These days, pitching social media to a CMO is like selling coal to Newcastle or preaching to the converted. For, everyone agrees that social media presence helps drive brand value, company image, sales and public relations, though not necessarily in that order. The problem arises when the marketing team wants it done pronto with guaranteed quicker outcomes.
Any amount of explanation that social media influence is like the gestation period around pregnancy falls on deaf years. Tell the CMO that it would take a year for actual results to come and she / he may politely walk you out and get the next marketing whiz kid into the room. And more often than not, this smarty pants would suggest a strategy that appears artificial and fails to generate any value.
Which brings us to the moot question. How does one really define value for social media engagement? Which one of the four or five listed above needs to be the goal around which other smaller goals can be worked upon? For e.g., can guerrilla marketing enhance brand value while hiking sales? Or can an emotional story result in sales while it goes about building a brand connect?
Or should one just take the organic route and pour in hard cash to promote content across social media platforms? Better still, should one employ a social media influencer who can help the brand gain what can only be described as an unfair advantage using the trust that she / he already has on a platform or across several of them.
Who’s an Influencer?
In a nation that thrives on cricket and cinema, the obvious mistake that CMOs make is to consider every celebrity to be an influencer. While that is true in the larger sense involving celebrity endorsements, it is not so when it comes to social media influencing. For e.g. Shah Rukh Khan who boasts of a huge social media following cannot generate brand value with promotional tweets.
Why? Because there would be any number of trolls waiting for such an occasion to decimate his promotion by connecting Khan to something that is the exact anti-thesis of what he is endorsing. Imagine him giving beauty tips to men? Or sharing stories around fashion or adventure to promote any leading hot couture brand or a top-notch automobile!
So, what are we looking for in an influencer? Should be someone who is already active on one social platform with a strong relationship of trust with the audience which the brand plans to target. Remember that the brand should never expect such influencers to plug a product or service directly. They should be telling stories, sharing anecdotes or seeding an idea in favour of the brand.
While choosing one from any number of social media influencers straddling the digital space, one must seek out a person who resonates closely with what the brand stands for. Thereafter, it is a breeze as they can use their influence for subtle promotions without having to change their persona, be it funny, annoying, serious, adorable or just plain in-your-face.
Measuring Their Impact
This is where things get tricky. In many cases, the brand expects the influencer to make a certain number of post (or tweets) and get paid for the same. Viewers may remember the spy cam video of an actor discussing the price for making a pre-defined number of tweets. Such an engagement where the influencer and the brand have nothing in common other than money, is a recipe for disaster.
Conversations with marketing teams suggest that those who seek quantifiable results from social media influencing face a tough time as the current tools do not measure them properly. And what is left is usually a sheet giving numbers that helps our vanity quotient without actually growing any of the tougher metrics viz., community engagement or sales.
Some Real KPIs
In case one is done following either of the two options listed above, here is a list that one could go through to check how many of them actually get ticked while engaging with a social media influencer:
- The Old-fashioned Clicks! These would never go out of fashion as the whole of the internet works on it. The number isn’t critical, but is of some importance today, given that click-baiting and phishing are taking people away from this old habit of clicking to read without actually feeling cheated.
- Like it? Share it! This is probably the easiest measure of social influencer impact. And it is quite easy to track too. However, another critical measure would be the times the brand itself shared the content across other marketing collateral? For e.g. did the caricature figure in any of the products? Or did it appear on a TVC?
- Who says what? This could be a crucial measure of the impact that a post is generating. Of course, one is likely to find loads of spam and bad language, but there is every likelihood that people take up the topic and begin discussions around it. Once the posts become regular, so would the comments, leading to broader and deeper engagements.
- How many got tagged? Currently, it is tough to measure this metric though one is hopeful that something of its kind would be available soon enough, if not already. Imagine if the influencer writes a post which generates some emotion in the faithful who then tag their friends, thus circulating the message to a wider audience, some of who may become new followers too.
- Are you a Bookmark? With more and more social platforms allowing users to create lists of stuff they’re interested in; wouldn’t it help if the brand actually measured this as one of the parameters of success? In fact, influencers can work towards having more of their content in the bookmarkable category, leading to better engagement and conversations each time users refer back to the post or the article.
- Whom to Follow Lists are akin to the mailing lists of yore when brands simply spammed customers into submission. In fact, such lists automatically bring out the fallacy of adding followers in the organic way because they are mostly passive and bring no value. However, if the brand gets a follower out of the influencer program, she is likely to stay and participate.
Each of the above steps helps brands create communities which act as brand ambassadors on the social media platforms. Which is where working with influencers helps as it generates better advocacy that in turns brings added trust into the equation.