Does on-platform engagement mean you’ve got an engaged audience?

posted by Ben Shipley

There is a long standing business maxim that states “that which gets measured, gets done”

It must be long standing, because my dad told it to me. The longer I spend at work, the more the statement rings true. The more I work in social media, the more I notice that many of the metrics and measures that agencies propose, and trumpet to their clients, are incredibly platform specific.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the EdgeRank algorithm, and I understand how it rewards brands (and people) who produce content that delivers likes, comments and shares. Despite that, I can’t help feeling that a focus on platform specific measures of success is delivering bad strategy and bad marketing as a result.

Defining the role of social media at the start is crucial

Many social media conversations start with a desire to do something on facebook or (insert platform du jour here). It could be that competitors are making moves on the platform, it could have been the latest issue of marketing magazine that’s pushed them over the edge, it could even be the clients teenage children that have created an impetus for action.

This desire to get on platform leads very quickly to activity that is platform focused.

Attracting fans, through gated content or contests, incentives, advertising or shareable stories build an audience. Likebaiting, engaging questions and content tactics increase engagement and grow reach. Sounds like a success, right?

I think this sounds like a success for Facebook, not neccesarily a success for your client or their brand.

Perhaps the most important step in developing a social media strategy is to define the role that the medium will play in the brand’s marketing mix. Presence on the platform is a role, but not one that your client is likely to value in any particular way. Consider if the role could be to leverage the most engaged fans of the brand to increase the depth and reach of the companies advertising strategy (and potentially open up a content creation budget). Facebook Offers deliver some interesting functionality to  convert likes to revenue, although it seems more applicable at a coffee shop level for now.

There is no role that is perfect for every brand, the key is to find a role that is valuable to the brand will direct you towards creating marketing that works and frame the challenge of how to deliver a proposition of value in a medium that doesn’t always reward them.

Marketing that doesn’t link to a business result will never be valuable

The success of television advertising is not the result of silver tongued Don Drapers pulling the wool over the eyes of clients and selling a creative vision. It might help, but the real reason for the prolific success of the creative agency and the 30 second spot was ads=sales. There was a time, in the US in particular, when you could build a factory, fill a warehouse, buy some ads and watch the sales roll in.

This was all much more effective when channels were fewer, changing channels meant leaving your seat and choice had not ballooned to the mind numbing proportions we now find ourselves surrounded by.

Despite the erosion of TVC effectiveness, the simplicity and impact of ads=sales has cemented the medium in the minds of marketers around the world.

Are you making the value proposition that simple for you clients? Or are you presenting three different interpretation of reach (total, viral, effective) and trying to explain value of the back of that?

If you had a million bucks to spend, would you put it in the hands of the person whose value proposition you understood, or the one you were going to struggle to explain to the CEO?

Building a closed social media system guarantees a #FAIL

There is another effect that defaulting to on platform stats as your measures of success delivers.

In detaching measurement from the business in general, social media is detached as a function in the business.

Matt Burgess wrote an article on Mumbrella calling out the twitterverse for labelling Coles and Woolworths recent social media efforts as #FAIL’s. He correctly points out that the questioning strategies that they fell down on are considered by most social media marketers to be best practice. They do indeed deliver engagemnet in the numbers of people talking to/about the brand, even if they often turn hashtags to bashtags.

The reason the examples are marketing fails has nothing to do with social media marketing. These efforts fail because they highlight the distance between the closed social media marketing team and the rest or the Coles/Woolworths/Qantas businesses. They are completely separate, and when there is criticism of the brand in their channel, they’re powerless to comment on it, let alone address what it is that went wrong.

I believe it’s time to bring social media in from the cold. Yes, it’s different. Yes, it requires unique skills to manage, plan and execute. However, if we continue to detach social from the business as a whole it will never deliver the results, and attract the levels of investment required to do some really exciting things.

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