Ad agencies join to measure social media ads

Social media advertising spend should hit $1.8 billion in 2009 according to eMarketer. (Sure, that’s a small percentage of overall Web advertising, which stood at about $20 billion last year, but give it time.)

So it’s no surprise that yesterday, a group of ad agencies and their social media buddies announced that they’d form a trade group focused on defining metrics for measuring social media advertising. (Heck, it was probably overdue.)

The group, the Social Media Ad Council, is backed by Tom Gerace, CEO of social network Gather, and includes reps from Edelman, Universal McCann, e-publishing firm Zinio, Quantcast and a grab bag of i-marketing organizations. The group hopes to find ways to measure “engagement,” the term some use to describe what they’re buying when they place ads on a social networking site.

How does a bundle of x number of Tweets compare with ten PPC ads on Facebook or countless impressions through Friend Feed?  No one has figured that out yet. But it’s critical that someone does. After all, you can’t build an advertising market unless you have some basic units of measurement in place.

Other than Gather, none of the other founders are social media sites. In announcing the group, Gerace noted that he’d invited Facebook and MySpace to participate, but it seems that haven’t gotten involved as of yet.

The fact that they aren’t taking part makes you wonder whether they prefer social media ad buying to remain a bit mysterious. After all, the more the buyers know, the more they can squeeze ad sellers. Maybe that’s what they have in mind? — Anne

P.S. SMAC member UniversalMcCann, not surprisingly, has some thoughts of its own to offer on social media. Its new report on influence in social media, “When Did We Start Trusting Strangers?” is definitely worth a look. Or if you just want a summary check out the review in Marketing Pilgrim.

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Measuring social media value — more how-to ideas

As many of you know, a few days ago I posted an entry listing ways to begin measuring the impact of social media. Since then, I asked the same question–“How would you measure social media marketing?”–of some hard-core marketers on LinkedIn. I got some great answers, including some obvious ones I should definitely have considered myself <hand slapping forehead> including:

* Monitoring the e-mail signups and RSS signups you get, and look at trends in signups.

While small rises and falls don’t mean much, big shifts are obviously worth watching. Maybe you’ll want to do a retention campaign with your existing registrants if you’re losing ground. If you’re doing really well, meanwhile, it might point you towards a source of profitable relationships in the social media world.

* Tracking the prospects that come in through social channels all the way through to whether they convert into sales.

Given the diversity of assets circulating on social media these days, it’s important to track this in fine detail, down to whether a video, article, podcast or link took the reader to your site.

* Looking specifically at number of new registered users and pageviews generated by social media-generated visitors to your site.

Of course, we all know that page views and registered users are important. Still, not everyone is looking carefully at how standard measures like pageview generation and user registration rates differ between social media and other sources. It’d also be good to discriminate what results can be generated by specific social media sites (e.g. Facebook vs. MySpace).

By the way, a few LinkedIn-ers seemed convinced that social media was best thought of as a PR medium, which is a defensible position. As for me, though,I think we can go a tremendous way toward turning social networks and sites into direct response vehicles.

Now, here’s a question for all of you. Other than folks using PPC ads on social media sites (which almost always calls for a landing page) are you bothering to build landing pages to track social media clicks and visits?

Anne

Great idea for connecting with your Twitter followers

Now here’s an idea that makes sense not only for Twitter, but also for other forms of social media (including blogs, social networks and bookmarking sites). I love it — not only does it provide great information for the marketer, it also builds a sense of community in the process. Great stuff!

What’s got me stirred up is a site mounted by Eric Miltsch of car dealer AuctionDirect. The site, Tweet and Greet, challenges Miltsch’s Twitter followers to answer 10 quick questions about cars.

The results Miltsch gets are entertaining, revealing and most importantly, memorable. Not only that, the survey is likely to engage rather than frustrate users. As ProBlogger Darren Rowse notes, the odd thing is that people tend to be more committed to your product when you ask them to do some work.

Readers, what’s your favorite technique for learning more about your social media followers and fans? Have you ever built a campaign around information gathered from social media-based research? — Anne

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Google Chrome, and other things that don’t need social media marketing

As anyone reading a blog like this knows, tossing out the name of Google’s super-hot new browser, Google Chrome, is likely to give this item a boost in the SERPs. If I’m Google, I certainly don’t need to pump up my reputation with bloggers or make sure a lot of people “favorite” Google Chrome groups in one form or another. All of that may happen, and it’s fine, but if I were on Google’s marketing team, it certainly wouldn’t be my priority. All of which is to say that while big brands are certainly leveraging social media, it’s still more important for small and emerging businesses:

– Social media has a few well-known networks, but the medium is still rather fragmented, with small but important players emerging seemingly every day. Bigger businesses are unlikely to benefit from adapting to multiple social networks and platforms; it’s more likely to create inconsistencies in their message.

– Social media is neither fish nor fowl, in that it has characteristics of both PR and Web marketing. Big brand marketers seldom have the flexibility to adapt their message, budget and personnel to such hybrids.

– Small businesses are close enough to the product or service to carry the feedback from social networks straight to those who deliver the product or service. Big companies, in theory, can do the same thing, but they’re more likely to respond to focus groups and other throat-clearing.

So what do you think, folks? Aside from a few rumored successes, like Dell‘s moving some PCs through its Twitter presence, do big businesses need to have an integrated online presence yet? I’d love to hear your comments.– Anne

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Measuring social media value–it IS possible

Make no mistake, we’re well past the point where social media marketing is optional–despite what some of our clients and bosses say.

