Monday, August 20, 2012

Setting Goals for Social Media Marketing

As social media makes the transition from "new trend" to "integrated marketing channel" many companies still approach social marketing as something completely different from traditional marketing channels, such as direct mail or phone banking.

But in the end, social media isn't that different.

When your company puts together a direct mail campaign, you no doubt have goals in mind. You set up a structure to measure progress toward those goals, whether it's how many coupons are redeemed in your store or the change in sales comparable to the same time last year.

In social media, the measurement can be different, but for you to use this channel effectively, you still need to set goals.

What Do You Want To Have Happen?

When you start a social media campaign, start with this basic question. What do you want to have happen? Do you want to generate buzz around a new product? Do you want to increase sales? Or maybe you just want to increase positive sentiment for your brand. Think very hard about this, because while all of these things are sensible goals, it's important in your first campaign to focus on one area, as a baseline for future campaigns.

Lurk Before You Leap

I always tell my clients that they need to begin by knowing how to use social media. Well, just as companies spend time monitoring competitors' reported sales or market position, it's also important to see what they're doing on social media. This is crucial to helping you set goals for yourself. If you look at your biggest competitor and notice that what they are doing is one hard sell pitch after another, and you see very few shares of their content, that will give you an idea of their goal (just increase sales) and how you might fare with a similar goal.

Additionally, just as you learn about the market's wants and needs before you develop a new product, look at what your customers are doing and saying on social networks. If you see a lot of messages asking for help about a product, that might lead you to set a goal to answer X customer questions per day.

Research the content on social media and interactions stewarded by the most successful brands: think Apple, Starbucks, Gilt Group, and HubSpot. Ask your network what brands they follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. What are those successful brands doing on social media, and what goals are they accomplishing? Sometimes working backwards can give you new insights into your own goal setting.

Think About Goals in Relation to Measurement

Never set a goal that you can't quantify. "Increase Word of Mouth" is not a good goal unless you have a way to measure it, either by shares of content or the number of times your brand is mentioned on a network.

Also, think about your goals in terms of specificity: the more specific the goal, the easier to measure it. "Increase sales" is a good goal, and you can measure sales that way, but a better way to look at social media marketing is "Increase sales through Twitter links." Now you can directly track your goal through a single channel. What if you're selling a terrific new product that you're tweeting about and it's also mentioned on a regional news program. Measuring just the increase of sales won't tell you if it was social media clicks or the television exposure that really increased your sales.

Set Short-Term Goals and Long-Term Goals

I always tell my clients that the real power of social media is amplification, and the ability to track it. Using tracking tags, or third party tools, you can create a fingerprint for your message and watch it spread over the internet, and even across social networks.

When you set up a campaign, think about the short term and the long term. Maybe your long term goal is to overtake a competitor in market share, but your short term goal will be a stop along the way, such as increasing reviews by X% on sites like Yelp. By thinking about how short-term goals work to build a foundation for your marketing efforts, you can, over time, achieve a bigger goal like becoming the #1 company in your industry.

Use Old Goals to Help Set New Goals

I think of building a solid marketing campaign in the same way the Egyptians thought about building pyramids. You start with a foundation and build up. Each new layer is built on an old layer.

Look at your past traditional marketing campaigns. What were your goals for direct mail? For events and promotions? Did you achieve those goals? If not, why not? Are those goals something that could be achieved via social media? If you can't use the same goals, think about what goals you did achieve and how they could help you determine new goals for social media. If you have enough exposure for your brand, can you use social media to turn exposure into leads? If you have enough leads, can you use social media to turn leads into sales? Look at what you know you can do, and think up to the next layer.

The Takeaway

Goal setting is key to getting the most out of social media, and before you launch a large scale campaign, you should think about your goals first. Social media is a channel in flux, so start small, but keep track of your goals and achievements, so you can build on them in the future. Use what you know to go forward. Always ask these questions to help you really understand what you're doing, and what you expect to get out of it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Social Media Karma

This week is my vacation week, so there's a slight dearth of posts here. However, in trolling my backlog of notes for future blog entries, I came across something I conceived of earlier this year: Using the influence I've built up to share good content and help you reach a broader audience.

It's certainly not a novel idea, but I'm curious to track, via links and clicks, the spread of an idea over the web. I have limited tools to do this in my arsenal, so I'll be concentrating on Twitter and this blog, to see what happens.

The idea was originally inspired by Sarah Von Bargen at Yes and Yes. She runs a monthly feature called "Network of Nice" where various people can write in asking for help or offering help and you can participate by writing in to say if you need help from the offerers or can give help to the askers. I love this feature (which yes, I've done some help offering for in the past) because it plays into the idea of just doing something kind because someone has asked, or finding something you need because someone is brave enough to offer it. I've been very consumed by the idea of karma lately, and the Network of Nice is a living, breathing example of Internet karma.

