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The Abbv. Game: SM ROI vs. SEM, SEO, PPC, etc.

Posted by The Marketing Intern on June 8, 2009

Scientists are trying to find a way to plug your brain directly into a computer. Wonder why?

Scientists are trying to find a way to plug your brain directly into a computer. Wonder why?

I was reading this post by the wonderfully insightful Liana Evans, and was inspired to write a bit about the differences in social media marketing and the various search engine marketing techniques. Obviously there are innate differences, and at first blush the two categories seem to have little to do with one another. But if you’re working at a modern corporation (and if you’re reading this, you probably are) chances are you’re investing significant marketing resources in each, and expect both to perform a similar function, namely to create sales leads. But while both SM and SE marketing have the same aim, it is pure folly to measure their success the same way. This, unfortunately, is too easy to forget.

Measuring the ROI for SEM, SEO and PPC campaigns is relatively easy. For SEO, run a search for your optimized terms and see where each of the major search engines lands you; for SEM and PPC, use your analytic tools to chart your progress. If something isn’t working, change your site content, meta tags, step up your news releases, generate more incoming links, and reevaluate. Rinse and repeat until the major search engines list you as #1 for your searchable terms. Then celebrate. You deserve it.

Social media tracking isn’t so straightforward. While Ms. Evans suggests that a successful SM campaign is one which reaches a traget number of followers, fans, comments, responses, questions, or some other first-level statistic, reaching that target number is really only half the battle. Yes, it’s nie to have your clients follow you on Facebook and Twitter, but if they’re only reading and occasionally commenting in your sphere, then your social media campaign is no more effective than, say, an email newsletter.

Bear with me here for a minute. There are two important kinds of information that you can share via social media: things that are engaging, and things that are important. Information that is engaging will get people talking to you. The messages of engaged customers consist of things like Twitter messages directed at your @handle, or direct messages. Information that is important will both get people talking to you, and will be shared by people who are interested in it. This kind of interaction is characterized by retweets which link back to the place where you shared your important content. It is nice to be engaging — this is how we hook buyers in and inject them into the sales cycle. More importantly, however, is that our contributions to social media be important to the industry. That is how we create a sphere of influence that expands exponentially and automatically.

The advantage of social media networking — the whole point of it, really — is that it makes the distribution of information more appealing to the end user. As for its applications in business, the theory is that a customer is more likely to read a retweet than a forwarded email (because of the stigma attached to the “FW:” tag, the brevity of the retweet, the small investment in time, the lack of obligation to reply or even acknowledge receipt, etc.). This means that if we can create important content, this content is more likely to be read; because it is important, it is more likely to be forwarded. And so on.

So what does this mean in terms of evaluating the ROI for social media marketing? As Ms. Evans states, the number of friends and responses you get is a good indicator of the amount of engaging material that you create. Again, it’s good to be engaging, but that’s only half the battle. The amount of information that is forwarded by your primary network to your extended network is the measure of how important your content is, and how self-sufficient your network is.

In other words, it’s all about the retweets. Baby.

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