The most recent evidence for this comes from The Society for New Communications Research, whose recent report notes that fifty-seven percent of this group of early social media adopters reported that social media tools are becoming more valuable to their activities. (The report is definitely worth a read.)

One major problem, however, is that the Internet marketing business hasn’t developed a standard way of measuring social media marketing performance which is accepted by its own top honchos (much less clients). So it’s time to pick some standards of our own.

The following is my attempt to come up with some principles, and specific metrics, we can use to decide whether our social media efforts are working to promote. I look forward to your suggestions! – Anne

Social media measurement standards

* Length of stay for visitors referred by social media

Visitors who come to your site through social media promotions may have a different profile than those who arrive through other means. I believe it’s important to find out how they differ from site averages, particularly in terms of length of stay (as a proxy for their level of interest).

* Number of followers/fans on various networks

I sort of dislike this one, as you can have tons of lurkers clicking through on your Facebook fan page or Ning group, while not having too many who agree to sign up. Still, it’s worth taking into account, not as a sign of whether you’re successful but a sense of how given community’s reacting to your message.

* Number of comments/questions made directly to the company rep doing the social media marketing

OK, if social media marketing involves talking with, not at, the audiences you’re hoping to reach, that involves joining a community. One very crude way of looking whether people see you as a member is how many comments and questions they’ve made addressing you.

* Extent to which your social media efforts have brought new assets into your business

If social media marketing is more joining a community (e.g. networking) than making a pitch, then such networking should bear fruit. In one project, for example, I found several potential business partners and a freelance contributor within a couple of weeks of putting it out there.

* Extent to which you’ve concretely raised awareness of your service/product within the community

If you’re on a social networking site, and you see someone say “I know about X because the company’s rep told me so directly on Twitter,” you’re definitely on the right track. You can be pretty confident that someone will visit your site and, if it’s otherwise in good shape, convert into a dedicated customer.

* Frequency with which your brand is mentioned on key sites

As with the number of followers/fans you attract, this is a very tricky way to measure the effectiveness as your marketing, as there’s a million offline methods by which people can discuss your site. Still, keeping track of comments (using, say, TweetScan for Twitter or general search for MySpace and Facebook) certainly offers useful context.

Next: Get more simple, powerful approaches to measuring social media here.

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Twitter: Developing a good follower list

You know, it took long enough for the traditional marketing industry to figure out just how to develop e-mail lists effectively (not that there aren’t new techniques left to be discovered). Now, with Twitter becoming an increasingly powerful communications medium–an actual element in people’s marketing strategies–now we’re having to come up with an entirely new set of rules for list development, unlike those from e-mail marketing or even snail-mail direct marketing.

This has become particularly important now that major brands like H&R Block, JetBlue, Best Buy, Intel and Comcast (to name just a scant few) are making appearances on Twitter. Not only do they have to figure out just how to communicate in this new and unique medium, they also have to figure out how to attract the right audience to hear it. Despite their billion-dollar might, these brands could tarnish their rep for some time to come if they make big mistakes on Twitter, to date still a small community which has proven decidedly gossipy.

My methods for developing Twitter follower lists

To date, my methods for developing a follower list, both on my own behalf and on behalf of clients, have been quite simple. I’m well aware that some people will villify me no matter what I say–did I mention Twitterers are touchy?–but the following seems to work:

* Begin by following just a few people who interests seem to be a great fit for you or your company’s brand or personal focus

* Just as you might do when joining an e-mail discussion list, sit and “listen” to the tweets posted by the people you’re following

* Comment on what the followers are saying, if that’s appropriate, or just introduce yourself and say what your goals are (people will find it by tweetscan)

* Make sure you connect to a few friends, not just to have a friendly audience, but also to attract followers from their list of friends. People will also find you through Twitter Friend Adder or similar apps.

* Use Tweetscan to scan for mentions of your company, name or issues you’re following closely. Then respond, though carefully. Be helpful, and be present, but don’t intrude if possible.

* Make sure you Twitter ID (with a link to an explanation of Twitter for those who don’t “get it” yet)

* I haven’t tried this yet, but what about an anouncement on the Web site promising coupons and such to those who subscribe, as well as mentioning that you can solve problems?

Now folks, I’d love to hear how you build follower lists, as I know that what I’ve suggested is pretty elementary. What’s worked for you? — Anne

P.S. Since writing this, I’ve been reminded that some people have feel they have too many followers, which is a subject for another post entirely. More to come on the techniques that are emerging to cull your Twitter list and increase its overall value.

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Google-Digg mismatch is no surprise

So, in the past several days we learned that Google had made a feint at Digg, then passed. Looked at one way it’s a bit surprising, given Digg’s raw power and extreme brand recognition among the Web’s tastemakers. On the other hand, it may have been a good decision. After all, Google can buy a company, but it can’t buy an attitude.

Sure, any big, lumbering company would like to get its cool on by acquiring a relatively edge Web player like Digg. But the truth is, it’s seldom a good idea–because big companies digest little ones. Sure, the big company can acquire assets–and even Digg’s prodigious traffic and influence–but I doubt it would preserve the culture that makes Digg compelling. Hey, look at the social bookmarking sites that have sprung up since…they’re just not the same.

By the way, in case anyone still has an image of Google as scrappy and innovative, let’s give that a rest. Sure, I remember when Google was the Next Big Thing and full of vibrant energy. But those days are gone, baby. Google may still pay for people’s lunches, but it’s as corporate as they get.

Hey, I’d argue that in some ways, Google is the biggest potential challenger to monolithic Microsoft (more explanation in a future column). What else explains Microsoft’s clumsy pursuit of search dominance by attempting to snag Yahoo? — Anne

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