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FAQ on Social Media – Part 3

January 10, 2009 

Continuing my series of responses to questions I didn’t have time to answer in recent webcasts, this segment covers international markets, ROI, how to deal with negative feedback and applications to small business.

Q: How do you reach international audiences? Are the tools you showed just for US consumers?

A: The Internet doesn’t know geographic boundaries, so with few exceptions your message can reach across the globe.The one area that is geographically sensitive is social networks, which seem to gain more active followings in some countries than in others. Google’s Orkut, for example, has been a nonstarter in the U.S. but has a huge following in Brazil. Cyworld is popular in Korea, while Hi5 has a big Latin American membership. In Japan, Mixi is the largest social network. The Swedes love Lunarstorm, and the Poles take to Grono. I’m not sure why that’s the case, but if you’re trying to reach people on social networks, you need to go where they’re already congregating.

Q: Can you give some examples of return on investment?

A: That depends on how you define “return.” Often, businesses look at return in terms of visits to a designated landing page, such as a download or order form. In that case, look at referring URLs. You can also track actual orders back to the URLs or e-mail links that referred people to that page.That’s a relatively easy way to translate links into sales. Use unique URLs and/or tracking codes to document where your customers are coming from. This podcast interview with Avinash Kaushik on Paul Dunay’s Buzz Marketing for Technology podcast series has some sound advice.

In other cases, however, companies may look for an increase in favorable press coverage or blogger comments as an indicator of ROI. In that case, tracking an increase in press or blog citations compared to a base point can yield a pretty good idea of the effectiveness of a campaign. Note that these are not web analytics and that the dollar value of these results can be difficult to quantify.

Q: What (if any) silver bullet can you use, to encourage your client to create a blog for their company, when they are deathly afraid of negative feedback?

A: A substantial body of evidence is emerging to support the effectiveness of social media marketing. For example, here’s a list of links to archives of successful social media campaigns. A study of the Inc. 500 by the University of Massachusetts found that three quarters of the respondents now consider social media to be essential to their marketing efforts. Sites like eMarketer and Marketing Sherpa also have extensive case history and statistical evidence about the value of blogs and other tools. Recent McKinsey research reveals that companies that have bought into Web 2.0 marketing are planning to expand their commitment this year.

In my view, negative feedback is an overrated problem. Every company has some unhappy customers, and most people understand that that’s part of the landscape. In most cases, critics can be converted to satisfied customers or even fans with a little hand-holding and special attention. There is overwhelming evidence that simply responding to disgruntled customers with a message that shows you’re listening can put to bed the vast majority of complaints. If a company does have a customer satisfaction problem, however, it is wise to step lightly into new media. Be prepared for negativity and be ready to respond to each and every comment. You’ll quickly find that criticism will diminish as you demonstrate responsiveness.

Q: Does social media marketing apply more to medium and larger businesses than to small businesses?

A: In my experience, small businesses are more active, creative and effective at leveraging social media marketing than big companies. There are many reasons for this, including the compelling cost advantages, the speed and responsiveness of small organizations, their willingness to engage directly with individual customers and the accessibility of senior managers. The University of Massachusetts research I mentioned above found that small businesses are adopting these tools much faster than large ones. In my own presentations and seminars, I consistently find that small companies are more enthusiastic and responsive to the potential of social media than the big guys. In fact, large companies tend to excel at finding reasons to AVOID talking to their customers!

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