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Should your business Tweet? My longest post, ever! One of my best, too.

I read David Berkowitz's article in MediaPost today on Ten Ways To Decide If Your Business Should Tweet, which came to me as a email newsletter, first.  I liked the article but wasn't able to write anything till now - and then, I got to see David again at the Laura Ries/Brandhacker Meetup “War in the Boardroom” Presentation at Legends tonight; told him I liked his article and thought I could figure out how to measure what he's saying using analytics.

By the way, tonight's presentation by Laura Ries was pretty good, it went on for a while and I left near the end and will inject my insights at the bottom of this post or in another, soon.

Here's David's points, one by one, from the MediaPost article I mentioned above - where there is analytics I could find that support it, I'll chime in and offer insights.

1. Domain squatting: Is there any value for you to register your business name or even real name (if you own your business or are the face of it) as a Twitter user name? I covered this recently, and there are a number of reasons why you should, even if you don't plan to actively use it.

I used usernamecheck.com or knowem.com as David suggests and found my Webmetricsguru name is actually used on MySpace and Vimeo, places where I don't have accounts ….ha!  Don't have anything on Jaiku or Pownce, and while those services aren't doing that well, and I've never really been on them, I'm suprised my username isn't available (it's being used by someone else).

I don't even want to say how many of the services are “unavailable” against my name “marshall sponder” - several that I've never been on, weren't available.  Ugh!

Personally, in my case, I don't really require being “WebMetricsGuru” on every place I could be, but if I were a big brand, I could see where it would be important.

Well, an article in PaidContent.org  recently on What Are A Million Social-Media Followers, Friends Or Subscribers Worth? came as close to a name value as I could find.  If there's potential to do Micro Transactions, the number of followers you have multiplied by the  average number of Micro Transactions per month would be the potential worth of the a name.

Yes, there is Branding value beyond the transactional value of a name, but it's almost impossible to quantify what that value is. So, if your an “unknown business”, you have to first decide if there's a potential for selling something online, and then figure out the value your missing by not owning your name and if anyone is taking it up, what you are losing in value.

2.Brand mentions: Is anyone talking about your actual business already? For a small business, this isn't as likely, but you absolutely must check. For this search and others discussed here, use Twitter Search at  search.twitter.com. While Twitter offers search functionality on its own site, it's only available to registered users, and Twitter Search is more robust.

Well, I'll add to David Berkowitz's advice (plus Twitter Search offers an RSS feed of any search and I subscribe to Searches on my Brand Names, actual name and Personas in Google Reader and review them every day) and go consult with Mailana and Klout.net, which shows the relationships on a name, graphically and by influencer.

Mailana didn't help much with my name (Twitter Search is better for that) but it did help when the search is geographical (which Twitter Search can do as well) or topical -as it charts that information.   For example, Webmetricsguru is connected with Web Analytics, and if I wanted to know who is talking about Web Analytics nearby me (and these might be people I can connect with in NYC for Brand Building - therefore, building the value of my brand).

Twitter handles talking about Web Analytics near me

Twitter handles talking about Social Media near me

I don't know about you, but alot more people are talking “Social Media” then “Web Analytics” and if, as a Brand, you know how your connecting, measuring your value can, potentially be tied back to measuring WHO you can connect with, and how you can connect with them.  In a hyper local situation, connecting face to face is the best thing you can do.

Taking it to another level, say I were a big brand, like Monster.com (who I work for), how many people are talking about my brand nearby me (where I might send someone, face to face, to represent me? - in fact, I might want to do that since Steve Rubel talked about Brand Superstars the other day at MediaBistro Circus - see my post on Using Social Media to promote your brand- Steve Rubel (Brand All Stars).

