Joel Postman, author of SocialCorp: Social Media Goes Corporate, advises that any well-run company must use hard and soft measures to gauge its effectiveness. By hard measures, he means revenue and lead generation; by soft measures, he means brand perception and engagement.
He says businesses must measure social media by those same standards. The tools for measuring social media's effects on specific business results are in the early stages, but tools for measuring site traffic and the behavior of your website visitors are available. Trish Bertuzzi, president and chief strategist of The Bridge Group, for example, reports that 70% of her company's website traffic comes from her LinkedIn profile.
Although the ability to measure tangible results when using social media is still evolving, companies are realizing substantial savings from their social-media initiatives.
Some of the most impressive results have come from Dell. In a blog post titled "Dell reaches $6.5m in sales via Twitter," Dell representative Richard Binhammer reports that the company's success stems from several things, including the company's willingness to brand with a face.
The face of the Dell Outlet Twitter account is Stephanie. Stephanie is not all about selling; instead, she answers questions and participates in the conversation.
Binhammer boiled down Dell's success on Twitter to three things: "Being there for people who are looking for our products, offering sales opportunities that are meaningful to our customers, and interacting with people."
When CEO Dale Underwood created his company, Federal Appliance—a new, disruptive value-added reseller (VAR)—he had no idea he was reaching out with a new handshake (i.e., via nontraditional marketing methods).
What he did know was that the Internet had forever changed how businesses would find new customers. Furthermore, in his quest to drive more sales for his company, he discovered how to truly measure his marketing return on investment (ROI).
Although others saw the new online world and its unlimited information as a threat, Underwood saw opportunity. By embracing the new handshake model and building on his past sales experience, he developed a way to engage new customers.
"Customers were seeking information from online communities and blogs, so we decided to use these new media as our core marketing strategy," he said.
In addition to the primary website for Federal Appliance, Underwood created the blog 4EqualLogic (www.4equallogic.com) to attract technical people in need of data-storage equipment.
His team developed rich content that appealed to early market buyers. That content included project-planning templates, configuration tips, and budgetary pricing via a third-party service called EchoQuote.
Underwood designed the blog for search-engine optimization (SEO), and by the end of 2008 the blog was generating as many high-quality leads as the primary website.
Underwood analyzed the conversions made from his blog. Since each lead was tied to a specific product or service, he could easily measure the blog's effectiveness. "When someone reading our blog takes action, we not only capture the person's contact information, but we also capture the dollar value of what they requested."
From a pure marketing ROI perspective, for each $1 spent on new marketing methods, Federal Appliance returns $1,653 in potential revenue.
Federal Appliance saw the shift in buyer behavior early and made quick adjustments. By going against conventional wisdom and embracing new handshake methods, the company transformed itself into a top provider of data-storage solutions with a high marketing ROI.
As Underwood told us, "We found a way to measure marketing, and what we learned was that marketing has a much greater impact on the ROI than we ever imagined—probably 50 times!"
This article is based on an excerpt from The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media (Praeger, 2010).