Why Measuring Success Using Social Media Tools Isn’t Always Cut and Dried

Is there anything more cliche than using a tape measure as the graphic for this post?

At a recent event, I met with a wonderful woman who sells artisan crafted premium dried Italian sausage. She readily admitted that she wasn’t very technologically savvy, and that her primary use of Facebook was for Farmville (this after I’d just made a very disparaging remark about the game). She wants to roll out this new product and achieve national success in selling it. How would I help her plan for the human digital channel?

My first thoughts were that video content, mobile marketing, and email marketing would be her best bets. Face it: no one is sitting around on Twitter saying, “I really wish I had the best North Denver style dried sausage while watching this football game.”

And yet, here’s why Twitter or Google+ would be a good part of her plan. Relationships. Relationship building. Let me explain.

This dried sausage, especially the spicy variety that I sampled at the event, appeals to men more than women. It also is very salty and invites second bites. It also would go amazingly well with bourbon.

HOW TWITTER WARMS UP MY SLUSHY BAR FRIEND WHO CAN HELP

Bourbon as an industry makes its home in Kentucky. When I was fortunate enough to tour Maker’s Mark with the legendary Jason Falls, and I got my tour from the assistant master distiller Denny Potts himself, I learned that there are several bourbon distilleries in that region, and that touring these has become a growing business. They make bourbon in other parts of the world, but this is the big concentrated core of it all.

I know all of this because I met Jason via the social networking experience, and came to be a friend in real life. Because I know Jason and stay up to date with his comings and goings, and because I comment back and forth on his various postings, I’m comfortable asking Jason for an introduction to some of the spirits people in this region, so that I, in turn, can introduce this woman to them and so that she might open up a sales channel.

RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE NON-MEASURABLE EVENT

Twitter won’t track to sales of delicious small-batch spicy dried sausage made from the finest ingredients and using a generations-old recipe. It will, however, facilitate introductions and relationship-building that will lead to orders being placed.

YouTube videos might tip the scale on someone deciding whether or not to try this product. You, yourself, might be thinking, “Hmmm. I’m not sure the term ‘dried sausage’ sounds delicious.” Watching a video of a tasting event might change that opinion, especially if she dares to leave in a few people saying they don’t care for it for one reason or another. “It’s too salty for me,” a taster might say, and YOU might think, “I LOVE salty!”

Email marketing and mobile marketing might help some. Co-op marketing would definitely help, if she’s able to pair this with the bourbon experience, for instance. And these sorts of channel activities are measurable and can be tracked for return on investment.

But how will you track your relationship-building efforts? (Hint: you can, but it might feel weird). Instead of going onto Twitter and just randomly hitting the retweet button a few times and posting a few ads for your business, start thinking of this tool as another part of your relationship management efforts. And every time I say “Twitter,” replace that with Google+, Facebook, and maybe LinkedIn, depending on your industry and whether they’re especially active in updating.

GOOD SALESPEOPLE KEEP RELATIONSHIPS WARM

I dropped a line to Keith Ferrazzi, one of the most famous networking experts of our time, introducing him to Julien Smith. I felt no worry that I could make this introduction, because I stay fairly connected to Keith via his social media output. It lets me feel like I’m up to speed on what he’s been doing, plus it gives me the chance to promote his efforts when they seem interesting, and to comment on what he shares, to let him know I’m there.

I don’t need anything from Keith. I just value the relationship. It’s the same way I stay up to speed with Dan Pink and Dan Heath, and Charlie Green, and John Jantsch and Carrie Wilkerson, and all kinds of other people who I value and who I want to maintain good relationships with. It’s just a lot EASIER to do this via the social channels, and it promotes more opportunities to connect in other ways.

BUT WHAT IF WE STICK TO PURE MEASUREMENTS ONLY?

“What’s Twitter going to do to impact sales?” You might hear this when working with clients. At that point, it means you might not have cast the tool (and any of the social networks) in the best contexts. The human digital channel (the “people” part of the online world versus the “website” part) can most definitely be measured for sales activity, but if you’re looking at it as strictly a transaction tool and not a relationship-based selling component, that’s the problem.

In business, metrics matter. Make sure you account for both activities in your accounting. It will go far in setting expectations of desired results, plus it will guide activity chains that should lead to improved value. Don’t skip the hard numbers, but don’t jettison the soft value that lead to new avenues to gain more of said numbers.

Now, excuse me. I have to keep up with what Matt Ridings is doing (he obviously loves bourbon), and my friend Tim Hayden (master of mobile and experiential marketing), and Christopher Penn (marketing ninja and data wizard), and many more. Because I might find another artisan sausage maker who needs a relationship with someone who knows how to do much more than me, and I’m going to have to keep my relationships warm on Google+ and elsewhere.

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