Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Expanding the conversation – giving everyone in your business a voice – 5

Posted in strategy and planning, Web 2.0 marketing by Timothy Platt on May 27, 2011

This is my fifth installment in a series on expanding the conversation, and involving a wider reach of your employee community in communicating with your customers and the marketplace (see Web 2.0 Marketing, postings 55, 56, 58 and 59.) So far I have discussed:

• Widening the conversation to involve more than just your communications generalists and bringing in the people involved hands-on (Part 1),
• Social media guidelines and developing a framework of understanding and authorization that these employees can work within as they post to social media (Part 2),
• Customizing the social media guideline approach to meet your specific business needs and so it works in your business, your corporate culture and your context (Part 3), and
• Bringing employees from outside of your usual marketing and communications sphere into this process, and where and how to start (Part 4).

This leaves a very fundamental and significant area untouched, that I will turn to here:

• Measuring the effectiveness of this as return on investment, and using that knowledge as a basis for focusing on the aspects of expanded social media reach that demonstrably work.

This is where a business and its finance team can determine not just how to do this, but whether this makes sense to continue, as a successful avenue for developing new business. And the goal in this is to approach social media as a source of return on investment that can be tracked in exactly the same way as any other marketing and communications initiative, so that like can be compared with like. That begins with the content posted through social media by employees.

• Employees would write in their own voice and within the content framework of their employer company’s social media guideline.
• But when they wrote about company products or services, or of background information related to them and what the company does – and most posted content would fit into this general category, they would include relevant links to the company web site and other online resources. Here, these links would lead to pages and forms where readers could connect with company representatives to learn more about specific purchase options, and links to point of sale forms and other resources. Basically, this means giving readers the information they need to complete the circle.
• This could be added into the bottom of a posting as a “for more information you can click to ___” and in fact this type of hand-off is more effective if it is low key and not at all pushy.
• And this is the really important part: unique URL’s would be used for each such posting, so response leading to follow-through could be tracked using standard web analytics tools.

This, at least would be the goal. If adding this type of link simply did not fit in for some postings, they would of course be left off, but if a particular employee/participant offered follow-through links in other postings and they were clicked to, that would identify the effectiveness of that writer and what they were posting on in developing new business and return on investment.

A blog visitor, Bob, reads an employee’s posting about the new product release that this employee, Mike has been helping to develop. And Bob finds this interesting enough to want to learn more as to the specifications and costs of this product so he clicks to the link provided. This generates a query that would go into a relational database, and this query would be assigned a unique identifier too. This way the fact that Bob decided to look further into this new product would not simply be lost in the flow of information requests. And along with allowing for the tracking of results of this social media posting, this would help people in sales to better understand Bob and his interests and needs. Questions he asked and responses received would be known, making it easier to connect to and resolve any due diligence questions and concerns that Bob might have.

• How likely is Bob’s initial interest in this product to translate, after a series of steps, into a sale and how often does he in effect abandon the shopping cart?
• What types and sizes of sales result from this initial connection through social media when transactions are initiated and completed?

Bob simply sees this as a way to gain real world information and insight of interest to him, and that may help him in his purchasing decisions. Tracking helps the company that this social media comes from to better understand and work with Bob to meet his needs. And tracking makes standard return on investment analysis both possible and routine.

As a final thought here, making individual flows of interaction visible for tracking would help with a lot more than just monitoring marketing effectiveness in leading to sales. This same developing pool of data can also be used in determining priorities for production, and for new product development as well – exactly as is the case for marketing feedback in general, and collectively all of this data-driven insight can effectively inform overall business strategy and prioritization.

This posting has focused on routine transaction flow as it can develop out of social media conversation. But feedback and response to social media can also offer unexpected insight and can help identify novel and emerging opportunity too. I will turn to that in my next series installment.

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