How to Drive Brand Value from Social Media

One of the more common questions that I receive is how do I truly drive value from social interaction? While there is no “magic bullet” to drive hard ROI consistently across all organization types each organization can show solid social value and results if they consider the following when planning their B2C social GTM strategy.

1 ) Goals, Goals & Did I mention Goals – Before the first Twitter alias is created or Facebook fan page is posted the first step is to define the goals of the strategy and how it will be measured. But it does not stop here. Where I see gaps in strategy across the board is then taking the next step which is consolidating and truly integrating consumer network interaction with branded solutions. The reason is the data. With consumer networks they may come and go and the availability of data to analyze is hit & miss but with the right mix of branded solutions it is possible to capture social data that can then map back to organizational KPI’s.

2 ) Resources & Champions – One of the consistent issues I see is that there is an expectation that the technology will deliver results. Moreso in social than any other type of marketing initiative it takes dedicated resources to truly drive success. This can be for a period of time until the community can self manage itself but the key to interaction is not the technology but the content that is created. Either leveraging 3rd parties or internal resources to drive fresh and relevant “sticky” content is a key success factor in building the audience that will generate the data needed to map to your KPI’s.

3 ) Consumer Networks – What I consistently see and hear is that a number of organizations are leveraging popular consumer networks such as Twitter and Facebook. An organization can have multiple “campaigns” going at any given point in time. This is a natural response as this is where consumer activity is taking place. It is absolutely essential to position your brand where interaction is happening, but there has to be a plan around the purpose of the interaction. Is it tied to Brand Awareness? Leveraging Twitter to monitor your brand for a more personal customer service touch? Either way I view Consumer Networks as a starting point to branded social interaction as again the value is in the data.

4 ) OPEN Authentication – The key to bridging the gap between Consumer Network & Branded Solutions is to leverage a platform that enables OPEN Authentication. OPEN authentication allows for consumers to leverage existing credentials they may already have via Facebook, Windows LIVE, Google, etc… And as Jim Haughwout, CIO of Neighborhood America stated in a recent blog post “Don’t ask your members to join “Y-A-N” Yet another network“. This is critical for branded interaction as you want to eliminate the barriers of entry to your branded solutions.

5 ) Head in the Clouds – Another important factor to consider is the type of delivery method for your branded solutions that integrate with consumer networks. What I have found over the past few years is that the TCO associated with Software as a Service or (SaaS) solutions are ideal when it comes to provisioning multiple instances of social solutions for community, crowdsourcing and even mobile interaction. The speed to market, flexibility and scalability are all positives when selecting your social platform.

6 ) Branded Platform – I do reference platform vs. mashing up multiple instances of social, blogging here, wiki there. What I recommend to my clients is a consolidated approach to social so you have the ability to capitalize on the data across multiple sources as again the value in social resides in the data created by social production. When selecting a platform I look for the following criteria:

Flexibility, Scalability, API’s, Ability to integrate with legacy systems, All solutions and data can reside in a dimensional data warehouse so that I have the ability to create data marts with other 3rd party data sets. Also there are platforms that exist that can provide Community, Crowd Sourcing, Feedback & Mobile solutions in a single platform.

But if you are already down the path with your social strategy it is possible to enhance your social strategy and incrementally migrate elements to a platform approach.

7 ) Data is Everything – So the common message throughout thus far has been tied to the data. Why do I care about the data? Data created from social interaction is real and tangible when it comes to understanding consumer behavior and especially directly tying their thoughts or inputs directly back to your brand. The ability to create social profiles and then leverage that data for targeted marketing or to identify key influencers is critical to truly maximize your reach and marketing spend to drive through to results be it transactions or increased subscribers.

8 ) If Data is Everything what do I do with it? – The next step is to analyze data that is collected. I have talked in the past about social analytics and the benefits of understanding performance, health, member interaction, etc… This is where we map back to step one of defining the goals. The data that is collected can be sliced in many ways and the more data collected the more accurately you can drive to conclusion. My recommendation is to leverage a platform that ties all aspects of data into a single dimensional data warehouse. Why? with a dimensional data warehouse you can compare multiple campaign initiatives either testing performance of campaigns directly or by having the ability to conduct cohort analysis.

9 ) Don’t Guess – There is a lot of talk around sentiment tied to social analytics. Be wary of this approach as it is simply an inference based on an algorithm that may or may not account for certain factors. I prefer and recommend analytics packages that mirror the Rasmussen Report which is based on opinion analysis and actual user interaction vs. an inference.

10 ) Social + CRM really? – There has been a lot of buzz around Social CRM and how it can drive value for organizations. The key here is not to dump all social data into CRM. The key is to leverage a publish subscribe type of model to only create social profiles that map back to organizational goals. Leveraging a social front-end such as a crowdsourcing solution that ties directly into your existing CRM system is a key driver and the second pillar of how you can drive value out of social. The first being social analysis the second is identification down to the user level of how individuals interact with your campaign. This step is critical in ultimately forming the full picture and this combined with social analytics leads to driving value back to social.

11 ) Consolidation is King – The consistent theme throughout is consolidation. I recommend that you craft a comprehensive social GTM strategy that allows you to leverage the power of the consumer networks. Then leverage the flexibility of a SaaS platform to service multiple segments or campaign initiatives within an organization all while driving through to value via the data created. This is the framework that can lead brands with large brand inventories to truly maximize their social media strategy and drive real and immediate value.

12 ) Now What? –  If you are running multiple campaigns for an organization today then I recommend reviewing your current goals and strategy against the consolidated model and see where incremental improvements can be made. Question your vendors about data consolidation and ability to provide a central repository of all social data. Ensure that your consumer networks can interact with your branded solutions. Showing a feed is not true integration I recommend the ability to push and pull content from consumer networks so that you can leverage them as a platform.

Ultimately the goal is to drive value from social. Again the steps outlined above can create a model that will enable value definition for your clients or your key decision makers.