Are you as tired as we are of hearing that social media is a great, free way to promote a business? We agree that social media — like PR — is a great way to promote a business. But neither PR nor social media is free.
PR and social media campaigns require talented people, time, and technology – all limited, non-renewable resources that require investment. You’re not paying directly for the “earned media” that results from your social media marketing and PR outreach, but businesses have to budget for the resources required to earn that media.
It’s easy to forget that there’s a 100% overlap between the marketing budget and the resources that generate nearly all of a company’s revenue. Think about the things you need to drive sales: people, digital/online marketing, advertising, call center(s), IT (software, hardware, bandwidth, support), marketing (collateral, email, creative), sales, PR, events (webinars, trade shows, conferences) and so on.
Aren’t the major marketing cost silos for your company the same as the tools and processes that you use for social media and PR efforts? And aren’t they the exact same tools and resources required to generate revenue for the business?
Once we get past the hurdle of explaining to management why social media isn’t free, the next question is, “Where do I get the money to fund my social media plan for 2013?” (It’s almost a given that it isn’t going to magically appear — to fund new initiatives, chances are you’ll have to spend less somewhere else.)
The answer to that question differs from company to company, but it boils down to two choices for most of our customers: cost reduction and revenue generation.
Where can social media help to cut costs? For many companies, it’s in customer service and business intelligence or market research. Solving customer service issues through online interaction, especially by local managers and agents, brokers or channel partners, is the #1 area where companies are finding savings, although switching to a cost-effective on-demand PR platform like MyPRGenie has proven to be a budget-friendly alternative for most of our existing customers. For a demo of the system, or to talk to a customer service representative who can show you how the system works to increase buzz, generate actionable leads, and improve PR results at a lower cost than other services, click here.
Here are some tips on measuring marketing results that are sure to help you get your 2013 social media and PR budget approved.
How to Track Revenue to PR and Social Media
On the revenue side, top managers want to know whether new spending will result in more transactions, more new customers, increased customer loyalty, and higher revenue. Unfortunately, that’s where many social media experts run into a brick wall. They understand how to measure the non-financial impact of social media (website visitors, click-through, impressions, delivered emails, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, social mentions, etc.) but seem clueless when it comes to defining the financial impact of social media.
The truth is that most executives don’t care about website visitors, Twitter followers, and the number of Facebook or Google+ friends a campaign generates.
One easy-to-measure metric that managers do care about is the number of clicks that deliver prospective customers to a landing page or website from a social media or PR campaign. It’s one of the reasons that click-through rate on press releases (part of MyPRGenie’s analytics dashboard on all content published through the platform) is so popular with customers.
So as you’re building your 2013 PR and social media budget, don’t forget to build in the time and cost of creating customized landing pages that help you track and convert content consumers into prospective customers.
Demonstrating the link between social media and public relations and revenues isn’t rocket science. But it does require an attention to detail, and a focus on sales metrics.
Use Existing Data in New Ways
Chances are that you already have the data you’ll need to demonstrate how social media and PR are affecting your company’s business — but you may not be looking it in a way that exposes the link.
How can you improve the way you’re presenting PR and social media results to top management? Start with Google Analytics (GA). In your GA dashboard, look for details on two kinds of traffic:
- Last interaction conversion. A visitor clicks through on a link that is posted on social media or included in a press release (and no where else — unique landing page URL’s are your best friend when it comes to measuring the budget impact of your work), and while on the site takes an action that converts them from a visitor into a prospect (such as signing up for a demo or an email newsletter) or customer (a direct purchase).
- Assisted conversion. A visitor clicks through on a link that is posted in a press release or social media and does not immediately “convert” — later, however, that same visitor returns to the site from some other means, and converts. This is where detailed tracking information comes in – you’ll need to know who clicked on your original link, and be able to track that individual over time.
Avoid the headache that’s sure to come with an attempt to precisely attribute every purchase and every site visitor to a specific marketing communications channel. Focus instead on trends and the big picture: what happened with campaigns that used just one channel (say email marketing, or PPC advertising) vs. campaigns that used multiple channels (a coordinated campaign that includes email marketing, social media, and PR)?
Don’t expect to be able to build your 2013 business case overnight. It takes time to assemble the data and get a good trend line to report. A good place to start is the Google Analytics “Traffic Sources » Social » Sources” report.
One of our customers tracked website traffic and conversions from September 2010 through September 2012, and was able to build a table that showed how traffic from specific sources increased over 24 months. A new director of marketing, hired in 2010, added a comprehensive PR and social media marketing effort to the company’s marketing mix, and built a case for shifting some spending into more “earned media” efforts by showing how traffic referral sources changed with increased spending.
Here are their Top 10 referral sites at six month intervals over that period, as their social media and PR campaign ramped up.
Don’t Forget Social Bookmarks
As you’re putting together your tracking for conversions, don’t forget to track the social bookmarking sites like Reddit, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Pinterest, and groups (especially LinkedIn Groups if you’re a business-to-business marketer).
In the table one of our business to business customers allowed us to share, you’ll see sites like Paper.li, Reddit, and StumbleUpon. And the Twitter links may be a bit misleading, because links shared in Twitter are often shared by Twitter users in other social media contexts — but, since the company was using unique URL’s for Twitter, and traffic to that landing page from any source would have been tracked as coming from Twitter.
A lot of social media marketers and PR people overlook the so-called “scraper” sites like Paper.li and ScoopIt that allow individuals or companies to publish daily news digests that collect and link to content that they can share with their email lists, Twitter followers, and subscribers.
These sites pick up the headline and first paragraph of content published around specific Twitter hashtags (or submitted by readers to an individual “newspaper”), and are published daily.
You’ll find the Paper.li and ScoopIt publications that are sharing your content on the @Connections tab in your Twitter account — and in Google Analytics, as a traffic source. In a typical week, this blog has content picked up and shared by 8-10 Paper.li “newspapers”, resulting in 25-50 new visitors to our blog every week. And all we have to do to reach those visitors is consistently use the hashtags that the Paper.li publishers are looking for — and say thank you when we’re mentioned.
Chances are you already include the sharing icons for Reddit, StumbleUpon, and other social bookmark sites on your blog — but did you know that you can submit the link to any of your own content (press releases, white papers, PDF’s, event announcements, and so on) directly to the sites? Just log in, select the topic, paste in your link, and include a short description of the content.
As for LinkedIn Groups, they’re absolutely golden for business to business marketers. Spammers who post irrelevant content to groups will soon find themselves banned, but smart PR people and social media users who start interesting discussions around their content will find themselves the beneficiaries of lots of traffic and “buzz” — not to mention trackable conversions — by regularly sharing content links with LinkedIn groups.