There are those who believe that social media is nothing more than chatter and noise, an unending stream of absurd prattle that is clotting our bandwidth and deafening our ears. Balderdash.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to talk about the impact of social media on search engine marketing (SEM) in terms of measurement. Reason is: we’re all in the social media game to drive traffic to our websites, right?
At its best, social media is this: Exposure, Influence, Engagement, and Action. All of this chatter and noise should lead up to the sound of the cash register ringing. As far as social media marketing planning and goals are concerned, you need know little more.
Recent State of Search Data on Social Media Marketing:
The proportion of companies who don’t engage in any social media marketing activity has dropped from 18% in 2010 to 13% this year. In the same time-span, the number of SEM agencies that treat social media marketing as a part of their regular service offerings has grown from 48% to 54% (more than half). And although social media marketing efforts are more common for Business to Consumer organizations, rather than Business to Business, we expect to see B2B social media trend up as organizations of all types begin to see the impact that social media marketing has made for B2B social media stars like Cisco, Oracle and Intel.
Side note: Forrester Research predicts that “B2B companies will spend $54 million on social media marketing in 2014, up from just $11 million in 2009.”
It’s clear that more businesses and organizations are getting into the social media game. They’ve learned that social has a direct impact on their SEM interests. Traffic = Numbers.
Some companies are already leveraging the full potential of social media exceptionally well. For example: The Ford Motor Company uses Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and an excellent blog called The Ford Story to engage their prospects and customers. They encourage their blog readers to share their own pictures or stories and feature this content on the home page of the official Ford website.
If you haven’t seen the Hollywood megamercial video of professional rally driver Ken Block drifting his 2011 Ford Fiesta at YouTube, go watch it now. Ninjas, sharks, zombies, an ape on a rocket-propelled Segway scooter, blistering pyrotechnics, the Epic Meal Time guys, Bollywood dancers and a healthy dose of product placement for Ford, Monster Energy, DC Shoes, et al. makes for good traffic stats all around. At 3.6 million views to date, that’s good social. Respect.
But what is all this really doing for Ford? Well, against their top two U.S. competitors, Ford presently has a 2,941 worldwide Alexa Traffic Rank vs. 16,392 for GM and 21,609 for Chrysler. For Ford, that’s 5x better than their nearest U.S. competitor – for the win.
Traffic rank (over time) is just one way you can measure the effect of social media on your site. But please remember that quality of traffic often beats quantity. Big numbers for unique visitors is always nice, but time on site, pages per visit, frequency, and depth will show you a level of engagement for your visitors. You can track most of these metrics with web analytics tools like Google Analytics or the Adobe Online Marketing Suite (aka Omniture).
As a social media savvy company, Ford is doing something with their social media efforts that too many companies are missing entirely. Ford is creating exposure and engaging their consumers at the social level and converting that interest into influence and traffic numbers.
Remember: Exposure, Influence, Engagement, and Action = Revenues.
Engagement what? How is this different?
Let me be clear. Someone once said that social media should activate your customers, not collect them. We all know that brand awareness is a top objective for social media marketing, but who really cares if your Facebook page has 50,000 people who like it, or if you have a million Twitter followers. If your website isn’t seeing regular improvements in traffic numbers and traffic stats from one quarter to the next, you’ve missed the point of social media marketing entirely.
Here’s the takeaway on social media measurement:
Social media is a combination of spreading the word about your business and gaining a direct response. Contrary to the beliefs of the few, social media marketing is not some fleeting blip on the marketing and advertising radar. The effects are obvious and measurable. Although your return on investment (ROI) calculations may be somewhat different to figure, you can absolutely measure the effect of your social media efforts at the site analytics level and attach dollar figures to the details.
Conversely, if your marketing department is investing in billboards, TV advertisements or print pages in the phone book or whatever, your rep may be all-too willing to take credit for any improvement in sales you may see – when in all reality, these sales numbers may have little or nothing to do with these ads.
In the social and SEM game, performance is measured first by attribution. And any analyst can watch the traffic source stats, time on site, pages per visit, frequency of visits, depth of visit, event goals reached, URL destination hits and directly relate those numbers to money in the bank.
Chatter and noise are beautiful things, are they not?