There is another side of measurement that people are sometimes afraid to talk about. It can best be described as reverse benchmarking — what happens when companies experiment with social, over focus on numbers, and then prematurely cut programs?
Sometimes they find out months later that their decision was a bad one. And sometimes, not always, it's too late to recapture the momentum. Here are three case studies and some lessons associates of mine learned a few years ago. All that is missing are names to protect mostly those who mean well.
Three lessons learned the hard way.
• An engineering firm set out to position itself as a subject matter expert, employing social media as one of the tools. The owner understood it, but the team of engineers did not. Two months after the program was suspended, the firm was asked to bid a $1 million job because of something read on their undervalued marketing asset. The return could have paid for the program for years, even if they would have never seen another bid (but they would have).
• An nonprofit organization switched from a social media expert to a public relations firm that promised bigger network numbers. They received bigger numbers on social networks as promised, but their annual fundraiser earned 10 percent less than the year prior. The excuse was the economic climate, but the truth is switching from engagement to broadcast was the difference. Higher numbers did not translate into higher donations because the firm didn't consider the connections or communication.
• A restaurant decided to reduce its social media budget, one of the heftier cuts from an overall marketing budget while entering a traditionally slow season. The owner didn't think twice because they didn't consider their presence significant based on social network numbers. But what they missed was that the real order boost was coming from people who promoted them on one-off networks. Incidentally, they also didn't know social accounted for their fastest-growing revenue stream (four times the investment) because people would check in but not redeem discount codes.
When you focus on the wrong measurements, you will lose.
While pursuing direct response sales is often pointless in social media, marketers need to remember that all communication decisions can eventually impact revenue weeks and months and years after the decision is made. It's something to think about, especially because social media numbers tend to lie on the surface. You have to dig deeper to get at the truth.