The rise and subsequent dominance of social media in recent years was as dramatic as it was pervasive – today, social media is everywhere. Indeed, social media’s ascent is far from over, as it is still increasingly becoming fused to many aspects of our digital lives. For the entrepreneur and business of every scale, the implications are simple. You need to get into the social media bandwagon or risk becoming kept out of the conversation.
The problem, however, is that the relationship between businesses and social media marketing can be a labyrinth of information to muddle through, while avoiding the “shotgun” technique of sharing too much content with your community. It can ultimately become a love-hate relationship.
What’s To Love? Social Media
This goes without saying, but since social media’s entrance into our lives it has influenced everything in Internet marketing from search engine ranking signals to brand community dynamics. It has garnered the attention of powerful marketing engagement methodologies and businesses the world over, regardless of scale and how to properly use it. This love-hate relationship is still growing and has a strong hold on the web and its “Netizens.”
Facebook is well above 1 billion registered users at the time of this post. Google+ has over 350 million active users strong and is aggressively growing. Twitter remains the micro-blogging site of choice. For your social syndication needs, websites like Reddit and StumbleUpon continue to reign.
What’s Not To Love? Social Media Measurements
In any Internet marketing endeavor, the metrics are quintessential. What you believe to be working may in fact not actually be successful. Without crunching the numbers, businesses cannot measure the return on investment (ROI) of their efforts, and in marketing, it’s all about the ROI, especially the financial ROI – the monetary payoff that each marketing channel bolsters.
Web analytics offer concrete and actionable data. Paid search data is also concrete and actionable. Display and text ads likewise provide specific information that businesses can work with to further develop their marketing performance. But when it comes to social media metrics and measurements, the vital factors of being concrete and actionable are replaced with vague notions of importance and social buzz.
What Impact “Likes” and Viral Content have on Revenue
To better illustrate the conundrum, let’s use the powerhouse of social media: Facebook. Facebook “Likes” and “Fans” are indicators of social media marketing performance, and only content that is said to be “viral” can really bring in the Likes. But how much is a Like worth? So what if someone Likes a post on Facebook?
Let’s go straight to the bottom line: what revenue can businesses expect from a single Like? Here is a suggested formula by Radian6, a social media marketing suite:
Like Revenue = Total Facebook revenue (monthly referral traffic) / Total Likes (for the month)
If your monthly Facebook traffic brings in $100 in revenue for one month, and your Facebook page obtained 300 Likes in said month, then each Like is worth $0.33. Immediately, this broad formula is questionable as a performance metric because of what it implies: that each person that Liked the page actually bought something.
This formula does give a business something concrete to work with. It can be considered a dollar value for each Like – if not an actual dollar value, then a representative value. This new value can now be used as a reference point for some marketing performance tweaks based on a particular marketing campaign.
To further add to the issue however, as we mentioned earlier, viral content is what really drives social engagement. For Facebook, the measure of “virality” is EdgeRank. EdgeRank is the score that dictates when a certain Facebook post will stay at the top of any given user’s News Feed. The EdgeRank formula, according to WordTracker, is:
EdgeRank = Affinity – Weight – Decay
Affinity is how close the user is to the source of the Facebook post. Based on affinity alone, a post from a good friend, a spouse, or a family member should always feature prominently in a user’s News Feed. Weight is the significance of the post type and user actions attributed to it. Different types of posts have different weights (video, pictures, text, links, etc), and different user actions give different additional weights to the post (comments, Likes, Shares).
So, given that photo uploads “weigh” heavier than plain text status updates, they will be more prominently featured. The comments, Likes and Shares on a post are also factored into its weight. Lastly, decay pertains to the time of posting, and how long ago the post was most relevant. Updates posted hours ago will be pushed down the News Feed by newer posts.
From this formula, probably the biggest factor that makes viral content is weight. Timing also helps, as peak times of posting (like in the morning or evening) will mean that more people are posting and updates might get buried under piles of other posts before more weight (comments, Likes, Shares) can come in to support it. As for affinity, people who are Fans are “closer” to a business, while second and third level markets are their friends and friends of their friends, if ever a viral post somehow reaches that far.
The most important factor: Building Community
At this point your business really must distill the information it’s received from these analytics, but what actually matters most? It doesn’t make sense to be a community of one, and if you’re always answering your own questions, then what’s the point of fans or community members. You may be offering valuable content, and even expert advice, but why not ask the community what they want to here? What tips and advice do they have for a particular need or platform that’s being discussed?
Updating your page with questions from fans shows sincerity. Crowdsourcing for tips and suggestions from your fan base can reach a higher level of engagement as it ultimately helps others in the community. It also creates a more authentic connection with the sense of having “been there, done that,” which members of your community may be able to relate.