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Brands miss full impact of social media when they focus metrics on narrow outcomes

Courtship, not a one-night stand, produces the richest results
by Ali Zein Kazmi
VP Partnership and Strategic Developments
Ogilvy & Mather, China
Social is an exchange. As with any exchange, we apply to it two economic principles: (1) finding market equilibrium; (2) identifying the point of diminishing returns. Market equilibrium, in the context of social, is supplying the desired amount of content to a market populated with a finite, albeit changing, audience. The point of diminishing returns is when content goes from exciting to wasteful, when additional content stops having incremental impact.
Now, from market equilibrium, we move to relationships (yes there is a link). Relationships are typically classified in three ways: courtship, marriage, and parenthood. Courtship, is pulling out all the stops, making sure the person you woo has always got you on her/his mind. Marriage is typically a comfortable state of the relationship where things go from the unexpected to the expected. Parenthood is when people devote all of their inherited and learned knowledge to nurturing their children. Add to this the one-night stand. It is cheap, it is quick, it is transactional, there are no strings attached, and it makes you happy.
The problem with measuring ROI in social today, as it has been for the past 10 years, is that it continuously is measured through metrics that focus on the one-night stand. They are superficial at best and of no consequence to marketing directors and business owners. One-night stand examples continually repeat and haunt the industry today and include: the live broadcast interview with a celebrity hard selling a time-bound discount; the stock of a soon-to-be launched device offered up on a private sales campaign on Weibo; or the eight-second ad supported by a celebrity-ridden strategy to reach key opinion leaders (KOLs), and committed to delivering 200,000 followers.
Unfortunately, this is what many marketers are focused on. However, social is a behavior and should not be measured by flings, but flirtatious advances. It has to be exciting, it has to draw you in, it has to leave you looking away with a smile. And this is courtship. If marriage is content, repetitive and sometimes monotonous, and parenthood is influence, applying learned behavior to your kids, parents, in-laws and others, then courtship is an equilibrium of all three, struggling to minimize the onset of diminishing return. Here are ways to achieve courtship ROI:
  • Know your point of diminishing returns This is measured by engagement over time. How much time does it take for a follower to stop sharing or engaging with your content after she/he has followed your account? Typically, in China, we see 30 percent attrition after the first day, and an additional 30 percent within the first month. Thereafter, followers tend to stay with the brand, but are typically less active and, therefore, not engaged as they were during the first 30 days of courtship. In our courtship theory, the first month is critical for marketers to maximize the impact of content, KOLs, influence over new recruits. First impression followed by an initial 30-day onboarding experience matter the most. Be alert for warning signs, as when you start experiencing diminishing returns for each incremental post you publish to your social media account.
  • Categorize audiences based on their ROI Not all audiences are equally valuable. Some have commercial value; others have communication value; and an even smaller set, less than 2 percent, have both. The former will buy, and the latter will share content for you. Ideally, you want them to do both.  As a marketer, you want to segment your audiences so that you first focus your efforts on the 2 percent that provide both commercial and communication value. After that, focus on the 15 percent of the audiences that is diminishingly engaged over time, and then focus on others to expand the audience base.
  • Quantify the total communication value Avoid social media myopia. In other words, marketers tend to focus on what the can see nearby, and they lose sight of, and in most cases are unaware of, what could be. Communication value is calculated by the total volume of positive mentions of your brand on social media platforms, including e-commerce sites, which tend to lead in terms of product reviews, ratings, etc. Commercial value includes the number of people that have been pushed from a social media account to a brand’s e-commerce site. In a pasta brand example, we found that buyers on Tmall are also the ones most engaged in recipe content directly sourced from our influencers on Weibo. In a fast fashion example, we found that over 10 percent of sales generated through the brands e-commerce store came through a social call to action on WeChat.
Setting these measures early is critical for long-term success. Too many times we have seen agencies and clients writing strategies and campaign plans without a business ROI plan. The plans have massive follower growth and engagement ROI expectations, but lack a tangible business contribution brief or expectation. We challenge all brands and marketers to commission their marketing agencies to share with them an assessment of the business ROI delivered through social.