Written by Rob Smith
Ask almost any business whether social media is worthwhile and they will immediately say yes – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a smorgasbord of other platforms all help to get eyes on your products and services and give organisations an extra voice online.
The vast majority of companies have a social media presence, varying from a daily tweet or occasional Facebook post, to teams of employees manning Twitter accounts responding to customer enquiries.
However, ask any brand how they measure social media effectiveness and ROI, and the answer will be less uniform, or even simply “we don’t”.
A new study from the Content Marketing Association (CMA) has shed light on the disconnect between social media implementation and measurement, with 100 senior level marketers, media agencies and creative agencies all providing input.
It found that 80 per cent of organisations are planning to increase the use of social media within content marketing strategies over the next 12 months.
The figures illustrate that there is little chance of the social media phenomenon slowing down on a corporate level, yet the usage of various platforms still pales in comparison to the proportion of companies gauging its effectiveness.
Just 28 per cent of respondents say they are confident about how to accurately measure the return on investment provided by social media, while 42 per cent are unsure whether this is even possible.
It begs the question “why invest at all?”, if the time and investment in the platforms is not equal to or less than the revenue it brings in.
And yet decision makers are still adamant it is worthwhile: 69 per cent of content marketers believe social media is vital to their strategies, with a massive 90 per cent agreeing that the growth of social has had a direct positive influence on their strategies.
The lack of an effective gauge was recently debated at a Public Relations Consultants Association panel discussion, drawing ire from HSBC’s head of social media engagement, Abby Guthkelch.
“I just don’t understand that. In traditional PR, we’re still talking about AVEs – seriously – and then someone has turned around and said, ‘You can’t measure digital and social’. What is wrong with you?”
Her viewpoint was shared by fellow panel member and Lansons Partner Lisa Elliott, who said there is still a distinct lack of understanding about how social is incorporated into content marketing strategies.
She added: “Sometimes we have clients that don’t know what they want from a digital or social campaign, so you have to be clear upfront otherwise they will say, ‘Let’s just sort it at the end’, which makes no sense at all.”
To understand why this line of thinking predominates anything else, it is important to look at why a social media strategy is employed in the first place: 57 per cent of respondents to the CMA’s study cited amplification as the number one reason, while 21 per cent say that building a fan base is their key aim.
Interestingly, a consumer-first approach still appears to be prevalent, with more than 40 per cent of those polled agreeing that consumers have the greatest control over driving a social content marketing strategy, while 31 per cent believe it is the client.
In fact, the greatest misconception with the use of social media, as with all aspects of content marketing, is that a one-size-fits-all approach is appropriate.
A two-man start-up B2B company in the pet food industry could not possibly employ the same strategy as a FTSE 100 financial brand with an established user base and brand recognition, and yet the belief prevails that simply tweeting and posting marginally relevant links will result in immediate increased footfall.
In The Role of Social in Content Marketing, the CMA found that the most effective B2C content marketing social platform was Facebook, yet for B2B firms LinkedIn was found to be by far the most effective.
Only by crafting a tailored strategy that identifies the target audience, their tastes and their behaviour can social media make a real difference, but the work does not stop there.
Frequent analysis of user and follower trends identifies which posts are resonating with the audience, creating online discussion and directing people to the desired destination, and this can then be augmented to draw in new pairs of eyes while retaining existing ones.
CMA managing director, Clare Hill, is of the same opinion: “The pace at which social media is growing in power and influence is remarkable, and there are many opportunities for brands to use this to their advantage to make their voices heard.”
Social media plays a vital role in any content marketing strategy, but unless it is employed and measured successfully, organisations risk undoing their hard work, or simply making it redundant.