Welcome back to aimClear’s continuing coverage of #SESCHI 2010! A common (& quite useful) tactic online marketing pros often share with total social media n00bz is “listen to your audience.” When companies first dip their toes into Facebook, Twitter & other social media watering holes, it is a logical & advantageous first step to simply be among your target audience… to sit back and absorb  the conversations they start & those to which they contribute, whether or not they directly revolve around your brand. Understanding targets’ behavior & social networking trends serves companies well when they begin soft-touches via thoughtful engagement… but beyond listening to & befriending potential customers, the deeper & overarching goal of a brand’s social media marketing presence is just that… marketing.

For social media masters looking to sharpen their marketing chops, the Beyond Listening-Establishing & Hitting Metrics with Social Media session at Search Engine Strategies Chicago was not-to-be-missed. Loren Baker, VP of Social Media Strategies / Managing Partner of BlueGlass Interactive, Inc. saddled up to deliver a solo-preso, packed with useful tactic for establishing, achieving & measuring social media goals & techniques for assigning a dollar amount to friends, followers & fans. aimClear live-tweeted this session (via @beebow)… read on for a full write-up.

Social Media: More Than Mere Numbers
Loren starts out by emphasizing the fact that social media is more than just a numbers game… that is, it’s more than building your number of fans & followers. Deep marketers know social media is much more than a popularity contest. Similarly, each social media channel represents different goals & opportunities… set social media goals accordingly, & establish a long term, solid strategy.

Key takeaway: focusing on hitting you follower/fan # can overshadow business growth & long term goals. Don’t lose sight of the KPIs you establish at the start of your social media campaign.

Where Should You Set Up Social-Shop?
Don’t try to navigate the gazillions of social media channels that exist. Pick the ones where your audience clearly has a presence, where they are active, and where they are likely to find value from your branded content. In the same vein, be mindful that each social channel is rather different as are the ways in which its members interact. Therefore, you should work to establish channel-specific goals rather than broad, generic goals. Loren also warns not to
put all of your social media eggs in one basket. Don’t invest a gazillion dollars & hours in one specific channel because… what happens when that platform folds?

Social media goals must consider search engine optimization… links, rankings, metrics, human traffic, etc. But that doesn’t change the basic indicators of social media success. Loren explained that generating & syndicating social media content (blogs, tweets, FB content, video) can result in conversions, branding, likes, RTs and other social indicators of the loyalty of your community.

The Value Metrics of Viral Marketing & Links That Matter
Some viral material can get 50k-100k views in a day with thoughtfully executed  cross-channel pollination. Social media site links are okay, but social news aggregators like Digg, Reddit & StumbleUpon can influence bloggers & the press.

Why is this more substantial?

  • A blog post covering your social media content is new content compared to an RT…
  • And the links therein (hopefully pointing to your content or your website) are natural & organic, not to mention viewed & clicked by humans….
  • And all that diverse linking from a wide variety of unique domains & IPs builds a nice natural incoming link portfolio (hello, SEO!)…
  • And then you can, in the glow of such awesome social exposure, harness the number of positive votes (Diggs, Stumbles), retweets, ratings, RSS subscribers and shares your site and translate the engagement into sales!

“Yes, viral linkbait is still valuable,” Loren emphasized… “if not more valuable than ever.”

An Unassuming & Awesome Case Study
Loren’s company promoted infographic on a finance site’s blog in Oct 2010. Mmmm… finance. Sexy. Sharable. </Sarcasm>.

But! After promoting this infographic…

  • It hit the Digg frontpage 2x for a combined total of 900+ Diggs
  • Those Diggs sent 75k unique users from various social news aggregators to the site
  • Link portfolio showed 700+ links / recommends on FB
  • 500+ retweets
  • Over 850 inbound links from various sources, blogs, aggregators
  • The infographic was covered by Mashable, WSJ, Redmond Pie & 10 other newspaper blogs
Cherry on top: the site saw triple-digit growth in their RSS subscribers. Now that’s sexy. That means that not only did people “like” the content, they signed up to get more content on a regular basis.

Another cherry on top: the piece of content was cleverly named with optimized keywords, so every time it was shared, the keywords were there, doing what well-optimized keywords do: rock ass.

Um… another cherry on top: the original post on the finance site’s blog brought in over 75 comments. Considering the post was a couple of paragraphs surrounding that infographic, those comments were basically the equivelent of 25x the content to the original piece. By letting people comment on the blog, the client basically crowd-sourced/out-sourced content creation for the piece. Oh yeah. Definitely sexy.

The Value of True Twitter Followers
An obvious Twitter metric is the number of followers you have. But with Twitter especially, it’s so totally about quality over quantity.  Maybe you have 4,824,938 followers… (maybe you even bought them… ) it doesn’t mean anything if they’re bots or irrelevant people.

“I would rather have 100 Twitter followers who are extremely relevant,” Loren said, “than have 10,000 who are not.” Way to go, man. Way to go.

Other Signs of Twitter Engagement:

  • Retweets – how many followers pass your message forward (& therefore, endorse it!)
  • Click-throughs – interest in content, can lead to referrals & sales!

