Get real business results from social media

Learn how to develop a social media marketing strategy that actually brings in revenue, and see how to measure your success.

Devising a Social Media Strategy

Once you've settled on some realistic expectations for your social media efforts, it's time to develop a social media strategy.

Start with clear goals and objectives. What are you attempting to achieve? Who are you hoping to talk to? Are you trying to drive more traffic to your site? Manage your company's reputation online? Boost sales? Without specific goals, you won't know whether you've been successful.

Tie your social media goals to your brand and to your company's larger marketing strategy. "If you're a fun consumer brand like Cordarounds, your social media conversations should reflect that," says Parr.

Decide how you will measure success. If your objectives are to increase traffic to your Website through social media, how will you track your site traffic to see if your social media efforts are working?

Measuring Social Media ROI

When businesses ask if social media can deliver a return on investment, the example often discussed is Dell.

Dell's U.S. outlet store started tweeting special offers to its followers in June 2007. The company recently said that sales generated from its tweets have added more than $3 million to its coffers.

Of course, that isn't a lot for Dell--the company had $12.8 billion in revenues during its second fiscal quarter alone. But that result shows what can happen when a business leverages a free and popular communications channel, in this case Twitter, to its advantage.

Inevitably, the next question is: How do you measure social media ROI? The answer, depending on whom you ask, ranges from "you can't" to "it's extremely difficult."

"There's not really a formula or set of standard metrics you can use to measure the ROI of social media," says Jeff Zabin, vice president and customer management technology analyst for Aberdeen Group. "The whole area of social media is experimental and everyone's still trying to figure this out."

"There's no killer app for this yet," Parr adds.

Larger companies, such as Dell, sometimes have proprietary software designed to capture and analyze how Twitter posts translate into sales. However, small businesses with limited budgets have a few ways to tell if their social media efforts are gaining traction.

For example, you can include a Twitter-only discount code for a product and track it, suggests Naked Pizza's Leach. "We've added the Twitter discount codes to our point-of-sale software, so we can track their use," he adds.

You might also see how often your Twitter posts are retweeted (when someone tweets about your tweet). Retweets are at least one indication that something you tweeted about is of interest to other people. You can follow retweets in your Twitter stream, or you can use sites such as Retweetist, Retweetradar, or Tweetmeme to track retweets on a larger scale.

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