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Anyone who tells you a tweet is worth a specific amount of money is wrong. One source will tell you a tweet is worth 1/10th of a cent and another will tell you it's worth $5. A Facebook Like, meanwhile, is valued from $8 to $137.84. With figures varying so wildly it's easy to see this can't be a reliable measurement because the number is inevitably based on opinion.

When you consider this premise, it’s not surprising that many brands aren’t getting the engagement they had hoped to see from social. According to ExactTarget, 51 percent of fans say they rarely or never visit a company’s page after “liking” them. And 71 percent of fans say they have become more selective about “liking” companies on Facebook.

Instead of focusing solely on Likes and Tweets and assigning arbitrary monetary values on them, marketers are better off building a multifaceted approach to understand the relative value of a social action to your brand's unique goals and objectives.

Beyond the “Like”

Focusing on the number of your brand’s Twitter followers or Facebook “Likes” is only measuring your brand in one dimension. This isn't to say your brand's Facebook fans or Twitter followers aren't valuable; rather, they're just one measure of your brand's success in the social space. A like is a one-time interaction your customer makes with you, you want to have an ongoing conversation with your customers and get beyond the Like.

To do this your brand needs to think about what goals you have and what actions in the social space will help you reach those goals. Do you want to encourage your fans to be brand advocates?  Do you want them to try another product in your lineup? Do you want them to review your products? Are you trying to learn more about who your customers are?

Focusing your social media efforts within the context of individual brand goals will allow you to build incentives to drive engagement well beyond a one-time Like. Additionally, how you quantify the success of your social media strategy will largely depend on those goals.

Look to traditional loyalty programs as a guide

While your social campaign should have specific goals laid out, social media is a natural driver of brand loyalty so looking at traditional loyalty programs serves as a solid guide.

Loyalty programs are everywhere, from credit card point systems to Buy Ten Get One Free cards from your local coffee shop. Though they vary in application, they are all based on the same successful premise: create a currency to motivate a behavior (buying that brand more, using that credit card, etc.) and then provide a reward when that action is completed. 

The biggest difference between a traditional loyalty program and a social loyalty program is what they're competing to obtain. Traditional loyalty is competing for the customer's wallet and social loyalty is competing for the customer's time, which leads them down the path to purchase.

Simply asking for "Likes" to encourage brand engagement is like using a simple Buy 10 Coffees Get 1 Free punch card to encourage your customers to try a new sandwich. You're selling more coffee which is great but you're not incenting your customer to try the sandwich potentially growing the business. Your punch card needs to include an incentive to drive your consumer to give your sandwiches a try, offering a free coffee in exchange for buying a sandwich will help you accomplish that goal. If you want more than a Like for your brand, you have to offer something more in return to steer your customers in that direction.

Creating your own social currency

Okay, so defining brand goals and determining what social behaviors will help reach those goals is the way to move beyond the Like. Traditional Loyalty has shown us how to build brand loyalty and drive behavior. Now marketers have to determine how to reward the social actions they want to encourage in order to reach brand goals.

This is where you start to work out the value of your social actions with your own social currency based on your program’s specific goals. No, we're still not looking for a dollar amount, we're looking at what it takes to incentivize your consumers to take the actions you want them to in order to reach your established goals.

Kirkland's offers an excellent illustration of this process in action. Their social loyalty promotion gives the user several polls, questions, quizzes, and instant wins among other activities to choose from to encourage time with the brand. As an example, answering a poll will give the user 2 sweepstakes entries per week. A higher value action can get the user 5 sweepstakes entries a day by taking the Gift Guide Personality Test.

Once you’ve outlined and prioritized the goals, there are a few important factors to keep in mind:

  1. Ensure that each corresponding consumer action is rewarded and measured based on the level of importance within your goals. For example, if your most important goal is to collect consumer reviews, your brand should offer the best incentive when a follower provides that content. Similarly, that action should be assigned the highest value from a measurement perspective. Setting values for social actions in the framework of a brand initiative and goal will bring objectivity to your program and create an effective eco-system for an action/incentive model.
  2. Consider the ease to the consumer, the consumer/brand relationship cannot be one-sided. More difficult actions will need to be scored higher and consumers should be given a better incentive to motivate the action. If a brand goal is to drive purchases, asking consumers to part with their money is going to take a higher incentive. If the brand goal is to drive awareness, asking a customer to retweet a message will have a lower incentive than asking your consumer to create a video submission. Answering a one question survey is easier than answering a 20 question survey. You get it. The easier the action, the smaller the reward.
  3. As you build out the social currency system, keep the frequency of action in mind. Social actions that can be done repeatedly should have a lower value incentive because of the potential liability of overuse. If your program says you can submit an unlimited number of Tweets each day, the value attributed to those actions will necessarily be smaller to prevent your consumers from collecting too many points too quickly and bankrupting your loyalty economy.

Assigning point values to actions in social is a game that requires marketers to find the right balance between brand goals, consumer engagement and budgeted resources. Start small and you’ll find that you’ll get better results over time.

Practice makes perfect

To recap, don’t waste your time using formulas to come up with a blanket method to determining social success. This isn't a one size fits all proposition. You’ll be much better off considering your specific brand goals and creating a system that drives those goals home. 

Matthew Kates

Published 13 February, 2013 by Matthew Kates

Matt Kates is Vice President, Strategic Services at HelloWorld and is a contributor to Econsultancy.

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