As the amount of social media advertising on the internet continues to proliferate, so does the number of naysayers who claim that social media advertising has no effect on sales, and can even have a negative impact on a brand's reputation. Some of these concerns were recently detailed in a Wall Street Journal article titled "Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype." The piece pointed to a Gallup poll stating that "consumers are highly adept at tuning out brand-related Facebook and Twitter content" and that "these channels do not motivate prospective customers to consider trying a brand or recommending a brand to others."
This is completely inaccurate. Through our own studies with research companies such as Datalogix and LoudDoor, we have seen real-world sales impact after consumers are exposed to a brand on social media. These results have ranged from increased brand awareness and elevated brand perceptions to actual increases in in-store purchases. And we're not the only ones seeing the impact. According to a survey of 2800 marketers conducted by Social Media Examiner, 92% of respondents indicated that their social media efforts have generated more exposure for their businesses, and 80% said that their social media efforts increased traffic.
While it's true that the old model of chasing down as many fans as possible is no longer the way to go, social media advertising provides brands with a slew of opportunities that traditional advertising cannot. Here are a few big reasons why you can't afford to dismiss the medium.
Half the battle (at least) of effective marketing is making sure you're talking to the right people. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter provide advertisers with a wealth of interest-based data that, when used properly, can help reach a brand's ideal consumers with relevant, well-informed content. Now, layer mobile and location data onto that, and social media targeting becomes even more sophisticated. Compared with TV and print, the amount of information and quality of information we have about social media audiences, from their location and age to their interests and education, is significantly more detailed and accurate.
Brands need to understand what pieces of their marketing mix are working, and which ones are working the hardest. There are research partners that can measure the impact of campaigns on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, given a minimum investment or volume of impressions. We've deployed studies to track actual sales data of a control versus exposed (leveraging user IDs) groups to determine if our campaigns are making an impact on sales. So far, all these studies have shown incremental lift in sales or trial.
If the goals are more focused on brand perception and awareness, we measure shifts using pre- and post-campaign surveys on Facebook. These surveys are relatively inexpensive and provide quick reads on consumer perceptions - and can also be used to gather insights on a brand's target, which leads to my next point.
Since its inception, social media has been celebrated for giving brands the ability to have a dialogue with consumers. And while "engagement" may not be a proven metric of success, real-time feedback is a highly valuable asset that allows advertisers to listen to their customers and optimize accordingly, whether it's optimizing products and services or tweaking creative.
For example, instead of putting together focus groups to test commercials, how about creating beta videos and exposing them to an audience online before investing in a TV campaign? Social channels provide a near real-time optimization opportunity with the most valuable test group you can get, because people are experiencing your work in a comfortable place where they'd normally be consuming media, rather than some cold research facility miles from home.
The Power of the Share
It's easy to get lost in all the social indicators out there, but the share should be considered as a significant driver of value. The ability to recommend content is unique to social media as an advertising channel. Each time someone shares a brand's content, it receives an added layer of authenticity and recommendation, resulting in impressions arguably more valuable than those driven by the brand.
Still hearing critics saying you can't prove the ROI of social media? As one of my clients likes to say, "Social media advertising is advertising, and (good) advertising works."