interesting.

Brand Engagement in the Participation Age

Google and Advertising Age uncover six core insights on how digital marketers like you can actively manage an online consumer engagement strategy. Firstly, there is a strong correlation between those consumers who engage with a brand online and those who buy more of that brand. Next, by inspiring consumers to engage with your brand, you can increase chances of winning fans. Yet, despite this, there is a gap between the stated importance of social engagement and the way companies manage this. The main reason for this, as you would relate to, is a lack of relevant metrics that is able to quantify engagement and recognize high value engagers. The study also presents strong evidence that engaging online ads correlate to purchases. Finally, it states that your brand can drive engagement by shifting to accountable media models such as cost per engagement and cost per view.
Source: Tracking Social Media Metrics, Salience Insight

From Social To Sale

This study conducted by Vision Critical offers insights into how online and in-store purchases have been influenced by major social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Interesting findings include “nearly four in 10 Facebook users say that they have gone from liking or commenting on an item, to buying it” and “43 percent of social media users have purchased a product after sharing or favoriting it on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.” The study also addresses important questions such as what customers look for from each of your social network presences and how to measure that presence.

After reviewing these articles and based on my work at Northwestern, here are three action items I recommend you consider implementing now, to build your social engagement strategy. 

  1. Define clear goals: Social media objectives are based on business objectives and hence there is not a single answer as to what to measure in social media. Use the SMART methodology (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timed) to develop social media objectives and then estimate the relevant baselines.  
  2. Use relevant measurement tools: There are various paid and free tools available not just to track traditional metrics such as “likes” and followers but also to track sentiment and engagement. Examples of these include Radian6, HootSuite, NetBase, Social Mention and Sprout Social. These tools will help adjust your ad spend intelligently and engage and connect with more people. You can refine your social media strategy using audience centric social media metrics such as growth and engagement metrics, content strategy metrics and audience quality metrics.
  3. Turn big data into useful data: Metrics do not mean the same thing as ROI. To calculate ROI, you need to make the data useful and find out the story behind the numbers to reach actionable insights. You need to see how the different metrics interact to help you reach your social media objectives and to turn fans to loyal advocates.

Unlike traditional marketing, social media has a passive impact where you today are grappling to find a way to measure the direct relationship between engaging with customers online and their purchase decisions. Having quantitative results will help you stand out as a thought leader in the digital marketing industry and better your pitch the next time you need a business justification for spending resources such as time and money on social media.

Uttara Gupta is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Integrated Marketing at Medill, Northwestern University with a focus on Digital Marketing.  She has previously worked for Google in Singapore as a Marketing Associate and her experiences have granted her a deep global understanding and a passion for working in the technology industry. She would love to continue the conversation on twitter @uttara2102 or on LinkedIn. 


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