Most marketing professionals don’t know how to define success for social media campaigns. Very often success is measured by the number of followers or "likers", but there is no direct correlation between having followers in social media and getting an uplift on brand reputation, positive change on Net Promoter Scores, or an increase in unique users or sales.
At a roundtable with CEOs, a repeated question was how to embrace social media and how to define and monitor success. One way to measure success is triangulating data points such as increase in number of followers and increase in unique users, page views or sales. Very often we see spikes in the number of followers thanks to targeted campaigns driving people to follow a brand or a product in the social media outlets, but that spike does not show up in terms of revenue or market share increase for the company.
I had a discussion with Sree Nagarajan, CEO and co-founder of a promising new company: Colligent.com. Which is a clever social media engagement measurement tool for brand advertisers. Thanks to their software, marketers can correlate the behavior of their followers with the topics they talk about and the affinities they have with other brands and activities. When Sree walked me through the dashboard showing five of the most valuable brands in the USA, the most revealing number was not the fact that followers of brand x also liked Lady Gaga, or watched NBC news or listened to Justin Timberlake (all useful data points for brand marketers when planning a balanced media mix). The most revealing data point was a simple graph classifying the followers into casual "likers", loyal users and advocates... Casual "likers" just do that: click on "I like" and forget about it. They never show emotional engagement, never talk about that brand or product in their social interactions, and never recommend it to a friend... As an average, for the top ten brands, casual "likers" were as much as 90% of the total followers for each brand. A reason why there is very little correlation between social followers and business results. Those social followers are not really engaged.
In order to drive return-on-investment of social marketing campaigns, the marketing money spent on increasing the number of followers on Facebook, Twitter or Myspace, needs to be channeled towards driving engagement rather than “likes”. Engagement is the real measurement of social marketing and we must avoid using the number of followers as an absolute measurement of success.
"Share this" is by far the most elegant, simple and efficient mechanism in social media. As average, each shared link generates 10-20 visits. Few things will go viral and generate thousands of visits. Followers and "likers" are commodities showing not much business impact because there is an excess of "likers" but a lack of engagement.