The grace period for social media – the new kid on the marketing block – is over. No longer will brands forgive its foibles and excesses as youthful abandon. It’s time to grow up and take on some proper adult responsibility. That was the message I walked away with from the DMA’s social media debate at DMA Towers as part of national social media week.
Hosted by the DMA Social Media Council’s chair Roger Warner, panellists Christie Fidura of Adobe and Jai Kotecha of Red Brick Road debated the issues that have been taxing marketers since brands switched on to the immense direct marketing potential of plugging into social networks. Three hot-button questions dominated:
- Who ‘owns’ a social media account?
- How do you avoid the ‘creepiness’ factor?
- How do you measure social media ROI?
I’m taking my followers with me
You’ve built up a large following and you’re ranked as being highly influential on any number of online tools. So, what happens when you move to a new company? Who owns your account – you or your employer? Does your social media account migrate with you?
Many companies have experienced the problem of employees taking their followers with them to their next job. Take a recruitment consultant, for example. They have a lot of followers looking for jobs. Then the consultant moves company taking his employer’s clients with him to a rival. Ouch.
Without having a clear company policy in place setting out the boundaries between a corporate and personal social media account, then the question of ownership could be costly.
Big Brother online
The panellists at the debate confessed that they were uneasy with the sheer amount of data Facebook holds on them and what they might do with. The irony of this feeling was not lost on them. The potential social media data offers makes direct marketers salivate. The holy grail of laser-guided targeting is now a reality.
But, with great power comes great responsibility. Just because you can follow someone around the internet doesn’t mean that you should. People are ‘creeped out’ when one visit to the bed section of an online retailer results in banner ads for beds popping up on every website they visit. They feel like they’re being watched. If marketers as consumers don’t like this experience, then why do they persist with this tactic?
Social media is going through a maturation process. The golden rule of ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you’ should be the abiding principle by which marketers should set their boundaries of engagement.
Measuring social media ROI
If Facebook was a country, then it would have the third largest population on the planet. More than 200 million tweets are sent everyday. Brands understandably want to be part of the social phenomenon and have a presence where their customers are. But in the rush to get involved, many brands have deferred asking the crucial question of ‘how can we prove the value of our investment?’.
Now that the dust is settling and the finance guys are asking for a justification for the social media marketing spend, it’s time to think long and hard about how to measure the effectiveness of social media marketing and how it impacts on the bottom line. After all, it’s what social’s other direct siblings have to do.
So, what to measure? Number of followers? Likes? Positive sentiments? Direct sales? This year, the DMA Social Media Council will publish the sector’s first metrics guidelines, which will provide a standardised measure of all components of a social media campaign. The comprehensive guidelines will be the industry’s gold standard that will translate social media activity into the language of the balance sheet. It will be the first real step that social marketing takes towards financial responsibility.