Calling ‘Bullshit’ On Four Social Media Myths

There are days I just want to shout at somebody for all the misinformation I hear about social media. I hear all these myths and bad information being passed around the business community, because some know-nothing shyster tried to sell a business owner on social media, and cocked it up so badly, the poor guy is going to just stick with the Yellow Pages and door hangers for the next 10 years.

Here are four social media myths that, if I hear someone mention them with a straight face, I’m going to throw something heavy.

1. You can’t measure the ROI of social media.

This has got to be the biggest pile of BS I come across. And to make matters worse, I hear it from so-called professionals in this industry, who apparently have no clue that this is even possible. Olivier Blanchard just recently ranted about a recent South by Southwest panel where the audience was treated to these little nuggets of stupidity:Photo of a very large bull

  • There’s no ROI for measuring ROI – it’s just too difficult.
  • You can’t put love and trust into a chart. Why? Because love and trust defies logical reasoning.
  • Social doesn’t always need to be quantified. Its not a spreadsheet metric only – trust, relationships, advocacy.

If you’re doing social media for your anarcho-syndicalist commune, then sure, you can’t measure trust, love, or that warm squishy feeling you get when you hand someone a fistful of daisies. But if you’re doing social media for a business that gives you money, then you’d damn well better measure it. Your boss is not going to want to hear about trust and love when she asks you to justify why she just spent $30,000 on your social media campaign. How are you going to demonstrate that the $120,000 your company made was a direct result of your efforts? If your job is on the line, you’ll figure it out.

There are plenty of tools for accurately measuring this kind of thing, the least of which is Google Analytics. It’s free, fairly easy to use, and there are big books you can use to learn how to use it. There are also books about measuring social media ROI, with real formulas and techniques and everything. And I can guarantee that not one jot of ink is spent discussing how to measure trust, love, or warm squishy feelings.

Granted, asking about the ROI of social media before you ever start on a campaign is a bad question to ask, but once the campaign is up and rolling, you’d better be measuring how well you’re doing, or you’re going to be out of a job three months after you launched this thing.

Read these blog posts about how, why, and how easy it is to social media ROI:

2. Social media can replace everything

Social media is just another tool in the marketer’s toolbox. It’s not a tool that can replace everything marketers have been using for the last 100 years. As much as the hipsters like to say newspapers are dead, TV is dead, radio is dead, and any other medium that’s more than five years old is dead, those things are still viable strategies.

As long as there are people who don’t have computers or smartphones, we’ll need TV and radio advertising. As long as there are people who don’t use computers and tablets, we’ll need newspapers and magazines. There are two very large groups of people who don’t use computers, smartphones, and tablets: the poor and the elderly.

In fact, because of these two very large populations, we will still need books and libraries, print publications, the Yellow Pages, broadcast television, and FM and AM radio. Not everyone has a satellite dish, a smartphone, satellite radio, and a laptop with broadband. We need to quit making the assumption that everyone in this country does.

As long as these media channels exist, there will be a need for that type of marketing. Until then, social media is completely ineffective for those two very large populations.

3. More impressions = good, fewer impressions = bad

Marketers who still believe their TV commercials are being seen by hundreds of thousands of people hate social media. They look at the social media stats and freak out when they see that only a few thousand people came to their sites and bought anything.

What they don’t realize is that they’re really seeing the actual size of their audience. They’re getting a real glimpse of what their true customer base looks like, and not the hyperinflated numbers from advertising salespeople.

Want to do a test? Launch a TV commercial, and set up a special URL specifically for that commercial. If you sell hammers for ABC Hammers, get the domain, run it only on your commercial, and see how many people actually come to it. Use your commercials to drive web traffic, and then count the results. Those are the people who were inspired enough by your commercial to gather more information. Did it cause them to buy a hammer? We don’t know. But we can measure (there’s that word again) how many people that commercial drove to the website.

Want to quantify it some more? Let them download a 10% off coupon, redeemable within the next 21 days. Then count how many people redeemed the coupon. It’s not a completely accurate measurement, but you do know how effective your commercial was in driving traffic, how effective your website was in driving coupon downloads, and how effective the coupon was in driving sales.

