How social media can influence the buying process


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This agency:2 white paper explores how brands can use social media to influence the buying process and drive ROI.

The paper analyses how brands are successfully building marketing strategies using social media alongside traditional marketing and advertising to produce campaigns that provide measurable results.

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How social media can influence the buying process

  1. 1. the social media agencyHow social mediacan influence thebuying processand drive ROI020 7775 5608 |
  2. 2. the social media agencyIntroductionSocial media marketing is here to stay. Companies big and small – both B2B and B2C – are successfully building marketingstrategies using social media alongside traditional marketing and advertising.Advocates of social media are embracing its capabilities to “spend less and invest smarter”. Among sceptics, however,there is much debate about how the ROI of social media activity can be measured.For every success story, there’s a brand that launches into social media without a strategy, or fails to establish metrics toeffectively measure achievements. They are swimming against the tide and find it difficult to establish the ROI of theircampaigns.The best way to be certain of a financially rewarding social media campaign is to have a clear roadmap to success.Distinct goals and a real commitment to investing enough time and expertise are essential.That can mean using social media monitoring to analyse a brand’s position at the outset of a campaign. Establishingareas of weakness delivers insights into how social media can be used tobolster other marketing endeavours.Moving forward, it’s imperative to define social media objectives and key “Social media is notperformance indicators. This facilitates the development of an effective social new anymore. It hasmedia strategy that can be continually measured and optimised. an established role inThis four-pronged approach – of strategy, implementation, measurement marketing – and itsand optimisation – is necessary to build an efficient, quality-controlled social power can be proven.”media programme that reassures brands of its concrete value.In addition to its clear potential for raising brand awareness, building onlinecommunities, providing customer service and conducting market research – it can be shown that social media drivessales and leads and delivers an ROI that can be measured in business performance.Social media is not a fadSocial media has earned a permanent role in the marketing mix. Social networks, blogs, wikis, picture sharing, videosharing, review sites and social bookmarking – have become essential artillery for marketers.Just like traditional media, these social channels enable marketers to reach customers, build a positive reputation andgenerate sales and leads. In addition, social media marketing allows brands to invest their marketing spend in a highlytargeted way – and to directly interact with their audience. copyright © agency:2 2010 2
  3. 3. the social media agencyThe possible business benefits include: “There is no battlen Low cost per conversion between social median Reduced market research costs and traditional media.n Enhanced customer satisfactionn Greater brand recognition When all strandsn Better brand reputation are pulled together,n Improved search engine rankings the brand message Higher levels of website trafficn is stronger, more credible and moreThese clear advantages are possible because social media creates opportunities influential on buyingfor brands to: choices.”n Develop understanding of their industry landscape: their positioning compared to competitors and their customers’ perception of themn Tailor campaigns to directly target relevant audiencesn Listen to and engage with customers – turning negatives into positivesn Empower legions of customer “brand advocates”n Create and build business partnershipsn Monitor, measure and optimise ongoing campaignsFor some marketers, social media is now their primary marketing tactic. For others, investing in social media adds valueto other approaches like traditional marketing, PR and advertising – helping to maximise the ROI of a wider marketingprogramme.Clear goals lay foundations for social media successClear objectives are the driving force of any successful social media programme. Hence, social media’s promise of ROIis conditional: it depends on the precision of the objectives, the setting of metrics, the thoroughness of monitoring andanalysis and the continual optimisation of campaigns.At the outset, social media monitoring should be employed to help:n Understand a brand or product’s position in social median Seek out and rank social media influencers such as bloggersn Track content about a brand/product/service on social news sitesn Identify the most relevant social media channels that will facilitate engagement with the target audience copyright © agency:2 2010 3
