Marketers and communication professionals alike agree that social media is here to stay. Facebook and Twitter have proven to be an effective tool to reach a targeted audience and to engage in a conversation that’s relative and important to business, often resulting in an impactful ROI.
However, there’s one social media channel that all too often is overlooked. I don’t know if it’s because we associate it with our own personal brand, but with more than 200 million users, LinkedIn is an often underutilized resource for B2B marketing.
If you haven’t already engaged in a LinkedIn influence campaign—think about this:
Access to a Targeted, Engaged Audience
Who are you trying to reach? As PR practitioners we hear it all the time: “We want to reach human resource professionals, dentists, surgeons, building property managers, we need a Facebook page!” Wrong. Facebook is a great resource to reach consumers, but not the most effective at influencing strategic business level decisions.
LinkedIn is the biggest professional social network in the world; the Group space within the network creates a forum for colleagues to exchange best practices with industry experts and is a prime platform to exchange ideas and information for marketers. For example, a quick group search on LinkedIn for “human resources” shows more than 3,800 groups with thousands of members and active discussions. It’s an easy opportunity to directly engage with a target audience.
Bolster Your Image
Before you engage first make sure your own LinkedIn page is up to snuff. Are you following relevant third party groups, or industry organizations? Are your employees following you? Your own page is a perfect platform to develop expertise and thought leadership. Create a weekly/biweekly editorial strategy, identify relevant topics and trends and have several different employees post a discussion to engage followers. Remember, it’s not a one-way street, be sure to monitor what’s being said with other groups and chime in.
How do I know it’s working? When communicating with different audiences, include a bit.ly or Google URL tracker to allow for trackable/measureable results. This will permit you to see how many people clicked on the information and if your message is resonating. For example, if your business has an annual award and you’d like to drive nominations, tracking your group discussion posts makes for an easy way to see which group is engaged and interested in the award and furthermore, which of your messages is resonating with them. Be sure to mix it up, post at different times with different messages, rather than using the same message.
Don’t Be a Quitter
Like all social media programs, it takes time and consistent engagement to see results. With a strong strategy in place, active engagement, a clear direction, goals, objectives and a touch of patience, you’ll be a LinkedIn groupie before you know it. And you’ll even have measurable results to support your latest addiction.
This quote appears more than 16 million times on a Google search. The meaning is clear, but there is a hidden piece of wisdom that many people overlook: You won’t know it is a journey of a thousand miles, unless you measure it. And it sure helps if you measure from the beginning, rather than after things are done. (Just ask any NFL referee).
PR pros (and their executives) want to understand the effectiveness of their PR campaigns, yet too often PR pros don’t look to measure until the end of the campaign. This is a recipe for disaster. There is no silver bullet for PR measurement. But the following are two things every marketer, PR pro and corporate executive needs to remember.
If you don’t test your message and set a benchmark in the beginning, you will:
A) Likely conduct a campaign that doesn’t get the full results you could hope for, and... B) Scramble at the end to show how much you have grown. Particularly if it comes to social media where many tracking tools are time limited.
The Barcelona Principles gives a great framework for measuring PR activities. They look at outcomes rather than outputs. But even they miss a few things. We have to challenge conventional wisdom, and invest in benchmarking prior to starting PR campaigns. More companies are doing it, but there is still room for improvement. Allocating 5-10% of the overall budget for measurement and benchmarking will do wonders for designing a measurable, effective program.
We need to know where we started from in order to know where we are going. It’s why Google Maps needs both a starting point and a destination. Without our current address, it’s really tough to navigate the right route, let alone go 1,000 miles. Just like Google Maps gives us multiple routes, there is no one true metric. Use the budget for testing your assumptions, making sure it tracks to business results and avoids the "thud factor".
Don’t be seduced by shiny measurement reports. There are dozens of vendors out there selling PR measurement dashboards. They present things as bubbles, waves, spokes, wheels and clouds. Dashboards are useful and essential tools, but never forget Insight matters more than dashboards.
Quantitative measurement without insight frequently misses the boat. Site visits may go down, but did it occur when your customers had lost power? Your competitor increased their followers more than you, but who were they? Research shows Message A had the most resonance, but did it resonate with your top target audience? "Why" is the most important question in PR measurement.
And please, please stop using Ad Value Equivalency and Multiples. In 40 years of PR research, neither has been proven accurate. Let’s measure what matters and what helps.
