Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on BradLawless.com last week.
Almost every day we have discussions with clients (brands and retailers) at Collective Bias about the best way to measure success in content and blog marketing. Many ask us to have community members insert trackable links into their content so the client can measure some type of conversion (a like, follow, or hopefully a sale.)
We’re starting to see, however, that consumer interaction with social content just doesn’t work this way.
Socially powered content marketing is all about relationships. Relationships are fuzzy things not easily categorized or tracked, but they have tremendous power. Relationships connect us to loved ones and create opportunities to discover new things. As my friend Ted Rubin likes to say, social media and content marketing are more about the Return on Relationship™ (ROR) than Return on Investment (ROI).
Think about your interaction with friends and family in your everyday life. You have a conversation about something interesting. Maybe it’s a new product available in stores. Maybe it’s a new service like a car wash or a accountant. The item in question really doesn’t matter. What does matter is the action you take next — which is really no action at all.
When we hear about something new from offline friends, we rarely hop in our car and run to the store to buy it. Instead, we file that information away for future reference and look for the item the next time we find ourselves at the store.
The same thing happens online. When I hear about something new and cool from an online friend or trusted blogger, I rarely whip out my credit card and buy it on the spot. I think about it. When I later decide to buy, I’ll go straight to the retailer web site or search for the product name rather than going back to the blog post where I first discovered it.
In that scenario, I never click a link the brand can track back to social content, but that content still did its job. It made me aware of the product. It showed me how people like me use it in real life, and convinced me that I’d like to buy it, too.
Online marketing has built its entire ROI model on click tracking from the early days of display banners to the ubiquitous use of URL shorteners today, but those days are coming to an end. Industry trends like Microsoft’s implementation of Do Not Track functionality in Internet Explorer 10 will make tracking clicks that much harder.
Click tracking will still have a place in a brand’s value equation, but it’s only one piece of of a much bigger formula. We’ve seen a correlation time and again between increased share of voice for a brand and retail sales. Get more people talking — really talking and engaging with your brand — and you will see sales increase. To truly understand the value of social content, brands need to analyze the quality of their online engagements, their overall conversational volumes and match those to their sales.
People like things they can measure, and click tracking provides a level of comfort. We can count clicks. We can also count Fans and Followers. Each of those numbers by themselves are just that — numbers devoid of meaning.
When you choose to engage your fans, reach out to your followers and connect with them in meaningful ways that provide value to their lives and yours, you will finally begin to crack the code to the enigmatic relationship value equation.
** Photo used with permission under Creative Commons License by Jeferonix.