It’s Not Direct Response: Setting Realistic Goals for Social Media Marketing

In mining the social graph, in developing stategies and tactics for making the most of SMM in the social Web, marketers often seem to think there's a very direct and causal relationship between action and purchase.

If you're interested in social media investments of resources and dollars spent, you've got to understand how the social Web works, even in the B2B realm -- and how it isn't direct response marketing.  Not even close.

That said, there are ways to pin down SMM ROI.  But some of them are outside of the box for marketers accustomed to direct, immediate results.

Every potential contact you develop in social networks isn't just at the hub of their own network -- they're part of multiple networks, most of them their own.  Friends (real ones, not just the Facebook type), relations, schoolmates, business partners, professional communities, causes and fan clubs...it's an infinity of overlaps.  Each of us is our own little Venn diagram, at the crux of multiple networks.

And they're social as in, personal.  Even when they're being used by workaday professional  types.  So while the lines between the at-large Web and the new, social Web, post-2.0, continue to blur, the user's perception of what is permissible and what is objectionable in those channels is still very personal.  

That means many of them are inherently resistant to spamming, to sales pitches.  Asking them to be a Facebook Friend for the sake of a coupon isn't creating loyalty.  

No matter how clever a direct response approach may seem when grafted onto social media marketing, it's the wrong tactic in the wrong place, squandering the potential value at hand.  

It's not about "spend out, sales in."  It's a patient bet, but a certain one.

Social media isn't about selling

Social isn't about just grabbing sales. It's not about targeting individuals or client companies at all, in fact. It's about generating tides of interest and buzz, about seeding connections by dealing with users authentically.  

Sales will result, thanks to buzz, earned loyalty, association, referral, lifetime value and reputation management.

But they won't happen instantly. Still, by sowing the seeds of a social conversation, a marketer earns the trust of social media users. Give it time, and they'll turn to you for a purchase because you've honored that relationship.

And they'll tell others how great you are, too.

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