The Full Social Media Story: A Return on Relationships

In social media, traditional result measurement tools often leave holes and we are left with a set of quantitative metrics (such as impression numbers and advertising equivalency value) that help tell a story but often skirt around the main plot point. Such ROI metrics can fail to take into account the true value of social media ' the relationship value. We were recently challenged with such a case ' a campaign that heavily leveraged a group of bloggers, a particularly tightly-knit niche, with the goal of reaching this group and creating relationships between them and our client (a brand specializing in products that also fall into this niche category). Like all true relationships, this one took time to cultivate and grow. Through the course of many months filled with emails and exchanges we knew we met the goal and had successfully developed a group of brand advocates that would pay off with many years of loyalty, purchasing and recommendations to others. Now the next challenge: measuring the value of these relationships! Our traditional ROI model looked good ' indeed the campaign had impressive numbers on the quant side with total impressions, engagements and ad equivalency value all tallying strongly. But the heart of the matter was the story told in the emails from bloggers that raved about their newfound love for the brand, and the posts from their readers that confirmed these blogger/influencers were powerful advocates. To tell this story we had to use a ROR (return on relationship) model. To do so we turned to our new advocates, the bloggers, and asked them to complete a short survey on their brand perceptions before and after we made contact with them and on the likelihood of their advocacy down the road. While we expected favorable comments back, we couldn't have predicted how strong their response was! All confirmed that as a result of our relationship-building campaign they now felt they knew the brand well and would be much more likely to purchase it in the future. And as an added bonus: they had all told others about the brand - many others in fact, as many as several hundred word-of-mouth recommendations per blogger!! (And all this in addition to what they had written publicly on their blogs!) So what was our ROR? Well, we found that our outreach to these influencers had yielded several hundred positive brand mentions per blogger. And we also know that the recommendations of influencers (like friends, social network peers, and 'experts') are a powerful and direct driver in the purchase cycle. Measuring ROR isn't an exact science, it's an essential aspect of telling the full story about the performance of any social media campaign.

On Why Blogs Matter'?¦

It's probably been a few years since you first heard the word 'blog' and thought to yourself, 'what an interesting idea!'? And even if you read blogs on a regular basis you've probably seen their coverage diminish in favor of things like the latest Twitter phenom or the newest viral video. Yes, the media honeymoon with blogs is over. But don't let the lack of headlines fool you: blogs matter more than ever and companies who engage with bloggers reap the benefits! So, why do blogs matter? '?¢ Bloggers are mainstream media The lines have been inextricably blurred and what were once fringe voices are now the norm. Over 95% of the top 100 US newspapers have reporter blogs, and large media outlets like Huffington Post, TMZ and Consumerist are still considered blogs. '?¢ Bloggers represent the interests of varied consumer groups It isn't just techies or mommies blogging now;, it is also dads talking about work-life balance, Latinos on politics, and foodies discussing coupons. For every topic, group, lifestyle and life stage there are numerous blogs dedicated to covering and musing upon the topics that matter the most. '?¢ Bloggers are accessible Bloggers have a constant need for content and a surprising willingness to engage with brands and their representatives. In fact, 90% of bloggers in Technorati's 2008 State of the Blogosphere survey said they post about the brands, music, movies and books that they love (or hate). My team has the pleasure of regularly engaging with bloggers on behalf of our clients and from the biggest to the smallest blogs one thing is true: they are all dedicated to sharing the most resonant information with their readers in the most genuine way. What we've learned over the years is this blogger passion can translate into major impact for a brand. When we reach out and encourage dialogue with a blogger, what often emerges is a vocal advocate, a brand ally or a thoughtful opinion. And brands who open the line of communication benefit by bringing another trusted voice into the conversation with consumers.

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