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Four ways to avoid Social Media fails

Publishers are becoming increasingly active in the social media space, but a lot of the activity is unfocused and unlikely to lead to long term profitability, writes Adestra’s Parry Malm.

By Parry Malm

Social media is like gold rush time in the Wild West, with everyone trying to make a fast buck. There are loads of cowboys and cowgirls rushing to them there hills looking for gold, but, despite much effort, the only people really making money are those selling pickaxes and gold pans.

We will help you to load up your revolver with four social media ‘bullets’ so you can drive your marketing objectives on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. With social media being the focus of many publishers, this article covers the exponential growth of this channel, how to improve and measure activity and Return on Investment, plus how to integrate with your email marketing to deliver an effective multi-channel communication strategy. Specifically, it looks at: the fallacy of activism; the importance of integration; the realities of ownership; and the methodology of ROI measurement.

To drive forward your social media agenda, it is critical that you know exactly what the opportunities and boundaries are. Following on from my introductory presentation on this subject at ad:tech 2011, I’ll explain the key points below:

Fallacy of activism

Take the example of the London riots, when, within days, Twitter feeds and Facebook groups were alive with talk about grand plans to clean-up the mess, with thousands promising help. However, when it came to the day, what actually happened was a couple of hundred people with brooms turned up. Just because people say they will take action, doesn’t mean they will in real life. The online medium makes it all too easy to offer false promises. Beware that idle chat online may be just that, without any real intention to take action - whether that’s subscribing to your newsletter, viewing your site, buying your products, reading your blogs etc. Also consider what a "like" or a "follow" actually means, it’s nothing more than a one-click temporary show of affection.

Reality of ownerships - are you the master of your destiny?

LinkedIn has gone public, Facebook is expected to within one year, and Twitter I’m sure will one day soon. The common theme here is that investors are calling the shots, focusing the executive management on profits. Now, while profit maximisation is good, it can potentially harm you in the long term. Let me explain – while social media is doing fine at the moment, if a double dip recession arrived or advertising revenues dropped, they would need to look to new channels to raise money. How about if they charged users £1 for every ‘friend’ or ‘like’?... It might happen! Never forget they own the data, not users – so really you are building up the audience for them, not yourself. The key is to protect yourself, bringing the data under your ownership by integrating the data into your systems… which brings me nicely onto my next point:

Importance of integration - why you need a data acquisition funnel

No matter how you interact with customers, or which communications channels you use, it’s vital to ingest their data into your database. For example, consider an iPad app – when someone downloads it, Apple receives the data for possible future use, not you. However, increasingly we’re seeing newsletter sign-ups designed into the app to capture user details for the publisher’s own use. For example, BBC Focus Magazine recently introduced an iPad edition with a sign-up pop-up to capture information about their new, digital readership using Adestra’s API. The publisher then analyses information from this important and tech-savvy segment of the readership and ultimately delivers content specifically tailored to iPad users. Within six months, the iPad pop-up had generated over 2,500 newsletter sign-ups and the welcome email following the sign-up had an impressive open rate of 49%.

Other brands drive people direct to their website and encourage them into their data acquisition funnel, while some use SMS to capture data. For example, dialling 81222 with ‘subscribe’ and your email address signs you up to Adestra’s newsletter. So data integration is truly a multi-channel discipline. Remember with social media, you don’t own the data – brands must take action to enable them to communicate on their own terms rather than being beholden to the “Social Media lords”.

Methodology of measuring ROI - how you can measure the value of social media

Typically, brands may set themselves a target such as ‘we need 1,000 new Twitter followers per month’. Here, an arbitrary number has been picked and seems the only real metric for Twitter. This does not, however, equate to ROI, remember it’s just 1,000 followers. Nevertheless, it’s a start, and if you can capture their data, this will then translate into a ROI figure. Adestra uses a simple equation to calculate ROI: N x P x CLV = ROI. Where N is Number of records captured, P is Probability of converting into a paying customer, and CLV is Customer Lifetime Value to your business.

Until analytics information is built to handle this tracking methodology to calculate ROI, it’s hard to justify Social Media in a business case. What we’re seeing here is marketing from a position of fear rather than greed/profit maximisation. Essentially, marketers are scared of not achieving their 1,000 followers each month and they cannot make their best judgements if afraid. Marketers should be ensuring that the infrastructure is in place so that their decision making will be driven from a profit-maximisation position. In this instance, greed is good!


So we’ve touched on how to exploit the never-ending growth of social media and avoid fails. Don’t be one of the thousands of people staking claims, but not finding gold. Follow these best practice tips and afterwards you can saddle up and ride into the sunset without fear of impending facepalms.