  4. 4. the social media agencyn Produce a direct and indirect competitor auditn Help pinpoint relevant topic clusters “Half-hearted socialn Spot key trends, threats and opportunities media campaigns run the risk of not meetingAn over-arching strategy can be defined by drawing on intelligence from their objectivesmonitoring, set alongside other information: Customer insights, knowledge or, worse still,of brand values and business goals, understanding of social media trends and adversely affectingawareness of competitor behaviour and customer experience. brand reputation.The effectiveness of the strategy depends on further considerations: Dabbling, rather than strategising, will notn Clarity is needed from the outset on the social media channels to be maximise ROI.” used and the media and messages that will be deliveredn Attention should be given to ensuring that all social media engagement is relevant, of value, timely and compellingn Metrics must be measured, set and agreed before starting activity, so that there is total transparency on what “success” will look like and how it can be calculated: i.e. in terms of engagement, sentiment, conversions, exposure, blog views, sales and lead generationTransparent returns thanks to social media trackingContrary to common misconception, the effectiveness of a social media campaign can be measured precisely usinga variety of metrics. For instance, a social media measurement dashboard may track the following key performanceindicators:n Share of voice: The number of social media mentions about a brand, compared to that of its competitors (this is misleading unless juxtaposed with intelligence about the sentiment of mentions.)n Sentiment: The proportion of social media mentions that represents a brand in a positive, neutral or negative light n Views: The total number of views across social media channels, including the number of active users for a Facebook page, blog page views, YouTube channel views, YouTube video views, Flickr photo viewsn Connections: The number of people who express a clear interest in a brand or company, including blog subscribers, those that “like” brands on Facebook, Twitter followers, YouTube subscribers, LinkedIn group membersn Audience engagements: The level of conversation between a brand or company and its audience, including blog comments, Twitter retweets, Facebook interactions and YouTube interactionsn Conversation reach: The number of unique visitors across sites involved in a conversation (searchable by keywords or hashtags)n Company/brand engagements: A measure of a brand’s social media presence, including blog posts, blog and forum commenting, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets and retweets, YouTube video postsn Active advocates: The group of social media connections that actively promotes a brand and shares positive user experiences copyright © agency:2 2010 4
  5. 5. the social media agencyn Advocate influence & impact: A measure of the influence of individual active advocates through social media channels and its impact on other key performance indicators, such as referrals and conversionsn Resolution time: The time taken to resolve customer problems through social media channels n Satisfaction score: The level of satisfaction experienced by customers whose problems have been solved via social media channelsn Referrals: Traffic driven to a website by social media activity n Conversions: Sales that result from social media referralsIn each of these areas, expert analysis can uncover deeper levels of understanding about a brand’s audience that helpshape its future interactions – and deliver greater returns.For example, sentiment analysis is broadly about determining whether online conversations reveal a like, dislike orneutrality towards a brand.However, to convert this knowledge into a valuable asset, techniques like text mining produce greater awareness –identifying potentially damaging issues early, like customer complaints and product faults.As social media campaigns are always in a state of evolution, this continual and thorough tracking – and measurementof success while the campaign is underway – is vital. It ensures that targets are met in current and future campaigns –and ROI is constantly optimised.Social media’s influence on buying decisionsAs people spend an increasing amount of their time on social websites, they are becoming their first stop for trusted,relevant, personal advice – as opposed to corporate websites, where messagesare carefully controlled.Most consumers and B2B buyers now rely to some degree on social media “To ignore socialwhen they are purchasing and decision making. Online, just like offline, media media is to waive anexert a powerful influence over buying choices. opportunity to be partA variety of social media channels support every stage of the purchasing of customers’ buyingprocess: from the initial consideration, through the evaluation process, to the process.”moment of purchase and beyond to the post-purchase experience.From casual information-gathering on social networks like Twitter andFacebook, to more detailed research on blogs, review sites and forums, social media steers customers – both in a B2B andB2C context – towards their buying decision. The cycle continues when customers report their purchasing experience,appraising their overall customer satisfaction.It’s clear that sales performance depends increasingly on what people are saying online about a product, brand or copyright © agency:2 2010 5
  6. 6. the social media agencycompany. So how can businesses harness the power of social media to achieve stand-out from competitors?The simple answer is that they have to offer something of real worth to customers. They can do this by taking part inconversations on the social web in a useful way.Social media’s “give and take” ruleBrands that make valued, relevant and timely contributions to targeted user-generated sites can experience hugerewards:Users click through in much higher rates from social interactions than other digital channelsLeads from well-timed and helpful interactions within social platforms convert at higher rates than other key digitalchannels An example: agency:2 helped MasterCard in its quest to be the credit card of choice for travellers by driving holiday makers and business travellers to its branded travel portal. Brand ambassadors promoted the site across travel forums by posting valuable comments and answering questions. Referrals from brand ambassador posts spent 22 times more time on the site than the average user. Three out of ten of these resulted in conversion.Using social media tactically has a profound impact on organic search optimisation