Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Forgiving World of Social Media Lead Generation

At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), we have been working on a social media marketing campaign that has surpassed all client expectations when it comes to audience engagement.

Our editorial strategy proved to be spot on. Readership has grown month over month with a healthy mix of new and returning visitors.

You’d think we would be hitting high fives and chest bumps. There is a problem though. While important, awareness and positioning are not our benchmarks. It’s lead generation and in this area we have fallen painfully short.

It is certainly not for a lack of trying. We started with a free offer to motivate readers to identify and share information about their needs. No go. We then moved to a multi-tiered premium content strategy with required registration. Little response.

So now we have scheduled a Webinar exclusively for readers of our social media site. Our hopes are high…we’ll see.

I should be more frantic about our lack of prospect identification, right?

Make no mistake, I am concerned. Yet, I also recognize that with social media we can test multiple tactics within the timeline of a program’s duration and without dramatic impact on budget.

This is not the case with traditional advertising and direct marketing programs due to the steep budget requirements associated with media, production, printing, postage, etc. These tactics are unforgiving as a company is basically afforded one shot to get it right and produce a measurable impact.

A multi-million dollar ad campaign that is met with a lukewarm reception results in the advertiser searching for a new agency and, in some instances, a chief marketing officer out of a job.

Unlike many consultants who argue that social media is merely for community and conversation, I’m wedded to the belief that companies should demand an ROI aligned with lead generation, sales cycle support and search engine optimization.

Yes…it makes the design and execution of social media marketing campaigns more challenging. But, there is time to test approaches and the lower funding requirements produce a client that is more patient and understanding.

Now I just need this Webinar to work.

9 comments:

Dale Underwood said...

Marc,
I must disagree to some extent.

I read the blog entry and you make good points about the true costs of traditional marketing campaigns being much higher, and with more risk, than social media endeavors. However, any campaign has hard costs and opportunity costs, even social media. What's more, a failed social media campaign could sour the concept for other more appropriate goals such as branding or awareness.

You're a pro and I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.

Depending on the type of client you may want to check out a new slideshare deck I put up in preparation for our participation in the MarketingSherpa and Inbound Marketing Summit in Boston next week.

The topic is Convert the Conversations but keep in mind it is specifically for B2B companies that have complex products and/or services. It is not for B2C.

http://www.b2bconversationsnow.com/?p=427

Let me know what you think.

Dale

Lori said...

Marc, I agree as do many of my peers, the ROI of Social Media is yet to be determined or truly measured. As we work through this time as marketers we do a little finger crossing to hope that someone, somewhere is listening to us. I picked up this off of LinkedIn so post your webinar time and I will take a look!

Kersten Kloss said...

Everything I am reading and understanding about social marketing is that for companies it is primarily a customer service oriented marketing vehicle. For would be clients, the company offers up useful information to serve them before the sale. This results in pulling clients instead of pushing them. A paragigm shift away from the old world of "I wonder where the yellow went"
ROI might need to be measured through public opinion polls and net chatter before you can calculate the actual $ROI on a campaign like this. There are some companies that are trying to quantify these calculations. One that comes to mind is http://www.exvisu.com/

Kersten Kloss
Business Consultant - Web Strategy
Refreshed IT Calgary, Canada

Robert Middlestetter said...

Marc,

I have a concern about insisting that Social Media should have an ROI. Because we should be communicating in a “helpful” manner with potential consumers (customers) asking them to take a sales lead action seems too commercial. In fact it could be the kiss of death in establishing dialogue.

While social media has great value in building relationships and gathering consumer (or customer) information, the media remains on the outer circle as an effective lead generation tool. For us, Social Media is an exciting new way to publish one’s views and invite real-time constructive comment. People engage in the conversation when it’s relevant to them. Discovering relevancy is very valuable in marketing, however monetizing that relevancy is virtually impossible.

Perhaps we would be more effective if we use Social Media in a role that is more aligned with its true value—gathering consumer (customer) insights and becoming relevant to the reader.

Robert Middlestetter
President/CEO
Concept Company
Dayton, Ohio
www.conceptcompany.com

Marc Hausman said...

@Robert -- thanks for comment on my post.

We're going to have to agree to disagree. I understand your view that the value in social media resides in the ability to create community and conversation (while gathering market insight). That is certainly important.

However, my experience has been that when you attach success to measurable benchmarks in lead generation, sales support and SEO there is a more compelling business case for corporate leadership to fund social media.

Davina said...

It's going to vary, case by case, per client, per project. And campaign: some are more about customer service, others brand management, other SM campaigns are about sales and lead generation.

I do think the newness of SM plays a factor in patience, but smart people are developing different models for measuring ROI in social media. There's not one right way, but there needs to be benchmarks and measurable objective in any campaign.

Brian Doyle | Business Development Director, DME said...

Marc,

I enjoyed your blog. I would agree that social media CAN be more forgiving - but I don't believe that's always the case.

When a campaign blows up in your face, the more traditional forms of direct marketing tend to limit the damage; this is not so with social media, where the effects can go far beyond the intended audience in no time at all. How many millions of people saw the Dominos youtube disaster before the company was able to get some sort of handle on it?

Christine Mikel said...

Although sales is continually pushing marketing to develop qualified leads, I believe that social media is a better fit for building brand awareness and generating buzz...and shouldn't be forced into the same ROI box. David Meerman Scott has an interesting point of view on this in his book "World Wide Rave". You can check it out at: http://www.davidmeermanscott.com/books_wwr.htm or follow him on Twitter: @dmscott

Rod Stobo said...

In traditional marketing, there is a construct that's well understood by both marketer and target, and has been honed now over decades.

In social marketing, there is no such construct, and it could be said that it's 180 degrees from that of traditional marketing. Even in a business-friendly environment like LinkedIn, it is considered "spam" if you dare suggest that you would like to sell something. So, it becomes a cultural thing like a mating ritual, where we all circle around each other, waiting for the signals that it's okay to take it to the next level.

Over time, social media will become overrun with people trying to do business on them, which will, in turn, turn off some of the users, who will seek other platforms as refuge, further fracturing the landscape.

Because social media platforms are currently "free", there's really little point in trying to apply ROI (it would have to be based on opportunity cost or on labor, as opposed to hard cost). So, to answer your question, I would say, yes, it does allow us time to refine and adapt, but as we get better, it will only serve to poison the well, I fear.