By Peter Heffring, president and CEO of Expion

Brands have jumped in whole-heartedly to social marketing in 2012, with active Facebook Pages and sponsored ads, Google+ pages, YouTube channels – you name it. And while headcount and budgets have been growing for this direct marketing channel, the effectiveness is still eluding many C-level marketers. Is it working, and how do you tell?

Many brands are falling into the trap of trying to measure social channels like they would more traditional marketing channels. These measurement and business intelligence tools are usually quantitative performance measurement systems (CPC driven), and rarely used to improve marketing or operational effectiveness. Social measurement must include qualitative evaluation of comments and reviews to determine the customer’s unfiltered view of brand’s products and services.  This voice of the customer can be used to improve operations, and determine where satisfaction and dissatisfaction lies. Is it product price or quality? Is there a customer service issue? Social is a customer engagement tool and brands are only going to maximize their return if they leverage the full capabilities available to them.

Working with hundreds of brands to manage and optimize their social programs has taught us, and our clients, a lot – and what we’re seeing is that companies who have moved from traditional measurement to new, more meaningful and socially driven metrics are the ones who are excelling in this newer medium. Here are five measurement strategies that will increase social effectiveness.

 

1. Focus on Superfans

Every brand has a set of “Superfans” that represent their most supportive, vocal and engaged customers. Smart brands are identifying these super social customers and making sure they are recognized in their posts, tweets or comments. Brands like Hilton Hotels, already known for their loyalty programs, set up notifications to be alerted each time their Superfans interact with their brand. By instilling real-time listening and response capabilities that help them reward their loyal fans, they increase their advocacy and exposure.

 

2. Keep Up with the Competition

Measurement in social is meaningless unless it’s benchmarked against competition. Today, using social measurement tools, brands can actively monitor competitive and even aspirational brand pages to see new promotions and campaigns, and engagement down to the individual Post level. Not only do you gain real insights into competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, but you also have an industry view on what is most engaging for customers and potential customers. That’s just smart business.

 

3. Drill Down to the Location Level

For multi-location brands, including those in retail, restaurant and hospitality, a social presence can and should be managed to the local level. Corporate governance with local control is not only possible, but simple to build today – and brands like Applebee’s have become masters at this. One real advantage: best practices, including top performing posts and promotions, can be shared across all locations to optimize engagement at every location.

 

4. Cross-Brand Measurement

Measuring Superfan and active fan crossover across a company’s multiple brands is another way to better understand customers – and which co-branded promotions could be successful. Brands like Kraft can and do rank the value of a customer across a company, not just for one brand. If there is a high crossover between Oscar Mayer and Oreo fans, for example, a cobranding opportunity is identified. Additionally, fans of product brands are often not fans of the corporate brand, so identifying Superfans is additionally achieved by identifying the most active cross-product brand fans.

 

 

5. Optimize What Works

Companies have come far in 2012 in learning what works for smart social, and how meaningful measurement can move their programs and engagement. The one measurement philosophy that is consistent across both traditional and social marketing is test-and-control optimization. Like with any digital marketing, testing and optimization are key to advancing the metrics, and the science, of social.

We’re slowly moving social engagement into a science that continually improves and shares findings across a company – which allows us to quickly evaluate what is working and what is not to provide a faster path to improving engagement.

About the Author

Peter Heffring is president and CEO of Expion, a social software company that empowers retailers, brands and agencies to localize and manage their social marketing efforts. Founded in 2009, the company is privately held and headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina.