I recently spoke to the Austin branch of The American Marketing Association about "Ensuring Social Media ROI".

I'd like to expound on some of that. There are three critical concepts to ensuring Social Media ROI:

  • AIDA
  • Incentives
  • "WhateverBait" (mutations of LinkBait)

AIDA is a classic marketing/advertising approach, fundamental to all persuasive success:

Much advertising, especially TV advertising, only gets people through the first 2 or 3 steps.You watch a commercial- it grabs your attention, you're interested, maybe you develop some desire, but there's no call to action.

I'm basically a direct marketer, which means I care about getting business results: cash, leads, whatever the client's Most Wanted Response is.

My pet peeve is advertising that doesn't go all the way. How many ads do you see that get your attention but the next day you don't even remember what product they were advertising? These are ads that fail the direct marketing test, because they don't go all the way to action. If you forget the product, they haven't even done a good job of branding.

We can't control every prospect, but if we fail to plan, we plan to fail. If we don't think all the way through AIDA, we can't expect much response.

In this series of blog posts, in light of AIDA I'm going to discuss:

1. The 4 Functions of Social Media
2. Repurposing SEO's Linkbait Concept
3. Incentivizing action

1. The 4 Functions of Social Media: We're Not Fighting, We Just Have Different Goals

In blogs and blog comments there's some contentiousness about the goals and measurement of social media.

The debate is simply a misunderstanding. There are multiple goals, purposes, or functions of social media, including brand management, new business, customer service, and repeat business. A fifth one I saw today is Market Research.

A lot of the debate is simply people who are branding-focused arguing with people who are direct-marketing-oriented.

Neither is wrong- it's a matter of what your goals are. We can stop arguing about whether Social Media's KPI should be fans, or market share, or revenue. It depends on your goal.

Which evokes my 5 steps of optimization: First choose a goal, then quantify it, then iterate toward your goal with flexible strategies and tactics.

2. Repurposing Linkbait To Get Social Media Marketing Results

If you're not familiar with linkbait, it's essentially a way of getting links for SEO purposes by creating viral content. It grabs attention, gets passed around, and gets linked to by bloggers and social media people. It can be wildly successful, as it was with Mingle2 (100,000 links in 6 months leading to a top 10 ranking for a new dating website; and that's not an easy niche to penetrate).

The linkbait approach can be repurposed for Social Media. I've taken the liberty of naming two variations:

  • AttentionBait
  • RevenueBait

I'll discuss each in more detail in part three of this series.

3. Social Media and Incentives: How To Get People To Do Stuff

Students of the books Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics understand why people do what they do.

They do things because they're incentivized to do those things.

They get something out of the action. They're listening to our favorite radio station, WIIFM (What's In It For Me?). If you want them to do something, make sure you've incentivized them to do it.

I think too many marketing campaigns - and this is not limited to Social Media or TV - are inadequately planned. All you need to do is list out the steps someone would have to take to get to the action you want them to take, and think about why they would do each step. Think about what other choices they have at each step... is yours really more compelling?

Even something as simple as category-chatter intercept...

  • If you just randomly @reply strangers when they talk about your category, why shouldn't they just ignore you? Why shouldn't they look at you as a nosey unwanted salesperson? (There's a weird tension between friends and sales we can't ignore in Social Media Marketing.)
  • You need to be tweeting an offer. If you're a hotel and you're tweeting at strangers who talk about your destination, tweet about a page on your hotel's site with discounts from local business partners- then they have a reason to care about you.
  • It seems like some social marketers think that the results could be only neutral or positive- it's possible you could turn people off as well if your approach isn't thoughtful. That could actually harm the brands you're marketing.

That's the overview. The next few posts will go through each of these three subjects in detail.

Photo Credits: Images in AIDA diagram from Flickr Creative Commons: Sister72, Bea Kotecka, KrYs+, Kip Photographie

Brian Carter is Director of SEO, PPC, and Social Media for Fuel Interactive, cofounder of TweetROI, and a passionate keynote speaker.