No, it’s not the couple million viewers you were told would see your commercial on Monday Night Football, but it’s a better picture of who liked the commercial enough to take action. There’s still no mechanism to show you how many of those commercial viewers were in the bathroom. And there’s no way of knowing whether people went to the store and bought your hammer because of that commercial.

So if you keep thinking more impressions means success and few impressions means failure, you’re going to be in for a big shock.

4. The ‘I’ in ROI stands for influence, integration, intent/should be Return On Engagement

This is the hippie tree-hugging bullshit that Jason Falls and I wrote No Bullshit Social Media against. Social media is notYes, you want people to like you. Yes, you want people to trust you. Yes, you want people to be your raving fans.

But do you know what you really want from them?

Money! Being liked and being trusted are all fine and good, but it doesn’t mean a thing if they’re not buying from you. I’ve had plenty of potential customers who trusted me, but until I had a check in my hand, they did not contribute to my bottom line.

Social media marketing is all about marketing. It’s a business tool. And to be a business tool, it has to make money. And to show your boss that it’s making money, you have to measure it. You may even have to show that it’s as good as, or better than, the traditional marketing tools you’re competing with. (Of course, you should be measuring the performance of all your traditional marketing tools too. You’re doing that, aren’t you?)

Until people quit spouting all this nonsensical crap about what social media can and can’t do, it’s going to be slow going for businesses to adopt it. Hopefully the “professionals” who keep spreading misinformation like these four myths will eventually stop doing what they’re doing and go back to bartending, and let the real professionals clean up the mess they’ve left.

Photo credit: Oli R (Flickr)

You Don’t Get Social Media ROI Yet? C’mon, Man!

I was feeling good about social media ROI, and how/whether people understand it. I figured, at least my people — marketers — get it. They understand how to measure social media, or at least the principles behind it.

Apparently not.

eMarketer dashed those hopes to the ground with their December 20, 2011 article When Will Social Media Measurement Mature?.

Marketers know that counting fans, “likes” and followers is not the best way to measure success in social media marketing. Yet these metrics are often the top benchmarks for performance. It’s not surprising, then, that marketers consider calculating return on investment to be the biggest challenge of using social media, and that a majority of them believe they cannot measure social media campaigns effectively.

How to Calculate Social Media ROI

Calculating the ROI of anything is easy. Subtract how much you spent from how much you made, and that’s your answer. If you spent $10,000 on a social media marketing campaign, and you made $50,000, your social media ROI is $40,000.

Simple, right?

$50,000 – $10,000 = $40,000.

So how do you know whether sales are coming from your social media efforts?

I’m not going to delve into the step-by-step process, but I’ll give you the tools and concepts you’re going to need to get started.

  1. Set up Google Analytics, and install the code on every page on your website. If you have a blog, it only needs to be part of the code. If it’s on a website with pre-built pages, it needs to be on every page.
  2. Set up a Bitly account. Bitly is a URL shortener that also lets you do some basic analytics on the number of people that have clicked your link.
  3. Create a Google Analytics tracking campaign for any and all major links you’re sending out. This is how you’re going to measure a particular blog post, tweet, Facebook status update, etc. If it’s just a basic link to the website, a campaign code is optional. But if it’s a blog post about a particular marketing campaign, set up the Google Analytics campaign.
  4. Put a hyperlinked call to action in your blog posts that take people directly to a sales page or order page. Make sure that the hyperlink is given a unique campaign code.

Here’s what will happen:

  • You’ll send out a link to a blog post via Twitter, Facebook, etc. Let’s say that 10,000 people see that link on your various accounts.
  • 1,000 people visit your page and read that blog post, all within a 6-hour span.
  • Of that 1,000 people, 100 people actually make a purchase with a total of $10,000 in sales.
  • Those 100 people also fill out their contact information, which gets placed into your CRM.

By looking at these numbers, you can determine a number of things.

  • 1,000 visitors out of 10,000 social media followers, fans, and friends means you have a 10% click-through rate.
  • 100 sales out of 1,000 visitors is a 10% close rate; out of a 10,000-person network, that’s a 1% close rate.
  • By looking at the entrance and exit paths of that particular 6-hour period, or particular day, you can see that a majority of people were moved enough by the blog post to go directly to the order page. Compare that to another blog post that only lead to 30 sales out of 1,000 visitors, and you know it wasn’t as effective in moving people to act.
  • You can then subtract the cost of that particular campaign from the amount of money you made to calculate the total ROI for the day/week/month.

