The company with the highest number of Twitter followers doesn’t necessarily have the best social media marketing strategy—or so says Jim Sterne in his new book, Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment. Sterne, who has been writing about Internet marketing since 1994, details ways for businesses to assess marketing efforts using valuable data and describes how marketers can maximize their returns on social media investments. CRM Editorial Assistant Juan Martinez spoke with Sterne about the value—and common misconceptions—of social media marketing.
CRM magazine: Why was it important to write about measuring the success of social media rather than about creating a successful media initiative?
Jim Sterne: When I started writing about online marketing, it was brand new and it was important to put all that information out there. Back then, my specialty was unique. But by 2000 everybody understood how important the Internet was and everybody was an Internet marketing expert. So I changed my focus to measurement—specifically, Web analytics. That spread to marketing optimization, accountability, and performance monitoring. Then social media came along and it was obviously valuable and intuitive. But I haven’t seen anything valuable written about how to measure it.
I also felt it was important to have one place where you put all the information together instead of having to read a thousand blogs about it. I guess I’m showing my age when I say that I like books.
CRM: What’s the biggest misconception around social media marketing?
Sterne: That it’s one thing. Social media is a group of technologies that people have embraced in an enormous way very quickly because it makes communication easier. The misconception is that it’s a single form of communication that solves a single problem when actually it’s a whole new way to communicate. Anytime someone says, “Social media is…” if you take out the words “social media” and insert the word “telephone,” you find out how awkward it sounds. “Social media is great for direct marketing.” Well, yeah—but the telephone is great for direct marketing as well. And it’s so much more valuable.
CRM: How is social media important for CRM?
Sterne: It’s another channel. People like to use all different methods of communication. Some people like to use Twitter to send messages. You now have to make that part of your contact center. You have to add monitoring of your fan page on Facebook to your contact center. Social media is an addition to customers who are reaching out to you. On the relationship management side I want to open up wider than just pure-listening mode. In the good old days, we did surveys and called it market research. We did random-digit dialing or direct surveys to our B2B clients. We asked them to tell us what they thought. Now we get to overhear conversations, which is significantly more genuine as far as opinion and attitude because customers are talking among themselves. And we get to go join the conversation. CRM is showing that you are partof the community rather than just being behind the desk of a call center being able to respond. You’re proactively part of a community and you’re participating.
CRM: You mention throughout the book, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that there will be new methods of online communication before your book is even released. Where do you envision social media marketing within the next five years?
Sterne: God knows what’s going to happen. In my wildest imagination there will be something I’d like to call Google Personal. It will be a lock-down personal, private Google that knows everything about me. So when I say I need a flight to New York it knows all my preferences, all my frequent-flier numbers, which car rental company I prefer. It can act as my personal digital assistant. It knows I communicate more with John and Susan and knows that I trust their opinion. So it goes out and finds out how they reviewed a hotel, and it tells me, “Here’s the best hotel for you based on everyone you know who has reviewed it.” It’s the power of watching what I do and how I’m social in order to get me more-powerful information based on reviews and input from the cloud.
CRM: Let’s keep your prognosticator hat on. In your book you list David Berkowitz’s “100 Ways to Measure Social Media.” Will that list grow or shrink in the next five years?
Sterne: It will grow from the perspective of what can be measured but it will shrink from the perspective of what should be measured. There will always be more data points that we can capture but [the number] of those [that] will be valuable will also shrink because we’ll have more experience. We once thought hits were valuable because it was the only data we had. But we came to find out that actually hits weren’t very useful. What was useful was tracking people’s behavior—hits weren’t doing that. Which measurements will be valuable ultimately depends on your business goals.