Should Search Marketers Socialize Every Direct Response Solicitation?

link to aimclear TwitterShould direct marketers place Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and/or other buttons as part of the template for every email blast?   What about PPC landing pages? Should Twitter and Facebook be exit-options for every PPC landing page impression? How should advertisers think about socialization as either primary or secondary KPIs (key performance indicators A.K. A “goals.”)?

At first gape, these questions seem easy, yes?  “Of course, yes, socialize everything” you shout!”  “After all, isn’t the ‘net  all about social media these days?” How could it be wrong to ever consider omitting the all-powerful and ubiquitous social media click-me-now badges?

Caveat:  We understand that as social-trust augments and even partially supplants trust rank destroys previous personalized ranking factors, having influential tweeps and and wielding one’s own street cred’ is of paramount importance. This article is not about whether social media participation is important. Of course it’s important.

However when herding traffic to social KPIs, there can be implications in how other crucial KPIs are impacted,  serious analytic concerns and business decisions at hand.  There’s no one size fits all.  While it’s often a good decision to drive traffic from landing pages and email blasts with “follow me/friend me”  links, there a number of issues to consider–especially when socialization is not the primary KPI.  For the sake of clarity, let’s define secondary KPI:

“Secondary KPI” is an additional goal a) if the primary KPI is not reached or b) in addition to the primary goal.

Analytics & Outbound Links Exiting Directly to [Community]
(Third party social assets like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc..)

There are a few analytic problems to sort out, so we’re all on the same page. So far as tracking socialization as either a primary or secondary KPI directly from an email, how do you measure success exactly?  What are viable metrics to track the outbound click (from email or landing page ) directly to [Community]

  • First, we all know It’s fairly easy to track an outbound click directly to [Community] from an landing page or email. Google Analytics does not track exit clicks, in the form of destination URL, out of the box. It can be accomplished with a hack.  Most email platform analytics track outbound clicks and destinations by various methods. If technology is lacking, you can always tag outbound links to [Community] and use a script on a domain you track using redirects. Unfortunately tracking the outbound link is not enough data.
  • Once users get to  [Community], unless you own [Community], you can’t directly associate clicks from that email (or landing page) with behavior in  [Community] like fanning, grouping, sharing, signing up for an app’, any desired action, etc…How do you measure the KPI?
  • We must depend on less empirical, though somewhat effective correlation methods to track the ROI of direct links to [Community] from emails and landing pages.
  • We like this formula: (Exits to [Community] Per Day) Graphed to (Signups/Follows/other actions Per Day). We need to see a correlation of escalating traffic and Signup/Follows/Actions. Good testing can make this, otherwise speculative metric, useful. So far as the report all I personally need to see is lines lines moving from left to right on a graph.

  • Graphic email exit maps show how traffic bleed and spray effects conversion. Similarly analytic overlays illustrate how users click out from an HMTL page.  Show us on a chart  please. Does the traffic forsake the commercial funnel for the social click? Is that the desired action for the page? Are we bleeding conversions?

  • 13 different exit options are nice in a pretty HTML email, but doesn’t one of the paths have more value unless the email is about general branding? If not, should one path  be designated as the primary KPI?  We market for a reason usually. Sometimes good marketing is about removing customers’ options. Herd them like sheep we say.
  • If selling or hard-core marketing is the KPI, we often advise that client’s insure that “being social” is always the secondary KPI, so long you can prove it does not distract from the primary conversion. Sometimes putting the links to [Community] should be on the thank-you.php page or on the next page in sequence IF users don’t convert.
  • Sometimes it makes sense to sacrifice conversions for happy social BFF pals, but make that decision intentional, data driven and based on real business priorities.
  • Never underestimate the value of conversations and making friends. To this author’s mind, socialization should nearly always be, at minimum, a secondary KPI.

Our General Rules:

  • I usually want to see traffic I pay for go to a landing on a site I control first, even if it’s from a little Facebook button in an email or landing page.  I don’t own Facebook and ultimately we can’t control it, only work in harmony. The exception is when socializing is the primary KPI. In that scenario it can make sense to cut down on click-count to primary conversion. All the normal caveats regarding the limitations of tracking behavior in third party sites apply.
  • Should there be Facebook buttons in every email? Right! Of course there should be…That’s easy to say right? Not…I.M.H.O. sometimes we should place buttons, even much of the time… but not all the time.
  • When we do place buttons, consider herding traffic to our feed or landing page, which prompt  FB savvy visitors to login using FacebookConnect.  Then they’re already logged in with a few clicks.
  • Sometimes email blasts and landing pages are rather guerrilla in their intent, with immediate, even difficult financial objectives. Saying that we should “always” point them to Facebook like saying there should “always” be PPC,  “always” be Press Releases or always be in Forums, etc…That’s not a mature approach as these sorts of absolutes ignore other business considerations.
  • Is the real question here is what are you doing with the Facebook friends you already have? Are they engaged? What’s do their offpage engagement metrics look like? What percentage of buzz surrounding certain content is on site, on page, off site, where, how often, when, who…and how influential is that “who” guy anyway?

Not many humans are social 24/7, nor should marketers be. We’ve even had times where we recommended a nice tight little email/landing page funnel that, instead of spraying traffic in general (albeit good) directions all over the Internet, we supply fewer options to focus.  Honestly dude, sometimes we just don’t have time, inclination or money to be social :).

Can’t Squeeze Social Blood
This is especially true when a marketer is engaging in activities which barely have associated analogies in physical life.  For instance, there are no gigantic “Laundromat” analogy-applications on Facebook because real people actually tend to be disengaged and separate when washing clothes in public. Go figure…

Social Media Mirrors Physical life. As I think about it, there are very few analogies in physical life that line up with “Download $2 Walmart Coupon.”  Ok, maybe some guy wearing sandwich boards or a leaflet temp’ in Times Square. Sure their occupation is noble but we don’t ever end up…umm….hanging out, hooking up, you get it.

Coupon clipping in physical life is cool but humans don’t tend to physically congregate around the theme. Does this mean that it’s not a good idea to connect with customers at any given time…like while purveying coupons? Nope. It’s usually a great idea to make friends.

Should marketers attempt to socialize every single impression in any channel? Or, are there sometimes compelling reasons to avoid impacting the conversion funnel? There are so many channels, it’s hard to imagine that it’s always appropriate to place those link to Facebook and Twitter.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge advocate and participant in social media.  Our agency has a humbling roster of SMO (social media optimization) clients, who inspire the hell out of us. SMO is crucial, especially at the intersection SEO.

One thing for sure, there’s “no one-size-fits-all” policy.  Let’s test and push the social envelope. Let’s always remember to place our customers in a well laid funnel, ask for the money and be careful where we fragment the objectives, for any reason.

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