Calculating social media ROI is not that difficult. It’s just a matter of having the right tools and knowing basic analytics and campaign creation. There are literally hundreds of articles and several books on each step I first described. It’s just a matter of reading, and then trying out what you’ve learned. With some trial and error, and constant measuring, you’ll soon learn what works and what you can stop doing.

Or you could just hire a social media professional to do it all for you.

Quantify the Value of Social Media for a Music or Arts Festival

Let’s say you work for a large country music festival in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and you want to quantify the value of your social network so you can get sponsors for it.

Okay, this may only apply to one of you in the entire world, but the ideas are transferable to anyone who wants to determine the value of their social network, so you can sell it to sponsors and advertisers.

Kim Doyle (@Kim_Doyle) works for the Cavendish Beach Music Festival, which is held every July. I emailed a response to her and then figured it would make a good blog post, especially since I love going to music and art festivals, and am hoping one of them will arrange an onsite consulting gig at the festival. (I’m just sayin’.)

What is the Value of a Social Network?

Basically, the statement you want to be able to make to your sponsors is “our network will have X value to you.”

Pemberton Music Festival

Pemberton Music Festival

This is a little tough for a new network, because it has no “value,” since it’s still unproven. But an established network has more value, because you know how big it can get, you’ve already seen what it can do, and you’ve been delivering clicks and eyeballs to your other social properties.

We can’t say for certain what value the network will be until AFTER the festival happens. Next year, you can demonstrate last year’s numbers. And if you’ve been doing it for a few years, you can show growth. But it’s hard to say, our network will deliver X visitors.

That’s because you need to be able to trace the interactions and transactions from your network to the sponsor’s properties, and they need to trace what happens from there. But if they’re not doing any monitoring or measuring themselves, then they have no idea what those visitors are worth. You can only show them raw numbers, but it’s up to them to demonstrate the value.

Measuring the Social Media Traffic

1) Show them how you can track all the visitors to your website, all the members of your social network, and measure the amount of time they spend interacting with the site and with each other.

You’ll do this through Google Analytics (# of visitors, time on site, # of pages visited), Klout score (especially your influence and reach), Facebook analytics, and Bitly (# of links clicked).

Include links on your blog (“Please visit our sponsors who make this possible. The more you visit, the more they support us.“), and count the number of times people click those links. Post links to their sites via Twitter (“we want to thank Floaty Bits Bottled Water for supporting Cavendish Beach Music. Visit them here.”)

If you can show those numbers, you can show sponsors what you can deliver. If this is a new venture, start measuring the size of your network, plot its growth, and see if you can start driving traffic to your site in order to show potential.

2) Show them the demographics of who they will be reaching. If you can know a few demographics of the people who come to your festival, you can show sponsors why you’re going to reach them better than traditional mass media.

For example, if a big part of your audience falls within Generation Y, you can find articles and studies that show a lot of Generation Y doesn’t watch TV, they Tivo it and skip commercials, or they watch a lot of YouTube videos on their mobile phones. So create promotional videos, put them on YouTube with a sponsor’s logo in the bottom right corner just like on TV.

See how many different ways you can drive traffic to the video, and measure each channel to see what drove the most traffic (use different Bitly links per source, 1 for Twitter, 1 for Facebook, 1 for the blog, etc.) Measuring that traffic will give a sponsor an idea of the kind of traffic you’ll be able to drive for them.

3) Remind them that they are going to be reaching a niche audience in a way that no one else can: they will reach a large group of people who are passionate about your festival and that music/art. But unlike the festival-only sponsors, they’ll be reaching them long before and long after the festival ends.

And not in the “your logo will be on the t-shirt” way of reaching them.

But if you’re sending out tweets that point to videos with a sponsor’s logo on it, and those fans watch the videos to see who will be playing, or to see a recap of the last festival, those sponsors get more exposure than the ones who were only visible during the festival itself. And any links from the YouTube page to the sponsor’s page can have a major positive impact on their search engine placement.

