Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Social Media Marketing: Where's the Value?

As companies look for cost-effective ways to market in the down economy, many are experimenting with social media campaigns, employing a host of tools, from YouTube videos to blogs to applications on Facebook and Twitter. But it begs the question: Is Social Media Marketing actually paying off for marketers, and how can you measure ROI? While proponents of Social Media Marketing point to increased brand awareness, and — to some degree — more concise targeting, few are willing to go out on a limb and attribute any significant revenue growth directly to their Social Media marketing initiatives.

Social Marketing Initiatives Grow, In Spite of Lack of Useful Metrics

Still, according a report prepared for eMarketer by research firm Aberdeen Group, 21% of best-in-class companies plan to boost their social media marketing budgets by more than 25% this year, in spite of the fact that Aberdeen's research also showed that 39% of companies found it somewhat difficult to measure the impact of social media, and 20% said it was very difficult to measure.

So where does that leave you? Aberdeen and eMarketer believe that by 2013, an estimated 52% of all Internet users will be regular visitors to social networking sites. No matter how you slice it, that's a significant number of users, and many of them will be potential targets for your product or service. The steady stream of updates and news from "friends" are becoming a weekly — or even daily — habit for many people. That stickiness is good news for social network providers. The bad news is that — sticky or not — social networks are still struggling to develop workable revenue models.

"Yes" to Facebook and LinkedIn; But a Definitive "Maybe" to Twitter

To date, the more established social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook have gotten most of the attention, and, among business users, Facebook seems to have gotten the most traction. But a lot of attention has been paid of late to microblogging service Twitter, with celebrities and even politicians (using "ghost-Twitterers"), entrepreneurs, business leaders and everyday users apparently flocking to the service in large numbers, generating lots of attention and activity. Twitter enables the distribution of web-wide messages, called "Tweets," consisting of 140 characters or less, to "followers" and to other social networking sites like Facebook. The initial response to the service has been strong, and eMarketer projects that the number of Twitter users will jump from 6 million U.S.-based users in 2008 to over 18.1 million in 2010. However, Nielsen vp of research David Martin suggests that the retention rate of new Twitter account holders is not particularly strong, and that as the novelty wears off, Twitter use may well drop dramatically. Given that sites like MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn already provide a Twitter-like short messaging system through their "Status Update" functionality, many who have signed-on to Twitter have suggested that Twitter may have actually taken a step backward, in creating a web service that offers only a "Status Update" function.

Social Network Marketing Initiatives CAN Lead to New Opportunities

All things considered, Social Networking as a whole has gotten some serious traction, and savvy marketers are including it in their overall marketing mix. For many B2B tech marketers with big-ticket, complex sales and long sales cycles, there is a pronounced need to influence and to build rapport, with both clients and prospects. In this environment, creating demand is really about building relationships, and about establishing you and your organization as a valuable resource and a trusted advisor. Participating in social networks is just one way in which you can accomplish these goals. Your social network marketing initiatives don't need to be enormous, in order to increase awareness of your product or service, and to create additional channels of communication. Use networks like Facebook and LinkedIn to provide information and advice; to pose leading questions; to promote events (both traditional and web-based); and to build alliances and partnerships.

As always, be sure to provide a simple means for other participants to reach you, and even consider providing specific "landing pages," where necessary. And remember to track exactly where your leads are coming from (and what they're responding to), so that you can fine-tune your initiatives for the next go-round!

No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites