Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Leveraging Social Media Channels – Lessons Learned in 8 hours

Sure, you’ve got a Social Media strategy. You’ve even got several channels under your Social Media strategy. But how well do you know the effectiveness of each channel? How long is it taking you to pilot, test, and determine the effective of each channel? What if you were able to determine the effectiveness of a marketing strategy before you invested significant time and effort?

Every Social Media effort at PAKRA must have a defined purpose and measurable outcomes before it’s launched. This allows us to implement a program, measure, and adjust. With many strategies, it’s possible to collect data and measure the potential impact before you’ve even made the decision to deploy the program.

Let’s look at LinkedIn as an example. PAKRA actively uses LinkedIn as a channel for both lead generation and building brand awareness. Recently, we explored the idea of using LinkedIn discussion groups to increase our lead generation efforts and better enable brand awareness on our core product offerings – business process gaming simulations and software-as-a-service (SaaS).

We set out to prove or disprove this hypothesis:

We can use LinkedIn groups to engage in discussions that generate marketing and sales leads, increase brand awareness, and enable us to be viewed as an industry expert and trusted resource for information.
So, where did we start? Did we assign resources to spend 2 – 3 hours a day managing the discussion groups? Did we launch a 30-day pilot to initiate industry relevant discussions? Did we spend weeks gathering data and measuring results?

None of the above!
Before we spent time and resources launching this strategy – we observed, we collected data, and we analyzed what we found. Over the course of 2 days and a total of 8 hours, we collected data from over from over 40 different industry specific groups and from 150 different discussion posts (that contained at least 3 comments per post).

Next, we set out to gather data that would answer the question:
“Is there a right way or wrong way to message in LinkedIn groups that will lead to group members responding more often and engaging in discussions?”

To answer this question, we did the following:
1. Tracked the number of user responses to each discussion post
2. Scored the effectiveness (highly effective, somewhat effective, not effective) of each discussion post based on multiple criteria:
  • Relationship to group goals – How effectively a discussion post is related to the stated purpose and goals of the group
  • Overly promotional – The degree to which a discussion avoids transparent self-promotion or product promotion
  • Helpful information – The degree to which information received from the discussion will be helpful to other group members and the originator of the discussion
  • Actionable information - How usable and actionable the posted responses will be to other group members and the originator of the discussion
  • Trusted advisor status – Will the discussion posted and responses received result in the originator becoming a reliable source for information and advice
  • Empathy – How effectively the post relates to the goals, concerns, and issues of the specific group
  • Tone – The degree to which the posted discussion shows sincerity, humor, and a personal tone
3. Each post was then ranked by:
  • Number of responses received (largest number of discussion responses ranked highest)
  • Total effectiveness score (largest overall effectiveness score ranked highest)
What we found was something very interesting!
Based on the Rank of Responses and Rank of Total Score, we saw some relationships emerge.
Relationship 1: High response ranking, low total score ranking
“Hi everyone! If you’re new to the group, please introduce yourself by commenting on this discussion!”
This is an example of a discussion that ranked highly in the number of responses. In fact, this discussion resulted in over 8,000 responses. But it had a very low ranking for total score.
We saw that those discussions with the highest number of responses but that ranked lowest in score relied on very few of the effectiveness measures. These discussions tended to be non-actionable and / or overly promotional and scored lowly in relationship to the groups goals, generating helpful responses, and positioning the originator of the discussion as trusted advisor. For a product company such as ours, overly promotional discussions that result in non-actionable responses will not help us meet our goal of generating marketing and sales leads or positioning ourselves as a trusted expert in our space.

Relationship 2: Middle range response ranking, middle range total score ranking
“When Does the Relationship Between Sales Person and Prospect Begin?”
This is an example of a discussion that fell in the middle range for both number of responses and total score ranking.
These discussions tended score as “somewhat effective” in the criteria of tone, empathy, and relationship to the group’s goals. But they also tended to score as “ineffective” or “somewhat effective” in the criteria of actionable responses, helpful information, and positioning the originator of the discussion as a trusted advisor. This group of discussions also failed to meet PAKRA’s goals for lead generation or brand development.

Relationship 3: Middle to high response ranking, middle to high total score ranking
“Are serious games being used to assess, not just develop? There's increasing interest in using games not just in Learning & Development, but also in assessment. Do you know of any examples?”
This is an example of a discussion that fell in the middle to high range for both number of responses and total score ranking.
The second circle in the chart represents those discussions that had a medium to high response ranking and scored as “somewhat effective” to “effective” in the messaging criteria. We found that this circle represents discussions between subject matter “Gurus” and independent contractors. This group does meet our target market or our goals of lead generation and brand development.

What did PAKRA learn from this exercise?
Based upon this analysis, we learned LinkedIn discussion groups are not an effective space for us to launch a marketing campaign to meet our goals of generating leads, increasing our brand as an industry expert, or being viewed as a trusted resource in gaming simulations and SaaS platforms for our target market.

If you launched a similar exercise, would you have the same results? This is not the question you should ask! The question is not whether our results and findings are replication-agnostic or whether our results will always hold true for you. The question to ask is “will this marketing campaign meet my identified goals in my target market?” It’s critical to understand your own marketing goals, your target market, and the marketing channel that you are exploring.

The key finding to our exercise is that there is free, publicly available data that will allow you to determine patterns and help you understand how a specific channel works. This allows you to identify how people engage and then decide if this is what you want to emulate in a given campaign and whether you will meet your desired goals.