An example: Hewlett Packard enlisted agency:2 to improve its search results for high value key terms across Europe. A social media marketing campaign in business and IT forums resulted in HP ranking on the first page of leading search engines for highly relevant, popular key terms.It’s worth noting that brands need to decide which social media channels are best for influencing different stages ofthe buying process. Each channel has multiple capabilities, but a chosen strategy might identify one in particular that ishelpful in meeting its primary goals. For example:n Twitter is useful to engage consumers and drive them to a company’s main website or blog or to another onlinedestinationn Facebook is ideal for building communities of brand advocatesn A blog helps deliver in-depth information on a product/servicen Review sites and forums offer advice and first-hand experience copyright © agency:2 2010 6
  7. 7. the social media agencyA well-managed social media campaign hand-holds customers through the journey from brand awareness toconsideration, to trial, to repeat custom, brand loyalty – and, finally, brand advocacy.Friends in high places: the value of brand advocatesFor lots of companies, an important part of their social media journey is the creation of channels that help them connectwith customers, existing and prospective, and develop their online community.They may do this by setting up a blog or help centre on their website, or by creating a presence on social networks likeFacebook or Twitter.Social media marketers argue that a direct value can be attached to every member of a brand’s online community. Forexample, brands that engage effectively on Facebook and Twitter generally agree that:n Meaningful brand-customer relationships can be developed quicklyn Brands can gain valuable insights from their audience of followersn The viral nature of these channels raises brand awarenessn Fans and followers have an authentic voice that other people trustn Brand advocates are more loyal to their brand, spend more on their products and are more likely to recommend them – compared to non fansn Brands that are very active on Twitter, and are committed to adding value through their tweets, enjoy good click- through ratesn Attracting, retaining and growing a valuable audience requires that brands converse with a distinct audience – preferably “key influencers” in their business’ realm.It’s also important that brands do more than establish a presence – they need to provoke and participate in discussion– and they must do this frequently.The key to this is content. Whether through contests, promotions, applications, videos or provocative debate, brandsmust deliver creative, authentic content that continually revitalises dialogues.Time invested in building online communities pays dividends when it generates and spreads powerful customerendorsement. In some instances, this can deliver a greater ROI than brand-generated PR or advertising. copyright © agency:2 2010 7
  8. 8. the social media agencyConclusionSocial media marketing is a valuable investment with wide ranging business benefits. To reap the maximum rewards,social media objectives must be given an appropriate time-frame to be met. And there must be investment in the righttools, budget and expertise to deliver specific results.The biggest challenge for marketers when embarking on a social media programme is to be able to justify this investment– by underlining an impact on buying decisions and ROI.Measuring social media ROI can be made easier with proper planning. Programmes must be managed by a team thatunderstands how to set goals and metrics, develop strategy, measure success and never stop optimising.Understanding what to measure is paramount. Organisations that simply measure the volume and reach of social mediaengagement are limiting their insights into its value – and may struggle to prove ROI.The effectiveness of a campaign must be measured against key performanceindicators – such as the impact on organic search engine optimisation and itslink to increased monetisation opportunities. “Calculating ROI should be at theSocial media monitoring tools can help gather insights. But deeper social heart of any socialmedia analysis takes expertise – and the use of bespoke tools that identifynot just the volume, but also the value, of online conversations in real time. media marketing planning process.Monitoring over time leads to an understanding of how many people are Hard metrics suchtalking about a brand, what they are saying, how conversations are changing as sales, conversionsand how this dialogue is shaping purchasing choices. and leads shouldWith the benefit of this knowledge, a social media programme can be reviewed focus on definedand revised continually. This evolutionary process unlocks its potential measurements.”to influence the buying process positively – and make a real difference toprofitability. copyright © agency:2 2010 8
  9. 9. the social media agencyagency:2agency:2 were the UK’s first social media agency – what makes our social media marketing offering unique is our provenability to combine the power of social media together with search to maximise ROI.We manage tailored social media solutions for our clients and are proud of the results we deliver for them.Since agency:2 was launched we have established ourselves as a truly global social media agency, creating social mediamarketing programmes for clients on a national, European and International level.This proven experience and expertise, together with our passion for every individual project, has seen us help a diverserange of clients to develop successful social media campaigns. That’s why our clients trust us to engage with theirconsumers around the world.Contact agency:2Allyagency:2Sea Containers HouseLondonSE1 9PDT: 020 7775 copyright © agency:2 2010 9