Consider doing a daily/nightly recap of the festival each day. Treat it like a little newscast where a “reporter” is on scene (film it with a high-def digital camera, not a mobile phone), interviewing artists and fans, showing a few seconds of the artist playing, and then putting it all into a YouTube video (complete with sponsor logo). Tweet that out a few times the next day, let people access it via QR code, and put it on Facebook for the fans who couldn’t make it, and count the traffic there too.

These are just a few ways music and arts festivals can find a sponsor specifically for their social media marketing and social networking efforts. These kinds of affinity groups can be a marketing goldmine for marketers because they’re reaching a dedicated niche audience who has an affinity for that festival, and are more inclined to support people who support something they love.

Photo credit:

Search and Social: A Partnership for the Ages

Robbie Williams is an SEO Consultant at Slingshot, and wrote this guest post in exchange for a guest post I wrote for their website.

Robbie Williams

Robbie Williams. I love his version of 'Somewhere Beyond the Sea' from Finding Nemo

What grabs a social media guru’s attention faster than mentioning the term “social media guru?”

The answer: Providing data-driven ROI statistics for their industry and, better yet, doing it in conjunction with SEO.

Worked, didn’t it?

Now that I have your attention, I want you to dabble in my thoughts for a moment.

I’ve often pondered how a social media practitioner would address the topic of “Search and Social” as they are the two dominating powers on the Internet. Now I know. They turn to the SEO professionals to address it.

As we all know, the Google algo is one of mankind’s best kept secrets. So I’m not going to come out and tell you that I know anything in my industry to be a 100% fact — aside from what Google tells us directly (which often keeps me up at night). However, I can back up my opinions and observations with the experience of day-in, day-out SEO practice, where dealing with rankings for an array of keywords is my entire world.

Within this digital domain, I’ve had first-hand experience with the algorithm and how it responds to certain human signals; e.g., social signals. However, (drumroll please….) social signals alone have yet to produce an identifiable, data-proven effect on rankings in the majority of SERPs. So yes, given the access to the data streams of Twitter and Facebook, there has been a trace amount of evidence where social media has had a noticeable effect on rankings in certain keyword search queries.

Now, back to proving ROI for social media with search. We all know how powerful social media has become and it’s not unreasonable to think that Google doesn’t realize it too. As a matter of fact, it has attempted to gain access to the Twitter and Facebook “fire hoses” (the full feed of information behind their massive firewalls) but to no avail … yet. As soon as this happens, you better believe that social media is going to have a significant effect on rankings, and it’s only a matter of time.

***Disclaimer: As an SEO professional, I am required to mention the discussion Correlation vs. Causation when discussing this topic. So here it goes: a page/brand/keyword will typically have social cues surrounding it because it’s a good page/brand/keyword and it will rank accordingly because of this. The reverse is not true, a page/brand/keyword will not rank only because it has social. In the world of SEO, it’s never that simple.***

Imagine a graph illustrating the respective positions of traffic-driving, conversion-producing keywords in individual SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Now overlay it with another graph of social media activity that’s been strategically produced around the same SEO keywords.

What do you see? Positive correlation (not necessarily causation). Additionally, imagine a Google Analytics graph showing increased conversion, increased on-page time and click-through rates, as well as a decrease in user bounce rates for those same keywords and their associated pages, overlaid on top. (I’m drooling at the thought of this, I don’t know about you…)

Boom. professional search engine optimization company. Aside from work, he loves being outside; running, mountain biking, adventure racing, etc. Robbie’s current motto: If you keep life full, you never have time to worry about tomorrow.

Who Should Sponsor Your Blog?

Should you have a sponsor for your blog? Is it worth the effort? Or are you selling out your soul by accepting filthy lucre for a company to have a say in your blog’s content and tone? And which company’s filthy lucre should you pursue?

(Yes, yes, not really, and it depends.)

I’ve been DMing with Mark Eveleigh, a first-class travel writer, book author, and photographer who takes some gorgeous photos of those places you’re never going to see before you die, about whether he should blog (he should) and if he could get a sponsor (he could). He also owns a freelance photography assignment agency where several other outstanding outdoor photographers are available for hire.

