How do you define success with Social Media?

How do you define success with Social Media?

Global brand strategist Jonathan Salem Baskin wrote a great iMedia Connection article on defining social media success (or failure). He reviews recent memorable social media campaigns by Pepsi, Ford and Old Spice that created tons of buzz, but in the end didn’t translate to more revenue or a better market position, because they didn’t have anything of value to say about the company they were purportedly promoting.

This reminded me of a lunch I had last week with a friend who is starting with a new company, and is getting into social media for the first time. I found myself doing a mini-tutorial over our salads, and discovered that it wasn’t a social media tutorial, it was a marketing tutorial. Questions like: How does the company make money? What’s the average deal size? What’s the cost to acquire a new customer? What does the target customer look like? Why do they need your product or service? Why do they buy it from you instead of your competitor? Why do they keep buying from you? These questions have to be answered before you can begin to decide how you want to use social media for your company.

So, why do you care how the company makes money before you build a case for social media? Let’s say your company uses couponing, free samples, or break-even offers to introduce your product or service to the market. Getting 1000 people who are outside your target market to try the product is not a success for you – it’s a waste of resources. If you make your money on long-term clients, then you may want to create a customer-only community where existing customers get a lot of hand-holding and support. If you make your money purely on volume, and the first purchase gives your same profit as the 10th, go for it – get as many people as you can to buy! But these are two very different business cases, and need very different campaigns.

I know I sound like a broken record, but social media is not a strategy. It’s a tactic – and a tactic that is only successful if it builds positive brand awareness, drives brand preference, and increases customer satisfactions. Most of all, marketing should make the company more money. Therefore, social media campaigns should make the company more money. If they don’t, then you need a different message, a different tactic, or a new strategy.