Yes, Virginia…There is ROI in Social Marketing

See the survey at Marketing Sherpa survey 2011

In a recent survey conducted by Marketing Sherpa [a great source of marketing insights], 64% of all companies deploying social media strategies view it as a promising tactic that will eventually produce ROI. In simple terms, they are saying it makes sense but let’s go at it conservatively because it isn’t really producing results right now.
As a professor of social and integrated marketing at Northwestern’s Medill IMC [Integrated Marketing Communications] program, my graduate and undergraduate classes have focused on developing ROI justified, measurable social marketing programs for a wide range of companies. Each quarter, we invite companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 firms, for profit and not-for-profit, and business-to-business and consumer direct companies to work with us to build social marketing programs. Some of these companies have sophisticated social media programs while others are just starting to explore the potential of marketing in the social “cloud”. After working with over 50 companies, we have found there is considerable confusion about what social marketing is and how social should be integrated into the marketing mix of a company.

Many companies view social marketing as the development of Facebook and Twitter pages to engage visitors in discussions about their needs, the company’s products, and issues related to customer service.  Some companies also use these social sites for coupons and special offers.

While we also use Facebook and Twitter in our Social IMC programs, these “Facebook & Twitter first” types of strategies are not really forms of marketing because they are reactionary, not trackable to individual levels, and cannot be deployed like other integrated marketing programs.  As a result, many companies deploy this strategy in the PR – not their marketing department – and the deployment is viewed as an investment with minimal bottom line impact.

Companies in the 20% of the study that do find ROI do social marketing differently – they do Social IMC.  A Social IMC program uses the IMC business model to identify high value target markets and locate them in the “social cloud”.  They then develop marketing strategies designed to access and engage high value prospects…enticing them with exceptional community offers [which often go viral], and finally moving them to purchase.  The results are marketing programs that are targeted, justifiable, measurable, testable, and database driven.  Social IMC marketing programs allow social marketing to be justified, discussed, and developed by the CMO with the same control and predictability of all other marketing programs.

From working with companies to deploy Social IMC programs at Marketing Synergy and through the Northwestern IMC marketing program, we recommend marketers today need to identify the specific goals and objectives they want to achieve from their social marketing programs.  If you want your social program to be an integral part of your marketing mix, there are proven business models which can develop, deploy & manage your social market programs with the same precision and control as your other marketing channels.  With Social IMC marketing programs, you can create social programs which produce solid ROI.

Randy Hlavac is a lecturer professor of Integrated and Social marketing at the Northwestern Medill IMC program.  In addition, he is the CEO of Marketing Synergy – a social and marketing consultancy located in Naperville IL.  Randy can be reached through twitter – @RandyHlavac – or by calling 630.328.9550.

The Marketing Sherpa Chart of the Week is published by MarketingSherpa. 499 Main Street Warren, RI, 02885, United States © 2011 MarketingSherpa, LLC.  See it here

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Randy Hlavac
Randy Hlavac is a marketing futurist who – since 1990 – has worked to integrate new technologies into the marketing strategies & tactics of B2B and B2C companies.

November 2011
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