Mark Eveleigh

Mark Eveleigh. Petty jealousy and raging insecurity make me want to not help him. A guilty conscience makes me do it anyway.

Mark has an interesting situation, because a sponsorship for his personal branding blog makes a lot of sense. As I see it, he would appeal two basic categories of readers: travel enthusiasts and photography enthusiasts.

The experience levels in these two categories may range from “I wish I could do that” to the serious amateur to the consummate professional. And because Mark is a specialized travel writer and photographer — trips to remote locations to take beautiful pictures — he is most likely attracting readers who want to do similar activities, or at least learn more about it.

Why Sponsor a Blog?

Travel writers have a special niche that can appeal to a wide range of readers — from people who like to travel to people who like to read about travel — who have self-identified as loyalists and users of a particular special interest. That’s a valuable niche for marketers to tap into. Anyone who sells products to travel fans should take advantage of sponsorship opportunities.

So who should sponsor Mark’s blog?

If he wants to appeal to the travel readers, he should talk to large travel agents that specialize in adventure travel, airlines that travel to out of the way locations (think Brazil, Thailand, South Africa), adventure travel gear manufacturers, and publishers of travel guides for the adrenaline-addicted.

On the photography side of thing, he should reach out to makers and online dealers of high-end camera equipment, camera bags, and other photography-related businesses.

(Frankly, Mark’s camera manufacturer, Nikon, should be begging him to throw their logo all over his blog, and include him in their ads.)

In exchange, Mark can write include basic mentions in an occasional article, review a sponsor’s service or product, and allow some ads on his site.

Sponsorship doesn’t always have to include money though. It can also include goods or services. For someone like Mark who travels constantly, it could be free flights for a year, or an expensive new lens to review and keep.

Prove Your Value First

Of course, pursuing sponsors also means being able to prove the value of the blog itself. It means knowing the number of readers, what their interests are, what kinds of influence they have, and even who they are.

Using tools like Google Analytics for web traffic (where they came from, what they read the most), Klout for influence (your readers’ and your own), and even what your network is interested in (using or can help bloggers show where their readers are coming from and what they’re interested in.

I think that as blogs grow in popularity and blog owners are able to show something newspapers have never been able to demonstrate — accurate and up-to-date reader stats — we’re going to start seeing more marketers get involved with real bloggers who can deliver on both great content and valuable readership.

Copywriters, Use the Words Other People Use, Not the Ones You Use

Do you know what audio theater is? Does it make you think of something to do with speakers at a movie theater? Or maybe it’s a subset of home theater equipment. Or maybe you’re supposed to go to a play and shut your eyes.

It’s none of those. It’s what we used to call radio theater. (Or radio theatre, if you’re Canadian or British. Or a snooty purist.)

Decoder Ring Theatre cast

Cast of Decoder Ring Theatre, an audio theatre company in Toronto.

You know what radio theater is, right? Remember when Ralph and Randy sat in front of the big giant radio and listened to Little Orphan Annie? We all know what that is, even the people who only hear about it from their grandparents.

But the people who actually do radio theater want to call it “audio theater” instead. Why? Because people don’t listen to the plays on the radio anymore, they listen to them on CD players, iPods, computers, car stereos, etc.

So in order to be more accurate, they changed the name of the art form to more accurately reflect what it is that they produce.

And lost out on a large portion of their potential audience.

There are still plenty of people who used to listen to radio theater with money to spend, but they don’t spend it on the entertainment form from their childhoods because they don’t know it’s called “audio theater” now. Companies like Decoder Ring Theatre have worked hard to overcome this hurdle by being one of the most progressive and dedicated audio theatre troupes I’ve ever seen, embracing social media and Internet marketing, as well as podcasting. (Full disclosure: Decoder Ring Theatre produced and aired six of my Slick Bracer radio plays this summer.) But a lot of other companies have only seen a fraction of this success, and I believe it’s primarily because of this language disconnect between what is “correct” and what is “best.”

How many times have companies harmed their marketing efforts by insisting people call a term by what they want to call it, not what the customers want to call it? How many times have government agencies lost the respect and credibility they worked for, because someone who knows nothing about public communication insisted the agency use the accurate term, not the best term? How many news programs get laughed at because they try to change the commonly accepted term to something that better suits their political biases?