Turns out I know most of the people in this map, personally, but I might not have known about @100interviews - and honestly, can a brand increase the number of conversations about it?  Hell, look at who's talking about Careerbuilder near by (in the same location)

In fact, measuring the value of a Brand name might be measuring the increases in conversations AFTER doing Social Media CRM and then looking a specific incomes that can be tied back to those efforts (ie: create vanity urls and tag them accordingly - have the people you connect to use those - and tie any conversions back to those urls, etc).   I'm sure a lot can be done here - and no one, to my knowledge, has even scratched the surface of what could, potentially, be done, to track Social Media ROI on a Brand name.

It may very well be that Social Media ROI isn't unmeasurable as much as it's never been deemed worth caring enough about to track it well in the first place.   Hopefully, that's about to change (one case is Social Media AD Metrics standards released by the IAB recently and big brands like Ford are hiring people to run Social Media, and that's happening more and more, following in the vein of Scott Monty and Ford Motor Company, or Zappos, or Dell, if you start to think about … it's going to be even more of a big deal as the economy remains depressed and recessed for quite some time - Social Media and Brand are going to be where Ad Dollars begin to flow - as soon as we start showing value for it and against PR done for a Brand.

3.Topical mentions: Are people on Twitter discussing topics relevant to your business? For Glenn, this might mean posts about getting glasses. For Jeff, it might be concerns about aging, or about certain products like Botox. These signal opportunities where you can respond and be a resource. I once tweeted about a friend needing a WordPress programmer; the person who responded wasn't following me but was getting alerts for relevant terms, and he wound up with the gig.

In order to do Topical Mentions related to your name or your Brand you need Keyword Research, like “Job Search” and this can be done first with Google Keyword Research Tool on your company and personal URLs and then on Twitter and Facebook, see below:

Twitter handles having conversations about “Job Search” with 25 km of 10017

If you start doing semantic analysis of the conversations and then list the followers of each person, you can start seeing the potential ROI if you can find the right approach, or conversations, to have with people, and the right format (in Twitter or Facebook, in Person, or via Email - and picking the right tone of approach, etc).   All of this is almost universally ignored today, in favor of Paid and Organic Search - because these are much more quantifiable and work well with Direct Marketing.   But Social Media could be, in fact, Direct Marketing - because what I've touched on here … is, in fact, Direct …. but it's missing the “Marketing” part, because hardly anyone has had the guts, imagination or metrics grounding, to do it.

4.Location mentions: If your business is based in or focused on a certain city or region, search Twitter to see what people are saying about it. Then use the advanced search feature to find posts from people based within a certain area. There may be ways to be a resource about your area. You should also run location-specific searches for your brands and relevant topics. The potential reach also matters; Glenn's target is residents within a small radius of Reading (population: 83,000), while Jeff's customers live in and beyond the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, home to one-quarter of all Texans.

You can combine Topical Searches and Locational Searches on a Brand - which is what I did, above, in the Mailana or Twitter search - or you can do them separately.   It's not so much which one to do, it's having a Marketing Strategy that is merged with a Metrics Strategy that will produce measurable ROI and prove the measurable value or Social Media.    Think about it - how do we know the circulation numbers for magazines - there are auditors and certification protocol - but all of that was worked out, a while back - what about online, peer to peer conversations - where's the protocol mapped out for that?   There isn't yet a firm protocol - so you have to start with a metrics and marketing strategy and impose value on the conversations you'll generate - then you can tie back the ROI to them, be it Topical Conversations or Locational Conversations.

5.Target audience: If there are lots of relevant mentions, click the user names to see if they look like they could be in your target audience. If the volume of tweets is high enough, you'll find a sample of people who are sharing information about themselves, whether from their Twitter profiles, the links to their sites, or what they're talking about.

