Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Malcolm Cowley

GET UPDATES FROM Malcolm Cowley
 

Social Media - Worth the Investment or Money Down the Drain?

Posted: 22/12/11 09:59

The growth of social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter has taken the world by storm and over the past few years many brands and businesses have been urged to set up profiles and engage with fans and followers. With the extra resource required to effectively plan and place content, interact with and grow a community and reach out to media and influencers, the investment in social media outreach has now become a significant chunk of many marketing department's budget, but should it be?

I have been working in the digital marketing sector for the past nine years and over this period have categorically learnt the importance of getting effective ROI on any marketing spend; be it in online advertising, managing affiliate partners or PR. The ever-changing media landscape along with daily technological advancements online make measuring ROI a particularly challenging task and one heavily mused by industry professionals. But no more so than the conundrum that is social media.

Daily changes and updates to social platforms mean that brands need to not only be savvier about what they are posting and sharing, but also need to have the technical know-how to effectively move with the times. Considering the role of a social media manager or agency was a pipedream only as recently as five years ago, finding someone or a team of people to fit that bill is not only difficult but also costly. With this in mind, evaluating the success of a social media campaign and the positive impact on bottom lines sales is a critical and much needed outcome for many businesses.

Until now, there have been some generic methods of testing how well a campaign has worked; fan growth, engagement and interactions on posts, retweets and @mentions. The more sophisticated campaigns have included tracking widgets which can manage click-throughs but none have actually monitored how this social media outreach has impacted sales. In addition the evaluation processes which takes into consideration engagement levels and numbers of posts and tweets, is a lengthy one done by hand - not very effective in the real-time environment to which we have all grown to love and expect!

This area was one that we at Performance Horizon Group have been considering since we established the company at the end of 2010. We work with big brand retailers and digital agencies, who during this difficult economic period, not only expect a better return on their spend but want to also effectively monitor how well a campaign is working, so the next quarter's planning is properly aligned. They also want to see what the results of their campaign are, simply at the touch of a button.

We have just brought to market, ExactView and are presently running a trial with group buying site kgbdeals. Three main areas of the Facebook 'Like' journey are being monitored including all clicks generated through the 'Like' buttons on the kgbdeals' website. We will also be tracking all subsequent conversions generated after the user has clicked the 'Like' button, to gather an understanding of the 'referral tree' generated from a user's 'Like'. In real-time they will also be able to visualise what is working so they can quickly optimise campaigns; an essential benefit in the fast-moving social space.

Is social media worth the investment or money down the drain? From an engagement perspective there are definite benefits to having a social media presence, particularly as they provide free platforms to place content and interact with key audiences. But is the ROI proportionate? Now brands can build effective social media tracking into their performance marketing campaigns to not only monitor effectiveness, but also see where sales are being made and if social media budgets should be reallocated, bolstered or reduced.

 

Follow Malcolm Cowley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/prfhn