This is a first blog post in a series I think of as SocialROI, but more broadly speaking will lay out my thoughts on how the rise of the social Internet and the democratization of publishing has created a world in which not only marketing has changed, but the measurement of marketing has also changed. Investments in marketing can have long-term impact, but that must be properly understood an measured. I hope to properly explore that here.
The Need for Investment in the Long and Short Term
While the effect of advertising is by and large felt in the period in which it’s displayed, social media is different. Advertising affects an audience for a specific time. You come up with a creative campaign. You develop that campaign across print, radio, TV and other channels and then you spend money to place that creative in front of someone’s face. And they are able to respond during the period in which you are accomplishing it and during the period in which you are advertising it.
But beyond that it has very little residual value. When the billboard comes down, when the digital ad is no longer displaying, when the TV ad has ceased, very rarely is there any additive value. Very rarely is there anything residual that’s left. When you fill up the bathtub with money and the drain runs out, the residue that is left from a paid media campaign is essentially zilch.
But enter social media and you actually end up with some different characteristics. Social media, while one could simply advertise on a social platform such as Facebook or My Space or Pinterest, the effects of social media really do have a significant residue. People tweet and that tweet lives on. It’s there permanently, not only in the person’s profile, but available to Google searches, Bing searches, available in someone’s history when it is mined and searchable using social media search tools.
When you run a campaign that’s on your Facebook, it may result in a Facebook fan, someone choosing to follow your conversation and yield to ongoing opt-in marketing. It’s a permissions-based marketing system. And so while you may present a message to someone and they may click and they may buy or they may go down to a retail store and purchase, you also have an ongoing relationship with many of them because they’ve chosen to become your fan.
There’s also other value that’s created, which goes beyond your campaign and lives longer than the period. Someone may make a recommendation, which is I like this. I want to buy this. I own it and it is good. It is something that I want or prefer or something that I hate or something that I’m going to take a look at, something that I’m reading and it lives on beyond that period because it’s said and that expression is heard by people significantly more impactful than if they hear it through media.
So when they say I bought a Sonos media player and I love it and it’s the best thing I’ve ever bought. And it’s worth the money, even though it’s three times more expensive than other options, it’s the best. That recommendation will live on in the recipient’s memory or it may when the person comes time to make a purchase decision for audio equipment, they may come back to the person who made that expression and say, hey. I know that you liked something, the thing, a Sonos. Is that still what you would recommend? And then through that relationship the person is able to have disproportionate power in their recommendation because they have that relationship.
So we have fans, Facebook fans. We have followers, such as Twitter. We have subscribers who may be subscribed to a blog feed or a YouTube video channel. We have digital assets that live on. So these are things that live on beyond the period.
So we have digital assets such as a micro site that you create that goes on and keeps living or a forum in which people can share their ideas about what is good and what is wrong. And it creates long-term available, not just to the people who are viewing it at the time, but to people who are searching for something in the future. It could be a Facebook tab that allows you to shop or to share or to compete and it may be something that is ongoing. Now there are of course short-term digital assets and we’ll cover that in the future, but there are these digital assets that live on beyond the short term.
Then there’s champions. A champion is different than an influencer. A champion is someone who loves your brand, loves your products, and wants to come to your aid. They could be influential, but in most cases they’re regular people who are willing to in a time of crisis come to your aid and defend you at a time of opportunity to cheer you on. At a time of something new, such as a product launch or a launch of a campaign, they’re able to get the message out and share it with those who they love. It is incredible to understand how much the words of 10 or 15 people can do to completely change the direction of a conversation and the comments on a blog post at Huffington Post.
A small number of champions can do a lot of good. A large number of real champions can do incredible things on behalf of a brand and those relationships are ongoing. They’re not immediate to build. It’s a relationship that you build over time with champions through developing a compelling champions program, but they are an asset that lives on and on beyond the period in which you are investing in acquiring them.
Another area is influencers. Influencers are those that have a disproportionate amount of influence in an audience based on the fact that they have a particular readership or followership of people who are listening to them or who are subscribed to them. It is a group of people who may have general influence over the internet, meaning they’re one of their most read bloggers or most followed people on Twitter or they may, and this is more likely, have significant influence in a particular topic area.
So if the topic area is college level humor or a particular area of technology, these people are highly influential in this topic area, which means that people link to them, discuss them, include them, share their stories, tweet them out and otherwise are referential and deferential to them in the conversation. And they influence both opinion as well as the topics that are discussed. So to recap, fans and followers, subscribers, digital assets, champions and influencers are among the long-term assets that are created that live well beyond the period in which you do the activity.
So a proper investment in social media involves long-term and short-term investing. So we want to capture the impact of today’s phenomenon and growth while also building for the future. So anything that is purely asset building that only builds long-term value may not actually capture the needs to actually drive revenue in today’s period, driving sales. It may be that there are phases where investing in the long-term assets is absolutely the most important thing that needs to be done at this moment. And it may be the only effective thing that one can do.
Build your followership. Build your thought leadership. Build relationships with champions. Identify your influencers and build relationships with them. And it may be that in order to do that, you need to build the communities. And then once they’re built, then you can more effectively drive a current period time or current period returns where you’re actually driving real sales or real communication style goals that deliver real value to the brand in the current period.