David Berkowitz talks about Target Audiences, but you'd first have to figure out what your Target Audience is for your Brand or for a particular product or promotion of your Brand - then do CRM datamining using house database lists, or the Social Media CRM outreach to collect names and classify them according to Target Audience Segmentation - best done with data analytics.   Let's say, that for the purposes of this post, my article on Entrepreneur.com on Learn to Measure Your Web Presence using Unbound Technology or Rapleaf, is the way to go.  If your a mom and pop shop, you'd do nothing as elaborate, more just Twitter research, much as I've shown above, but if your Zappos, or Dell, well … that's another story  - the story I tell in Learn to Measure Your Web Presence and others, like it.   Of course, a big brand can make a lot of money whereas the mom and pop shop, probably won't - so a big brand can afford to spend a lot of money on data mining - and it's well worth doing because of the potential money and value that can come from it.

Competitiveness: How cutthroat is your business? Do you need to do anything and everything to stay ahead? Twitter could be a competitive advantage, or a necessary defensive strategy. Jeff's business is one of those fields where his competitors will shamelessly copy whatever he does, from marketing to innovative surgical procedures and technologies. Glenn's field is toward the other end of the spectrum, where he spends a lot of his time sharing what he knows with his peers. Someone like Jeff is thus more inclined to use Twitter because they have to, while someone in Glenn's situation would use it if they want to.

This is a tough one to measure accurately since you need to know your market well to know just how cutthroat it is or isn't.  I was speaking to one of my Facebook friends tonight, who came to BrandHacker's meetup because he saw I was coming, and told me he works on Paid Search Campaigns for Used Car Auctions - turns out he needs to know a lot about that business so that he can adjust his bid rates and keywords - it suggests the move towards SEM Managers who specialize in Vertical Markets is supported by global competition and quick changes in market conditions and pricing, requiring specialized knowledge of the industry to make a decision about what keywords to bid on and how much to spend - and it can't be fully automated since much of the knowledge comes from being inside that industry and meeting face to face with clients, taking in information, much of it that's not textual.

However, Competition can be gauged for Big Brands using Comscore Media Metrix or Nielsen NET Ratings, based on Categories that both maintain.

Comscore Media Metrix - April 2009  - Ranked List for “Banking” Core Measuares

If your a Bank, you'll care about Bank of America having more visitors than Chase or Wells Fargo - in that market segment, according to Comscore, Bank of America leads, is #1, but it's obvious who the competitors are, they're on the list Comscore produces.

But what if your a small business - there's no ranked list, no Comscore - your brand won't show up - it's too small - so you'll need to know who your competitors are and you'll need to be able to do so research on Google and pick up who is coming up against your keywords and decide, on a case by case basis - is this a competitor, or not.

However, once you've done that, and if your a big brand, the possibilities are very exciting - as you can do data mining using products like UnBound Technology and find out who is connecting with each brand, and I covered that in a post on Unbound Technology - Social Media mining interview with Brian Killen that I did recently at Web 3.0 Expo.  Here's one of the video clips from that interview - consult my post for the rest.

You get the idea - you use Comscore and Nielsen, Quantcast and Hitwise - or whatever you can get your hands on - to decide what the competitive analysis is going to be on - and then you use the capabilities of UnBoundtech.com Social Monetizer to find the influencers surrounding each Brand - and then you find out what their touch points are, and then you figure out how to reach them in an effective way with what your offer or USP is… and let's face it - how many Brands, even big one's, are doing that today?  A handful - but I get in a year or two, the numbers will mushroom.

Sales cycle complexity: How involved is the purchase decision? For Jeff's business, there's a lot of complexity in terms of understanding the procedures and technologies involved. Plus, if anything goes wrong, it will often be very visible to everyone the customer knows. This means Jeff must invest a great deal of energy in making prospective customers feel comfortable with him and his business. With Glenn, trust is no less important, but his customers don't need to conduct as much research online; he'll wind up earning most customers' trust in person.

Purchase frequency: This can vary considerably for both Glenn and Jeff. For Jeff, many customers need to return regularly for maintenance. Glenn, meanwhile, has an opportunity to provide services for the whole family, from eye exams to glasses. How valuable is it to stay top of mind?

