Should social still be part of your strategy?

As its ROI has become more measurable, so social's value to brands across the customer journey has grown

Hallinan..."from punchy video content to responsive Twitter feeds, social has a vital role to play for brands"
Hallinan..."from punchy video content to responsive Twitter feeds, social has a vital role to play for brands"

What is the point of social media? In recent years, very few brands have disputed the fact that it "needed to be done". But many weren’t necessarily sure why. And many questioned whether it delivered tangible results. The decision in April by JD Wetherspoon to completely shut down all its social channels seemed like a bold and unusual move. Was it right to do it?

We all know it has never been more vital to prove a return on investment, particularly in social media, given recent industry concerns. The fact is that, in most instances, social media can be measured as effectively, and prove the value to the business as much as, any other type of media. And this doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated.

We know this through our work over the past few years with #IPASocialWorks, the first global, cross-industry body to help develop a more ROI-driven and robust approach to measuring social. It has created a strong peer-reviewed bank of more than 30 case studies from brands such as O2, Coca-Cola and Ikea.

But to successfully achieve this ROI, we first need to consider how social fits into a brand’s ecosystem and marcoms strategy or, as we say at MBA, apply a philosophy of "total UX". This looks at where customers are searching (and researching) online, to reach them at the point "where digital and direct interconnect".

Once we have done this, we need to question how their needs are being met, taking into account everything from website UX and search to feeds and CRM – all forms of content. Social media has a key role to play at all stages of this journey.

Packing a punch
Where once PR "stunts" used to be in the public eye – perhaps in a shopping centre, at an airport, or sailing something sizeable down the Thames – now these live online, in content videos served via social. This is social in terms of big, punchy content that evokes emotion in the targeted customer, where we can measure awareness, reach and sentiment. This is also where carefully seeded media and influencer activity can come into play, to boost the fame for the brand. But it shouldn’t stop there.

In addition to reaching customers through larger-scale awareness campaigns on social, these people can also be reached on a oneto-one basis, when they’re further along their research journey. Consumers and decision-makers are having conversations online, discussing how they’re looking to buy something. And very often, no brands respond. This is low hanging (and very ripe!) fruit that few are taking the time or eff ort to pick. For clients such as Sage by Heston Blumenthal, we’ve found customers questioning which kitchen appliance to buy, and we’ve been able to directly engage and make a sale. Using clever social-listening tools and AI to automate and speed up this process will only boost ROI.

Once the customer has made their purchase, the conversation on social shouldn’t stop there. Consumers now expect an instant answer on social channels, particularly if they’re angry about something. You wouldn’t leave a phone unanswered in a customerservice call centre, so how is a tweet any different? It’s surprising to see the number of tweets left hanging. Arguably, where a brand is visible to the public, it’s more important to maintain its reputation.

And it’s not just B2C social activity that can be successful at this part of the customer journey. B2B social, delivered in the right way, can keep existing clients happy, and prospects warm, by serving helpful and exciting content at the right moments – as we have seen with clients such as O2.

Social is now fully ingrained in our world, notwithstanding valid recent concerns voiced by the industry and general public. But by being clear and rigorous about the different roles it performs with a "total UX" lens applied, social can always be given brand purpose to drive that all-important ROI.

The social route to ROI

  • Social media is under increased scrutiny to prove its business value

  • Yet its eff ectiveness can be successfully measured (as well as counted)

  • The key is to understand how it fits into a brand’s ecosystem (MBA’s "total UX" philosophy)

  • …and being clear about the specific role each type of social activity performs at each stage of the customer journey

  • This approach will give social a brand purpose to drive ROI

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