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May 16, 2013

How is Social Media Maturing?

Lane Douglas, principal at MarketBridge // Photo by Adam Leposa
Lane Douglas, principal at MarketBridge // Photo by Adam Leposa

The Ataway Exchange closed out with a look at social media and how increasingly sophisticated metrics are allowing marketers to finally bring the medium to maturity.

Lane Douglas, principal at MarketBridge, took the stage in the closing presentation to discuss how marketers can use more relevant metrics to measure themselves in social media.

Douglas compared travel's experience with measuring social media thus far with his ill-fated attempt to learn golf. In his first game, his friends encouraged him to "just get the ball to the whole in the fewest strokes possible." While this approach served him well on his first course, when he tried to play on a more advanced course with better players he discovered a host of contributing factors he had missed: hazards, wind, club selection and time of day. Needless to say, this game did not go as well.

"As far as I'm concerned, social marketing is a lot like this," Douglas said. "There's social marketing for amateurs, and then there's social marketing for professionals. On the amateur side, it's just about getting more likes, getting more followers, just have fun. But on the professional side there are a ton of other things we have to have our eyes on if we're going to know how we're doing."

To help measure social media MarketBridge has developed the concept called the Social Quotient, which tracks a brand's social media performance and breaks that performance down into nine categories for further study, Douglas said.

A mature measurement of social media takes into account the fact that the metrics  social media networks use by default are subject to change, Douglas said. For example, over the past three years Facebook alone has changed "fans" to "likes" and also introduced "subscribers," only to change that metric to "followers." According to Douglas, these changes can cause problems for a company's reporting because they detract from the consistency of the reports.

Maturity in social media also means paying close attention to context, particularly within a travel brand's competitive set - it's not just about comparing every social media presence to Justin Bieber.

Douglas described a study MarketBridge did for the U.S. Virgin Islands that shows the importance of context to understanding a brand's social media presence. "If you just look at Facebook likes, Cancun seems to be killing it," he said. "But the USVI wins out in brand sentiment, which meant that we were specifically looking at people having conversations around planning weddings, honeymoons and vacations, and what they were mentioning as part of the planned destination."

Sentiment is more important than simple metrics such as likes, Douglas said, because it's a better measure of whether or not potential customers are talking about you. "It's about how high is that sentiment around the product, and do you really want to sacrifice that with seven back-to-back sweepstakes giving away iPads?" he asked. "Do those people like you or your iPads?"

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About the Author: Adam Leposa





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