5 Tips to Avoid Disconnects in Digital Marketing Expectations

I've heard from several students, both consultants and social media managers, and from clients about a disconnect in expectations when it comes to social media. Social media plans are execute, results come in, and executives don’t understand what social media is accomplishing for an organization. Simply put, social media activities aren’t properly tracked, or mapped to business objectives. These propblems often occur at some point after social media activities have started. Usually when an executive asks, “What business objectives are you helping achieve?” Or, more pointedly, “How much revenue is social media  generating for the company?” If you’re an employee or a consultant and can’t answer that question, it can lead to big problems. Including the loss of funding for social media activities, and the loss of your contract, or job. In this article, I’m going to give you five tips to help make sure your social media goals map to relevant organizational objectives, and to help you report social media activities in the context of those objectives. 

1 - Set social media goals that map directly to your organization’s objectives.

What’s the root of the problem? Social media centric goals. Goals like increasing likes, fans, followers, shares, applause. Unless a business can sell each like, fan and follower it gets, those aren’t actually generating revenue. They might be raising brand awareness, which is a valid goal, but somewhere that brand awareness needs to map to revenue or something else truly meaningful to the organization. 

Ask the question, “What does the organization hope to get from those fans and followers?”  There are lots of potential benefits such as more website traffic, better ad reach, and more leads.  Even better are revenue specific goals (if your organization is into making money).  Things like more conversions from social media referred traffic, and more revenue from social media ads. Now we’re getting somewhere.

Getting more likes, fans, and followers is usually a valid component of social media plans, but it’s not the end goal. What the organization hopes to get from those new fans and followers should be. Those are the goals you should be setting. Social media activities designed to drive to those goals need to be tracked and qualified. Tracked so that you can truly measure impact of social media activities. Qualified so that you can calculate return on investment. You’re spending time doing social media. Time is money. If you don’t know what you’re getting for all of the time spent on social media, your boss won’t know if it’s money well spent.

2 - Integrate social media activities. 

Ideally social media should be just another facet of your marketing, customer service, and online strategy. Social media activities should be integrated with other marketing efforts. A campaign to push a new product should go out on radio, television, print, PPC, and through social media all at the same time. You should incorporate social media into other marketing and customer relationship efforts. Have print ads offer a discount if people like your Facebook page. Use social media content marketing to describe product benefits, showcase favorable comparisons to competitors, and show thought leadership in your market space. Offer Twitter chats, or online sessions to answer questions and give your audience the chance to talk to your internal experts about your products and services. Social media should not be an independent effort. It should be a robust and creative addition to your organization’s other marketing and customer service efforts.

3 - Use the SMART process to validate social media goals.

To make sure your social media goals are valid, meaningful up the chain, and map to the organizations objectives, use the SMART process to validate goals in the planning stage. SMART stands for:

  • Specific: The goal should be clear and well defined.
  • Measurable: The goal should include precise details, such as quantities and dates.
  • Attainable: The goal should be one the organization can realistically achieve.
  • Relevant: The social media goals should be aligned to the organization's goals.
  • Time-bound: The goal should have a deadline for completion. Reaching the goal objective by the date should be how you measure success.

SMART is a process that helps makes sure the goals you choose are good goals. It’s simple to do, and, if you’ve never done it, you’ll be amazed at how much better your goals become. They’ll be more concrete, easier to track and relate to other marketing, service, and organizational efforts. 

4 - Apply agile methodology to social media activities.

Setting good goals is only the first part. You also have to achieve those goals to be successful. How do you know if you can achieve your goals? Give yourself a little unfair advantage, use an agile methodology. Let’s use our first football analogy of the season. An agile methodology lets you adjust your game plan during the game.

What is an agile methodology? Having run a software development company for many years, let me explain. With an agile development methodology, you set an overall goal – a list of things you want your app to do. Then you flesh out a series of high-level steps to achieve that goal and start executing, one manageable step at a time.  You track how things are going, test the software at each step, and review everything frequently. This is done to make sure everything is coming along as expected, and to address any unanticipated issues. Plan, execute, check your results, and adjust to get better results. It saves time, frustration, and money.

Do the same with social media. Set your goals. Make your plan. Execute. Then measure and analyze. Frequently. How frequently depends on the size of your organization, the campaign, as well as the size and activity level of your community. You may need to analyze once a day, once every few days, or maybe just once a week. That analysis tells you what’s not working, what works well, and what works better. That knowledge allows you to refine your strategy to maximize effectiveness. This will give you the best chance of achieving your goals.

It goes without saying you need to be tracking everything you’re doing in order to measure and analyze what’s working and what’s not.

5 - Frame social media reports in the context of business objectives.  

This is a big one that many social media managers miss.  Often times social media reports are framed in social media terms. We’re right back to charts and stats that show more likes, fans, and followers. Then they throw in other cool stuff like sentiment, conversation share, and applause rate. It’s cool, the lines on the graphs are all going up! The pie chart is a picture of a real pumpkin pie that makes everyone hungry…then someone asks how much revenue was generated from social media activities. Remember that problem I talked about at the start of this article?  Now it’s standing here right in front of you in the form of the CFO who would like to take your social media money and give it to the “real” marketing team.  Here’s something you may not have known, if you can’t answer that question definitively, most executives will assume the answer is zero and move on. Not good.

Reports to executives and other departments should lead with, and primarily address those goals set out earlier. If you’ve done your goal setting and validation correctly, those goals map directly to organizational objectives. When preparing reports, keep it simple. Document the social media goals as set. State how well each goals was met, and give supporting details in the context of those goals. If you had two goals:

  1. Increase conversions from social media sources by 10% in the quarter.
  2. Increase revenue from social media sources by $7,000 in the quarter.

The executive summary and first slide of your report should read as follows:

“We had two goals in the previous quarter. The first was to increase conversions from social media sources by 10% in the quarter. We actually achieved an increase in 11.5% in the quarter. The second was to increase revenue from social media sources by $7,000 in the quarter. This past quarter we successfully increased revenue from social media sources by $9,250.”

Save the social media specifics such as likes, sentiment, and applause rate to explain how, and why things worked or did not. Don’t forget why the organization is investing in social media – to get a return on that investment.

If you or your team needs help planning social media strategy, content strategy, measuring social media activities, or calculating ROI, reach out to us. We can trainyour staff, or provide consulting services to make sure your social media strategy is connected with your organizations goals.

Thanks

-Bob