Obviously, I do not have the same readership as Sarah does, but I'd like to give this a try. Do you have an interesting story that you need to share? Or are you looking for something? Are you unemployed with a serious talent that needs highlighting? I'd like to give this a shot and feature you on this blog, and share your story on my Twitter feed. I can't guarantee that you'll get an answer, but ever the optimist, I'd like to give this a shot.

If you'd like to take a chance with me, please send your story/need to me at kehutchinson [AT] gmail. Feel free to spread the word!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Stepping Away From Facebook, Personally

Are Facebook friends your real friends?

I'm contemplating this question for the umpteenth time after reading Alicia Eler's thought-provoking "Now Is The Time To Quit Facebook":

Not long ago, I made a new friend on Facebook. A few weeks later, we ended up at dinner with a group of other people. I was looking forward to chatting with him in real life - he was so interesting on Facebook, so I figured we'd have lots to talk about offline. But that's not really what happened. We talked tech stuff and got our geek on. Then my Facebook friend mentioned something about the self-referential nature of Facebook. The conversation stopped. Then he grabbed his iPhone and stepped outside for a cigarette.
I turned to a woman sitting next to me, who I am not Facebook friends with, and proceeded to chat with her for at least an hour. After dinner she gave me a ride to my bike, which I had left down the street. I didn't think we'd have so much in common. And I did not go home and friend her on Facebook later. In fact, I am happy not reading her status updates.

For a while now, outside of professional use for clients, I've been easing away from Facebook. My account is strictly personal at this point, and I weed it from time to time of pages I'm not interested in, or people I don't really want to be "friends" with. I don't post very much, and mostly use it to browse what's going on with my far-flung family. If I want to talk to someone, I call, text, or email. Or better yet, I see them in person. Since I've downsized my Facebook presence, I've had many more real experiences with my actual friends: dinners, coffee meetings, movies, even a trip to Tanglewood. And I  am much better able to converse with people in person, to really build friendships.

Facebook is a wonderful medium for creating personae and facades--you can be anyone you want to be, and no one has to know the truth. But in building these outer shells, we're losing the sense of human connection, a sense of who we really are as people. Not long ago, someone mentioned to me that I'm always complaining on Facebook, and he was right in a sense, that I had posted a few times over a week and each status regarded a disappointment or annoyance. He pointed this out, because if you meet me in person, I'm an optimistic idealist, looking for the half-full glass. So what you see isn't always what you get.

Do you think it's time to leave Facebook? And do you have a cultivated Facebook persona? Please share your experience in the comments.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hung Out To Dry By Technology

This weekend my dryer broke down. To be specific, the heating element gave out, meaning that the dryer worked, but only blew cold air, which really doesn't do much toward getting wet laundry dry. The repair man was called and confirmed that yes, it was the heating coil, but it would take a few days to get the part in. Today, he brought the part, only to discover that a fuse had also blown, which is a part that needs to be ordered, so it will be Monday at the soonest before I'll have a working dryer again.

Of course, in the meanwhile, I need to do laundry.

Have you ever had this problem at work? You have a task in front of you and you know exactly how to get it done, but the piece of equipment you need is broken. Or the person who knows what to do is on vacation. There you are, thrown out of routine, and having to find some other way to do this small task that you do all the time and don't even think about it.

For me, the solution was to string up a clothesline in the basement, dig up some clothespins, and hang wet laundry to dry the old school way. I moved our dehumidifier under the wet clothes and my husband added a fan to the set up. So last night, when our elderly cat had an "outside-the-box" moment which called for washing sheets and taking apart the bed at 2 AM, we had something to dry out the sheets and mattress pad on, and they were ready to go back on the bed by the time I got up. It's not the most convenient way to do laundry, but it does bring up nostalgic memories of hanging up the wash with my grandmother in her backyard. (Thankfully, I do not have an open-top 1940's agitator washer that spills on the floor, but I might like that wringer attachment she had!)

The answer here was to go back to how things were done before the convenience of a dryer. So, how can you "go back in time" when your routine is off at work? Here are a few ideas:

  • Binders of information: Preparing actual printouts of needed info to have on hand will get your what you need to do in case the electricity goes out or your computer crashes. Think of all the things you reference on your computer on a daily basis and create a notebook with the emergency points. If it contains sensitive information (passwords, financial information), keep it in a locked drawer.
  • Copy/Print Service Center: If your big proposal needs to be FedExed and your printer dies, it's a good idea to know exactly where the nearest copy center is. 
  • Flash drives/Portable data storage: I carry a flashdrive on my keyring, with pertinent info on it (writing samples, resume, current consulting project) so that at a moment's notice I can provide this information to a potential client. Another great alternative is an online storage site, like Google Documents or to store things that you need instant access to, so you won't be caught empty handed.
Having old-fashioned solutions for technology fails is just good common sense, but as the working world becomes ever more technically integrated, we hardly ever stop and think about "what would I do if...?" 

What's your Plan B when technology fails you?