Fearing, Revering & Leveraging The Power of Facebook
Loren began by professing his admiration for the social network. “I love Facebook,” he admitted, “…I see Facebook staying around much longer than Twitter.” He then moved into predictions for the future of FB: “I think with Facebook we’re going to see what everyone thought we were going to see 10 years ago when AOL & TimeWarner partnered. I think we’re looking at a monster…It’s still in it’s infancy, but Facebook’s growth is substantial, even compared to Google.”

Facebook Metrics Beyond… Facebook
The integration of Facebook & Microsoft that’s unfolded over the last few weeks has resulted in “likes” & FB interests impacting a form of personalized search in Bing. So it beings… Microsoft owns 1.6% of Facebook and Bing powers Facebook search. Loren says we should expect more integration of Bing into FB & vice versa… also that Bing will likely become to search engine of choice for hardcore Facebookers.

Facebook Admin Features & Functionality

  • Facebook administrator services have begun letting webmasters connect with people who like or recommend individual posts or stories.
  • Facebook Page Admins have access to metrics/insights, dislikes, & the ability to add / remove admins.
    • Tracking page like/unlikes/subscribers/unsubscribes can help you better determine posting rate & content audience best responds to.

Facebook Metrics: Beyond the # of Fans
While the quality & quantity of your Facebook fans surely matters, there are so many metrics to consider…

  • sales
  • coupon downloads
  • relevant wall posts (speaking of quality, if you notice fans spamming your wall, DESTROY THEM!)
  • fan photo submissions
  • advertising (what is the CPM of the FB referral? Loren says the “Facebook CPM model = the never-ending revenue generating machine!”)

Foursquare & Physical Metrics
Geo-tagging social networks are not to be discounted. These sites often carry more physical metrics because they revolve around physical locations.

  • Brand level control tracking on how many people  have checked into specific locations
  • Ability to track foot traffic with coinciding promotions on the network
  • 4sq allows users to compete socially to be awarded badges or special discounts for mayorship…which increases branding

The Beauty Of Blogger Outreach
“I love blogger outreach,” said Loren, “and I love guest blogging.” Us too! He went on to explain that because of blogger outreach, you can get influencers blogging about your business, products, services, etc. A lot of  blogs are out there looking for something to write about. Hook up with them 🙂 . It’s a win-win. Psst… did you know Mashable & TechCrunch accept guest blogs? Many thanks to Loren for that gem. What have you got to lose? Contact their editors. Don’t spam them. Befriend them, & try to get a slot!

Guest Blogging Benefits
“Guest blogging means getting heard!” explained Loren. “Guest blogging is better than paid advertising, better than paid linking, better than running display advertising!” Hooray guest blogging!

  • Guest blog posts are the best “indirect” way to reach thousands of social media users. Mashable gets a bajillion RTs & shares on Facebook. Guest blog for them & reap what’s almost guaranteed to be tons more social media lovin’ than you’d get on your own.
  • Guest blogging provides your brands with a great opportunity to start an open dialog with customers based on who RTs it.
  • Blogs aren’t a 1-way conversation between the blogger & commenter. If you’ve been mentioned in a post by another blogger, jump in the comment thread & chat!

Blogger Outreach Metrics

  • backlinks
  • pageranks of pages that link to you
  • Diggs, FB shares, RTs, etc.

Social Media Sentiment: Good vs. Evil
Social media conversations cut two ways… people can love you & sing your brand’s praises. On the flip side, people can be talking total crap about you. This is where some brands get hung up on investing in social media in the first place. But letting that fear overpower participation in a happenin’ channel is nonsensical! Why?

The conversations are happening whether or not you’re in that social space, whether or not you’re even aware of them. It’s your job to be aware of them. You have the power to listen in on these conversations, the good & the bad. Monitor brand-chatter closely and take the appropriate action. Thank people who are singing your praises. Work with people who’ve got gripes about  your new product. Sometimes it’s not even about positive or negative comments- sometimes, it’s a question about your company one friend is asking another. You can jump in & answer their questions. Whatever course of action you choose, you should at least be aware of the chatter.

(There are a suite of robust social media monitoring tools that can help you aggregate, consume & understand the conversations happening online… Radian 6Trackur, & Sysomos to name a few).

Loren recommended we develop a workflow management plan that details what to do when your brand-conversation radar goes off. It’s always good to know who is responsible to respond to complaints, accolates, questions, spammers.. and moreover, how they should respond.

Closing with one seems-like-a-no-brainer-but-so-many-brands-lose-sight-of-this-awesome-opportunity nugget of advice, Loren pointed out “if you ask questions on your Facebook fan page rather than publish statements, you’ll get a lot more engagement.” Beautiful, no?

Loren totally rocked the 60 minutes at his disposal, leaving the audience with some seriously awesome tips for establishing, hitting & tracking social media metrics… you know, stuff serious marketers should care about. Stay tuned on aimClear blog for more coverage of #SESCHI & live-tweet coverage from Lindsay (@lindsaylorraine), Alyssa (@aengleson) & your truly (@beebow).