  • An agricultural equipment company I know calls its products by the term they want to use, rather than the more common term their customer uses. This is evidenced by the 1,200 Google searches for their term, and the 20,000+ searches for the common term. While they may rank well for their chosen term, they don’t rank at all for the term their potential customers are using nearly 8 times more often.
  • When the H1N1 epidemic flu first started, the public was calling it “swine flu,” but the media managed — with a lot of work — to get people to start calling it H1N1, because it was harming the pork industry. But the government agencies wanted to call it the human flu, and flu pandemic. Regardless of what they wanted to call it, the media ignored them
  • Fox News’ insistence on calling suicide bombers “homicide bombers,” as per the Bush White House, made them a laughing stalk among journalists and news watchers.

If you’re not sure whether people are using your terms or theirs, go to Google’s Keyword Tool and put in your term and any industry terms you can think of. See which terms have the most global (worldwide) searches and the most local (US) searches. The ones that win are the ones most people are using, and the ones you should be focusing on.

Update: Deleted “Audio” from “Decoder Ring Audio Theatre” above, because despite being a loyal listener for 5 years, and now a contributor, I still can’t get their name right.

Measure the Three Most Important Business Metrics With Social Media

Jason Falls is currently rocking the Exploring Social Media Business Summit in Toledo, Ohio, talking about measuring social media marketing, and making sure that businesses are making money from it. There are three Very Important Questions every business manager will ask of their social media manager, and you’d better be able to answer them.

  1. How much did we make?
  2. How much did we save?
  3. Are our customers happy?

Jason Falls rocks his talk about social media measurement at #ESMToledo

That’s right, social media hippies. Social media, just like every other part of marketing, is about making money. It’s not about conversations, friends, followers, Likes, fans, connections, comments, or Google ranking. It’s about sales and conversions, and customer service and satisfaction.

This is why social media monitoring and analytics is so crucial. You need to be able to show your boss that your social media campaign was not $20,000 thrown down the toilet, because you thought it would be cool to sell your bulldozers on Facebook.

Use Google Analytics to Measure How Much You Make

Google Analytics can tell you how people came to your website, what pages they visited, and whether they went to your sales page and placed an order. If 300 people visit your website because of a tweet, 30 people went to your sales information page, and 3 people placed an order, you have a close rate of 1%. If your social media campaign costs $1,000 per month, but those 3 sales are worth $4,500, your ROI is $3,500.

Use Your Accountant to Tell You How Much You Saved.

Social media is a great way to handle customer service complaints, reducing the amount of troubleshooting calls that take 20 minutes, reduce technician visits, or even the total number of calls coming in to your service center. Ask your accountant to tell you how much you saved from month-to-month. Calculate the average cost of troubleshooting calls, technician visits, and the monthly salary of a call center rep. Get with your Google Analytics person and social media monitoring person (#3) to see if you have seen an increase in social media activity. Chances are, the latter had an effect on the former, so count these savings as a win. If you spent $1,000, but saved $3,000 in a month, your ROI is $2,000.

Or, more importantly, if we combine the two, you spent $1,000, and made/saved $6,500, your ROI is $5,500.

Use Social Media Monitoring Services to Measure How Happy Your Customers Are

Radian6, Lithium Technologies, Sysomos, are some of the biggest social media monitoring services around (they’re all subscription-based services, so expect to pay a fee), and if you’re a larger brand, it’s worth doing. If you have a small company, set up a free listening post with tools like a Twitter search (like a TweetDeck column), and/or Google Analytics to see what people are saying about you. Quickly respond to any complaints or queries, and make sure you’re keeping people happy (see #2 above).

Happy customers are returning customers. Measure the sales of returning customers, especially those who have complained in the past, but you managed to keep by solving their problems, and compare that to the amount you paid for the social media monitoring service, and you’ve got your ROI.

We’re hopefully moving beyond the “social media is all about the conversations” way of thinking, at least in the business world. While this was cool and froody back in 2008, businesses are starting to use this as a new marketing channel. For those companies who want to make money this way, it’s real simple: just measure how much you made, how much you saved, and whether your customers like you.

If you can’t answer these questions, quit playing Farmville and go find someone who can answer it for you.