I attended the AMA Boston's session this week on How to Build a Killer Social Network (sorry...I can't find any reference to the event on their site to link to, but honestly...it occurred).
It was well done - a solid introduction to social media for people that are new to the space.
John Moore, Director of Ideas and Innovation at Mullen's Media Hub, delivered the keynote, which was chock full of stats, trends, and examples of key publishers/marketers in the social media space. He cited both recent headlines (like the Herald's "Web's where it's at for networking") and old-time quotes (like Peter Drucker's "Every organization needs to be prepared to abandon everything it does to survive in the future") to convey the impact social media is having on business.
John also touched on 3 points of concern with respect to social networks:
- Page velocity - visitors to social networks spend less time on a page (he noted MySpace's velocity of 4.5 pages/minute whereas Yahoo's is just 1.6), calling into question the ability to get readers' attention here
- Monetization - no one has really cracked this one yet
- Time spent - there have been reports that it's declining
But there are plenty of ways for both businesses and individuals to leverage social networks, and a panel presentation followed to discuss just that.
The panel was moderated by Chris Brogan, VP Strategy and Technology at Cross Tech Media Partners (who, between this event, PodCamp Boston, and this Twebinar, I saw more of this week than I did my own family!) and comprised of:
- Todd Van Hoosear, Social Media Practice Manager at Topaz Partners
- Dale Durrett, Eastern Region Sales Manager at LinkedIn
- Tom Arrix, VP Sales at Facebook (Tom, no public profiles to link to??)
The group shared some social media rules of engagement, like: look before you leap; standard ad units are not the
foundation of social media programs; leverage the targeting available via social nets; and above all, understand the environment. Chris polled the Twitter community real-time to ask their advice, and they overwhelmingly said that you must be transparent/authentic. Make your community members feel special and stay involved.
Remember that on social networks, you're not competing with ad space; you're competing with people's friends. "Traditional" online media doesn't work in the social networking environment, where there is a greater need for branded utility.
There was only a brief discussion around measurement (although admittedly, I left early, during the Q&A part), where Tom acknowledged that they're still trying to figure out what the metrics are, but pointed out that it should include some measure of the value of the conversations social media enables. Todd went on to say that social media can go beyond marketing, into the realm of product development for example.
I whole-heartedly agree. Beyond the typical direct response metrics (clicks, downloads, purchases, etc.) and the newer engagement (comments, forwards, etc.) and buzz metrics, a true ROI analysis must also consider:
- customer retention & savings associated with customer service via real-time, lower cost channels (e.g., reduced call center/F2F inquiries thanks to online self-serve, peer-to-peer, etc. - see ComcastCares or IBM DeveloperWorks)
- intangibles that are tough to measure but much more valuable (e.g., product quality, customer satisfaction, faster time to market). Social media can feed market research (via the comments, feedbacks, etc.) as well as merchandising.
As I've commented before, you can't treat social media like a campaign and expect immediate results; like any other relationship, it needs ongoing care and feeding.