The value of Social Media during an economic downturn (A look beyond Twitter)

Inspired, in part by the latest post by BuddyMedia about how Social Network Numbers Continue to Climb, April 2009. I decided to help shed some light on how to measure the value of social media if you are getting started with it by comparing it to SEM, a widely understood marketing technique. Link courtesy of Jeff Ragovin

Nowadays Twitter equals social media. However powerful twitter is (for people that understand it that is) it is very difficult to explain the actual value to new comers or classic  marketers. Since Twitter is a conversational medium, it poses a very different set of challenges and opportunities than more traditional channels such as search. This causes Twitter to be misunderstood and underutilized.

There are other social media channels that can be better understood and easily compared to a medium that most people understand which is Search Engine Marketing. SEM has a set of “rules and outcomes” that are widely understood across the internet savvy as well as business leadership at companies. For simplicity’s sake the top three we’ll use here are clicks, impressions and conversions. Keep in mind though that we are skipping to the tactical assuming the top level planning and thinking has been done. I, however, think that marketing programs should align to a final goal but should be flexible enough to add new channels. That poses a staffing issue and the flexibility to be ready to face that problem is key to the success of a program. But that topic is a material for a different post. Now on with the tactical.

Clicks, impressions and conversions are the outcomes from an SEM campaign. They can be measured, optimized and most importantly understood. With that in mind we can translate that value to social media and show the savings that a well run program can mean to a company. Especially in a downturn.

How would you possibly measure social media impact?

  • By putting in place the same tracking systems that you have for SEM. At the very begining of a social media pilot that will be the tool of record and the one that everyone will trust.
  • Once you have that in place, make sure to get comparable metrics so that SEM will serve as a benchmark.
  • Measure conversions and clicks as you would a SEM campaign
  • Set up a timeframe for testing equal for both
  • Compare the number of clicks and conversions you get from SM vs. SEM
  • Quantify that in dollars saved and conversions acheived.

What are the channels that your company should use?

  • Depends on your business. Try the usual suspects (twitter, facebook, edocr, etc) and build relationships with the company directly. You need these relationships to get your stuff featured in the home pages of these Web 2.0 (social media) sites. That is where all the action happens.
  • Understand the benefit you are providing to your channels and leverage that. You need to become important to them.


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