Social media marketers prioritize “skills” over ROI

This is the third in a series of guest posts by Marshall Sponder based on extracts from his recent book “Social Media Analytics” .

Based on qualitative marketing research I have conducted using the social media analytics platform, Marketwire Sysomos, I’d say that social marketers are much more interested in mastering chosen social marketing platforms, integrating social media with their existing campaigns, and are forgoing, for now, measuring their social media ROI. This finding about the readjusted importance of ROI was totally unexpected, given the strong focus put on it by marketing experts, especially Olivier Blanchard of the BrandBuilder blog, who have turned Social media ROI into a mantra.

I shared my approach to online research in my new book on what social media analytics can accomplish.  The book aims to help businesses and individuals disambiguate the confusing decisions all marketers must now face between several competing measurement and marketing platforms, and choose the right one for their needs. Marketers should then be able to move forward, deploying streamlined social marketing programs that work and are measureable; whereas before, poor choices in technology, marketing process and people constrained the marketing successes that it was possible to achieve using social media.

The findings presented in Figure 1 reference the top 10 questions social marketers most want answers to, as featured in the 2011 Social Media Marketing Report by Michael Stelzner, the founder of The Social Media Examiner (Stelzner’s rankings are in the gray column while mine are in the green column). Michael Stelzner conducted his primary research using readers of his publication, and published it last April. He used an online questionnaire that was answered by 3300 respondents, or 4% of the 94,000 registered users of his Social Media Examiner online publication.

On the other hand, my research into the top questions social marketers had was conducted entirely using MarketWire Sysomos.  I looked at the total online social mentions between recorded between 8/1/10-7/31/11 using a set of 10 specially constructed search queries as detailed on my WebMetricsGuru.com blog.  For the rest of this report, the 2011 Social Media Marketing Report will be referred to as SMM 2011.

Figure 1 –SMM-11 Top 10 questions social marketers want to know vs. Online mentions using MarketWire Sysomos

My findings show that offering intermediate and advanced training programs that help marketers learn how to leverage social media marketing, as part of the existing business marketing mix, is exactly what marketers want most now, and not ROI reporting.  While Return on Investment tracking is still important to most social marketers, it is considered much less so than normally portrayed.

My take on the disparity between mine and Michael Stelzner’s findings suggest that social marketers have matured in their expectations and understandings around social media marketing, have now begun to articulate their business needs, goals and expectations in a more realistic light than they had in the past (the past had been dominated by social media ROI goals that marketers were unable to meet for a variety of reasons, including the immaturity of the monitoring platforms and disparate goals of marketers).

Another way to look at the disparities — businesses realize hard selling does not work well within social channels and decided to step back, put ROI on the backburner, for now, and wait until all the data needed for marketing ROI is able to be collected, in the right format. Instead, social marketers are now focusing on what matters the most to their bottom line, defining success in terms of what they do, not on ROI – deploying social programs that work to expand business and integrate within the rest of the marketing mix.

Marketers also want to understand just how much time they should spend doing social marketing on a weekly basis, and this question has a higher ranking in my findings than SMM 2011, based on Figure 1.  Perhaps, by using Sysomos, instead of a solicited questionnaire, I was able to come up with a more comprehensive ordering and set of answers than Stelzner did.

There are several other issues social marketers want to know more about, including how to work with “big data”;  marketers may now need to handle large data sets, and use new platforms that are still evolving such as Google/ITA’s Needlebase, to take advantage of all the information social media can now provide them.  In addition, a very strong interest in upcoming trends around social marketing; this is a subject that I will explore in a future post on Monitoring Social Media. In the meantime, I’d welcome your comments.

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