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Clicks Vs Conversations – The Marketers Dilemma on Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing is taking off and a clear sign is the number of agencies and companies offering services around it. Though I belong to the evangelist side of social media marketing i.e. we also offer social media marketing (SMM) services but after interacting with many marketers Ive started to understand their dilemma when it comes to judging the effectiveness of a social media marketing campaign. This post will try and throw some light upon that dilemma which i call as clicks vs conversations.

Still Living in the CPC (Cost per click) Era?

Lots of marketers still look at clicks as a metric to measure the effectiveness of any campaign online. I guess its got to do more with the revolutionary adwords model of google which shifted the metric for online advertising from CPM to CPC and made it far more measurable and accountable than any other medium.

Does CPC work for SMM?

Social Media Marketing entails engaging with users on social media sites like blogs, social networks, video and picture community portals, knowledge sharing communities like qna’s and wikipedia etc. While engaging with users the goal is the following:

1) Identification of Audience ( Analysis of Social Media Channels and identifying your target audience – TG)

2) Spreading Awareness (this could be for a brand, company, products or events.. basically whatever requires social media marketing from the clients end)

3) Creating Engagement (Involving the TG in a conversation which could be topical, industry oriented or issues that concerns the brand i.e. basically befriending the TG)

4) Propagating Evangelism

(Recruiting evangelists. Recruiting here doesn’t stand for formal recruitment it stands for identification of those users that will drive the brand message to others and making sure they are rewarded with either a title i.e. group moderator etc or there is an end benefit in notional terms i.e. I helped spread awareness on aids or I was having more information than my friends on a certain topic.)

5) End Result Viral Impact (Social Media Marketing efforts should have a ripple effect which in turn becomes buzz or viral)

Now as you would notice in the above process it doesn’t matter whether how many clicks (infact its very difficult to track clicks as well as they coul come 1 month later after you had the conversation) did the user do or whether or not he visited the site what matters is how many conversations took place that were meaningful. Because if the conversations were meaningful word would spread and eventually there would be a buzz impact.

Short term Vs Longterm

Also with the on-off capability of the web marketers patience with building awareness is very limited. For example the google ads on any ads on the web can be turned on and off almost instantaneously. But the social media marketing campaign is unlike these normal ads that can be placed on a google or rediff homepage. Its not an on and off campaign instead its a gradual scale up exercise that require far more strategy input and qualitative execution than a click and upload banner does.

Conclusion: On the whole marketers are caught between the ROI metrics of the traditional online marketing campaigns where clicks are of prime importance and conversations are close to zero. But with social media coming to the party and with marketers and companies alike indulging in it I think conversations/engagement as a metric to judge campaign effectiveness will be given more emphasis in the future.

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