Interestingly enough, Web Analytics is beginning to tackle this problem of measuring Sales Cycle and Purchase Frequency - I've seen reports in WebTrends that measure Sales Cycles and if you have set up analytics well, depending on the platform, you can generate stock reports that will tell you when are the best times to put forward offers, when is the maximum number of times to reach out to a potential or actual customer and when they are most likely to buy.

In Search, based on Keyword Usage, you can get detailed information of the best times of the year to bid on any keyword phrase, Google and Microsoft have this, and data is also contained in HitWise and Comscore QSearch, to name a few - but the practical application of that is focused on the high end or on the very low end - do it yourselfer who runs their own small search campaign - with little else in between.

Acquisition vs. retention: If most of your business comes from existing customers, then just ask them if they use Twitter and if they'd want to keep in touch with you that way. If you're continually prospecting, then you need to review these other factors.

Social Media isn't really designed, at this time, to analyze Acquisition or Retention - but Web Analytics, is - and I maintain this is one of the strongest arguments to merge the two, in a formal way, rather than in an informal way.

I mean, merge Online Marketing Group with the Social Media Group/person, Web Search and Web Analytics - all as one group, perhaps with sub groupings - but one cost center - and an interconnected communications strategy.  Otherwise, your not going to get the data you need for Social Media Buzz Monitoring tools alone - you'll need the Web Analytics cookie data, return visitors by IP Address, pathing on site, once a customer has visited - all of that is missing from the Social Media platforms - all of them.   In my Entrepreneur.com article on Learn to Measure Your Web Presence It's one thing to generate online buzz. It's another to know how to use it I lay the groundwork for my claim that Social Media really needs Web Analytics and Search merged, as one group, and that, treating them as Silos, as they currently are, in most companies, is no longer an effective way to run Online Business, esp if you going to start ramping up on Social Media - you'll need the ROI metrics that can only come from a grounding with Site Analytics.

Bandwidth and resources: Even if your target audience is on Twitter and there are a million reasons to connect with customers there, do you work with anyone who understands Twitter well enough to participate, or can you afford to pay someone else to train you or run your Twitter program?

You don't need a lot of money for tools to do Social Media but you do need time - and at the end of the day, if your a large brand, you need staff and a budget and that ends up costing money - and money needs to be be justified.    If your a small shop, your own consultancy, then you can do self promotion on Twitter and Facebook and that's the beginning and the end of the story - but if your larger - even a small company but you have 100 employees, or more - you many end up having to hire someone or a firm because you don't have the bandwidth to the put the time  - and Social Media take time - a lot of time - and growth is often gradual, over time.

One of the best things a Brand can now do is find Stars in their respective audiences, who work for them, who have their own personal brands and personas, and offer to elevate the “stars” into “Super Stars” - I covered this in Using Social Media to promote your brand- Steve Rubel (Brand All Stars). Why?  Why do this?

Fact - no one trusts the executive team any longer - look at the Banks, look at the Auto Dealers, look at the last President - look at the crooks and incompetent leadership in private and government enterprises - does anyone believe anything the CEO says anymore?  Look at News Media and even Mad Kramer - anyone believe him?   No - no one believes or trusts authority figures any longer, for the most part.

What's needed, instead, is strongly branded individuals who are reachable, who represent the Brand - and in this context, a Brand is better off taking or creating a set of SuperStars and setting them free to “evangelize” the Brand, then almost anything else.   Think Robert Scoble at Microsoft and now at RackSpace - think Scott Monty at Ford - this is what Smart Brands are doing.

Ok, this was the longest post I think I ever wrote - and if I had not talked to David Berkowitz tonight - maybe I would not have bothered - but I wanted to see how much of the excellent stuff he came up with in Ten Ways To Decide If Your Business Should Tweet could be acted on, using Analytics.

Let my readers be the judge if I achieved my goal - retweet liberally and hopefully Social Media Today will also pick this post up and publish it at socialmediatoday.com.

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