Are you ready to defend your social media spend?

Mark Price I have the pleasure to introduce you to yet another contributor. His name is Mark Price and he is Managing Partner at M Squared Group.

Mark is a leader, writer, speaker and consultant on how to increase revenue by retaining and growing best customers by improving their experience. Mark also blogs on Cultivating Your Customers.

In his first post, Mark focuses on the question how you can support your social media spending to the CFO? An excellent read about an issue many marketers struggle with!

More and more these days, I am seeing companies plunging into social media initiatives, without giving them the hard thinking that is required of the rest of the marketing plan. While this approach may be admirable in the desire to “get into the game early,” I feel that it does a disservice to marketing as a whole.  If arketing needs accountability in order to be credible and earn a place “at the table” where the major company decisions are made, then signing onto programs with little thought to measurement is a contradiction.

Early this month, Foresee Results published a report, entitled “The Key to Driving Retail Success with Social Media: Focusing on Facebook”, which provides an example of jumping on the bandwagon without sufficient metrics. 

Now, this is not to say that Foresee Results does not have the metrics available to support their statements, but that the report is lacking in hard business metrics, like many social media support documents.

The results include, “(1)  56% of shoppers to top e-retail websites who interact with social media websites have elected to “friend” or “follow” or “subscribe” to a retailer on a social networking site like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, (2) Facebook is, by far, the best place to reach shoppers—both because it’s where they already are, and it’s where they want to hear from retailers and (3) Customers mainly interact with retailers on social media sites to learn about products and promotions — a marketer’s dream come true.

Let’s start with a couple assumptions.  (1) Most online retailer shoppers are on Facebook and (2) Facebook members sign up as fans on Facebook for the discounts.  I do not think that most marketers would contest these statements.  While they are not true for ALL online or offline customers, they are true for enough customers to matter.

How to develop a relationship with customers that measurably results in changed behavior

But here is what I DO NOT know, and what I feel is so critical for marketers striving for accountability and credibility:

  1. Do customers who sign up on a retailer fan page spend more than they did before at the retailer?
  2. Does the experience of being on a fan page on Facebook enhance customer retention, or is it just a cost of doing business in today’s world?

The real question in social media is how to develop a relationship with customers that ACTUALLY, MEASURABLY results in changed behavior. 

If all we are doing is sending discounts and coupons to coupon-hounds, that is not a bad thing, but is likely to result in a higher cost of doing business for the retailer and the category as a whole. 

But can social media actually change behavior, and is a Facebook fan page the right way to do it?

Treat social media like other investments

How would a data-driven marketer assess the value of Facebook as a method building relationships?  Here are three ideas:

  1. Find out if your best customers want to interact with you on Facebook, and for what?  How do you do this?  You ask them. Send out a survey asking best customers for their social media behavior and where and how they specifically want to interact with you.
  2. Analyze customers who are using Facebook discounts to see if the behavior is incremental and profitable.
  3. Set your spending based on the opportunity. Treat social media like other investments — get in the game, but make absolutely sure what your objectives are.

Please do not read this post and conclude that I am against social media — you could not be more wrong.  I just believe that social media needs to come of age and face the same challenges (and rewards) as the rest of the marketing plan. 

Otherwise, when budgets get tight (and you know they will), social media will end up on the cutting room floor.

And that helps no one.

Mark Price is Managing Partner at M Squared Group. He is a leader, writer, speaker and consultant on how to increase revenue by retaining and growing Best Customers by improving their experience. His particular concentration is “bricks and clicks” — businesses that engage their customers through the web and through a physical contact (retail or saleforces). Before founding M Squared Group, Mark was the practice leader for customer intelligence for Zamba Solutions. Mark also blogs on and is a father, husband, tennis player, skier and fanatic science fiction/fantasy reader.

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