Written by Nadia Uddin, Client Solutions at Chirpify
“We’re the red-headed stepchild.” My friend Dave, who is a global social director at a major fashion brand, lamented as we commiserated over oysters and drinks at Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston (a must to visit if you’re ever in the area).
No offense to red heads or step children, but the phrase has meaning, especially among social media teams at big brands. And Dave isn’t the only one who feels this.
Most social media directors have difficulty proving the value of social media marketing at organizations. Sure they can measure it, but they cannot attribute it back directly to things like sales. With Dave’s case, his brand has some of the largest social media followings of any company, and fans around the world post pictures of the product, like, share, re-tweet all to the millionth degree with no incentive to do so, only because they love it. But, when it comes time to ask for budgets for staffing, marketing programs, and the like, Dave’s got an uphill battle because he can’t offer a solid ROI.
“From the outside looking in, we’re perceived as best-in-class in social. But behind closed doors, our company has gone bankrupt two times already. We really need to prove that we drive the business,” says Dave, who often times is asked to dumb down his presentations when explaining social to his colleagues. “There’s always an elephant in the room about the business meaning of a ‘like’.”
Luckily, Dave’s got hope. I shared the following ways to prove social media ROI based on what I’ve seen from my clients—it all comes down to understanding what the business values.
Start Gathering Emails
TaylorMade knows for sure that once someone signs up for a brand email, they’re on that path to purchase and becoming a loyal customer. And even Craig Brommers, SVP of marketing for Abercrombie and Fitch said that loyalty club members are, on average, six times more valuable than nonmembers, and the top 10% of club members purchase eight times per year. Which means there’s value in an email.
While Dave is in no way connected to his brand’s email program or has knowledge of the ostensibly complex systems, he can work on a series of promotions on social that will ask his social media followers for emails in exchange for brand relevant things like content and prizes. TaylorMade did a series of bursts just like this on social, and within a course of a year, was able to hand over more than 60,000 emails to the CRM team. This left little question on whether social media marketing delivered value to the business.
Help with Ad Targeting
Promotions on social media can offer an opportunity to gather social media identities such as individual handles on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Those handles can then be fed into ad buying systems, which then can target the ads on the applicable social media channels. The handles themselves can be targeted, as well as friends of those handles. For the media buying department at Dave’s company, this would help them deliver proven ROI, such as click-throughs. By connecting better click through rates to those handles who participated in the promotion, then the reasoning and value of doing a promotion on social media increases.
Find Out Which Social Media Followers are Customers
To give you another example, one retailer I worked with wanted to know which subscribers of their list were also following them on social media. To do this, they offered their email list subscribers a special if they tweeted a special hashtag. The tweet intent was embedded in the email, so once the subscriber responded to the call-to-action directly from the email, we were able to get their social handle. From there, we compared their social handle to their Twitter followers and was able to discern which followers were customers as well. This helped the strategy team figure out which customers were the most valuable based on spend and advocacy.
As I talk to more and more friends like Dave, it’s becoming clear that to fight and win more budget for social marketing, brands need to show how their budget is bringing real business returns. Connecting the dots between social handles, email, the customer journey and ultimately sales is becoming a critical career skill for in-house social strategists.