This is a guest post by Randy Hlavac, author of Social IMC – Social Strategies with Bottom-line ROI” which examines the 3 Social Strategies organizations can use to design, develop, deploy, measure & justify their social investment. It uses proven strategies and best-of-breed examples from all over the world.  Randy is also an instructor for DMA Education and a member of our Marketing Analytics Conference Program Committee.

Social IMCIn 2012, IBM published a study which asked CMOs from around the world to identify the trends & challenges facing them today.  These CMOs represented B2B and B2C organizations ranging from start-ups to some of the largest corporations in the world.  This study found 63% wanted to measure the ROI of social media.

Still today, senior management is faced with this dilemma; dealing with social’s lack of bottom-line measurability.

While 63% don’t have social ROI metrics, there are 27% who do.  So the question isn’t “Where is the ROI in social” but “What strategies are these companies using to connect social to their bottom-line”?  Answering that question is central to how your company should consider developing and deploying social.

What are the right questions?

For the last 9 years, I have been focusing on companies deploying social with ROI and the strategies they’re using.  I found companies with ROI focused social strategies ask three important questions BEFORE they develop their social strategy.  These questions are:

  1. What is the target market and what is their value to our organization? – Different social strategies require different levels of investment.  You want to develop the deepest 1-to-1 relationships with your highest value markets
  2. What type of relationship do you want to develop? –  Social strategies today range from anonymous relationships [the unmeasurable 63%] to 1-to-1 relationships used by the 27% which are measurable.  You need to determine which relationship you want to develop you’re your with your social markets.  The answer to this question determines the relationship you will use.
  3. Where is the target market in the “Social Pyramid”? – The final question is to use social monitoring to determine where your target markets are in the social pyramid [described in my book – Social IMC], what they are talking about, and the influencers at the center of the conversation.  For the social strategies with ROI, you want to engage your high value markets throughout the social “cloud” to acquire them for your social programs.

By answering these three questions, you can then evaluate the 3 social strategies used by successful marketers throughout the world.

What are the 3 social strategies?

When you examine the three social strategies, the key differentiator is in the type of relationship it develops with your target market.  Relationships range from anonymous in engagement marketing to 1-to-1, database driven relationships in Social IMC.  For each target market, you should select the social strategy which best matches your business goals.  The 3 social strategies are:

  1. Engagement Marketing – This is used by most companies and is the least effective in building relationships.  The goal of engagement marketing is to offer content designed to drive people to your social networking sites.  These programs are measured by growth in followers & Likes on your social sites.  Because you don’t ask people to identify themselves, the relationship is anonymous.  Social visitors and your target markets are comingled on your social sites.
  2. Nurture Marketing – Nurture Marketing strives to develop a business relationship with a high value market.  In this strategy, you develop content designed to resonate with a high value market at key points in the product purchase lifecycle.  You create the content but place it behind a registration “wall”.  This allows you to identify the persona of the individual, their place in the product purchase lifecycle, and monitor future site visits using a cookie placed on their computer.  Because you are tracking them individually through the data on your registration database, you can link this database to your sales and marketing systems to identify future sales.  This strategy has ROI built into it and is used by many B2B marketers.
  3. Social IMC – Social Integrated Marketing Communications [IMC] is the most sophisticated of the social strategies.  It allows you to join the social communities containing your high value markets by empowering and helping them achieve their goals.  It is a database driven strategy which builds 1-to-1, lifetime relationships with your high value customers and prospects and links your social strategy directly to your sales and marketing systems.  Social IMC allows you to build a holistic, integrated relationship with your highest value markets.

Today, businesses must consider different social strategies to succeed.  While you can use engagement marketing for your lower value markets, you need to develop social strategies which link your growing social investment to your sales and business systems.  With these more advanced strategies, your social investment becomes a part of your business plan and social becomes a powerful marketing tool for your organization.

If you want to learn more about the social pyramid or the three social strategies, I will be presenting them in the Marketing Database post-session at this year’s DMA 2014 convention.  You can also read about them in my new book, Social IMC.