At the risk of using an Olympic metaphor one month too late, public relations has evolved into two forms of running. Social media is the sprinter, or Usain Bolt, and traditional media relations is Meb Keflezighi (if you know who he is), or the marathoner.
Social media is a world of short bursts in which you can largely control the narrative. With 140 character tweets, three paragraph blog posts and spontaneous Facebook and LinkedIn campaigns, it’s possible to create the exact message you want to reach the exact audience at the exact time. If you can drive and control your campaign the way a sprinter rockets down his assigned 100 meters of space on a smooth precise track, you will win.
Media relations doesn’t work this way. You don’t have the control like you do with social media. Just like in a marathon where the weather and the course are as important as the competition, the success of a media relations campaign is not solely based on the quality of your narrative. It is impacted by outside factors such as a reporter’s subjective interest in the story, a larger competitor’s news trumping yours or last second external events that occupy the media agenda for days on end. You also must rely on outside parties like customer references and outside experts to tell your story, in the same way that a marathoner is dead without electrolytes and PowerBars. The campaign cycle for media relations is also a much longer process; results don’t happen overnight. It requires patience, endurance and flexibility, and to never give up until it is over.
Olympic sprinters and marathoners must specialize; endurance is useless to a sprinter and blinding speed is relevant for only the last 10 meters of a marathon. Companies however, must develop and execute a strategic social media and media relations campaign if they are going to win the gold medal of customer awareness that drives adoption.
Data breaches, viruses and cyber attacks occur daily and can be small nuisances to the affected companies, or can result in devastating consequences. Earlier this month, LinkedIn confirmed that nearly 6.4 million user passwords had been stolen. And in May, the Flame Cyber Espionage malware was identified. For data security companies, these incidents provide an opportunity for organizations to share their advice and best practices for thwarting these types of data breaches and cyber attacks. Connecting with the media to get your message out can be tricky, especially when there’s not a moment to waste. In our Tangled Web security blog, Schwartz MSL Vice President Bill Keeler highlights the five key steps for creating a rapid response program, connecting with the media and getting your voice heard.
More and more, I find myself defending the power of the telephone to persuade people. Have you ever had every committed attendee to a Facebook event invite actually show up for the physical event? I haven't.
Oftentimes, we marketers forget that while we are using Facebook and other social media channels to drive action, Facebook engagement and other social media channels might not be persuasive enough to actually drive action. Consider a recent political campaign I was involved in.
Friends of mine were supporting a group of candidates that hoped to become delegates to a national political convention. To earn a spot, they needed to be elected at a caucus, which is like a town-meeting style gathering of voters. Given the candidates and their supporters (namely, us) had nice social media audiences on Twitter and Facebook, and correspondingly elevated klout scores, this seemed like a natural case for using social media to drive a crowd.
But there was one big problem. The "ask" we were making was pretty significant. We were asking our friends to get out of bed on a nice Saturday morning, drive in their cars for up to thirty minutes to sit in a warm room for an extended period of time. All to cast a vote to send someone to a convention far, far away-- and a long time in the future.
While the likes and positive comments rushed in on Facebook, it took phone calls and personal contact to get people to attend. And in a significant percentage of cases, even those who confirmed on the phone didn't show up.
I have created an index that matches a required level of marketing interaction to specific actions or outcomes from a target audience. I call it the "get off the couch" index. It maps an escalating level of action (from liking on Facebook to physically attending an event) to an escalating level of engagement (from a Facebook ask to in-person persuasion with a reward). My index will be tinkered along the way, but for now, the relationship I have plotted is quite linear.
As B2B marketers, B2B content marketers, and tech PR professionals, we need to constantly be thinking about whether our ask, and the channel we are using to make the ask, is appropriate given the response we'd like to see. It should be a strongly considered variable when evaluating the success of an overall effort. Why didn't we get people to come to the event we hosted at a tradeshow? Maybe it was because for that particular outcome, Facebook engagement wasn't really the best vehicle for rallying a crowd.
I know when I host a party, I call people to remind them of the time and place and what to bring. I just don't want to be embarrassed. We need to apply that same logic to our professional lives as well.
The opinions expressed via “Wait A Minute” are of the authors and not necessarily of Schwartz MSL or MSLGROUP.
Wait A Minute is a weekly, multimedia series providing 60 second insights, analysis and suggestions on how to approach and manage today’s PR, marketing and communications challenges. Wait A Minute is published on "Crossroads," one of Schwartz MSL's blogs.
Schwartz MSL Boston Senior Vice President, Ross Levanto, kicks off the series with advice about identifying the right communication channels for the desired result.