Ric Dragon is CEO of DragonSearch, a digital marketing services and consulting agency. In 2012, Profit Online ran a Q&A with Dragon on Social Marketology, his award-winning book on best practices for creating the right social media strategy.
We asked members of Profit’s LinkedIn group to ask Dragon their question about social media. Readers turned in questions about social media marketing tools, the pros and cons of particular strategies, and the right path for a career in social media strategy.
Here are Dragon’s answers to a selection of their questions. To participate in future Q&As with Profit contributors, join our LinkedIn group.
Q: I am trying to figure out which path works out better in terms of generating leads: Facebook ad to landing page to content marketing to sales lead, or Facebook ad to Facebook tab to sales lead. How does a product strategy team decide between them?
A: The answer to this is going to vary depending on your audience/customers, your products/services, and how people may connect or not connect with what you're putting out there. The advantage to driving traffic from a Facebook ad back to your Facebook content is that when a visitor connects with you on Facebook, you can continue to share meaningful content with them on an ongoing basis. On the other hand, there has been a marked decrease in how much page content is getting in front of page followers on Facebook. That would suggest that if your landing page content is really hot, you might very well be able to forge that ongoing relationship on your own website.
Use thought leadership and content marketing to reach the critical influencers. Then, use values-based social interactions with the appropriate communities to create a strong constituency of end users.
In either case, I wouldn't advocate for creating too tight of a funnel. In other words, I'm more interested in the visitor agreeing to a relationship by following us on Facebook or subscribing to our content, whereupon we can continue to provide them with valuable content over time. Getting a portion of those relationships to become sales leads will be a function of the value of the content and calls to action.
Q: Is it easier to measure return on investment (ROI) than it used to be? What are some new tools marketers can use to know if their social strategy is working?
A: Marketing executives at all levels of business are still struggling with this. Even in organizations where they have pretty tight models, I'm seeing some fuzziness. The factors at play are incredibly complex, and include an understanding of how social can play a role in marketing lift, advocacy, total-lifetime-value, risk mitigation, and so on. At one large global information technology company, for example, the executives have some of the best models for value tracking around. They know, for instance, that a Facebook fan spends a lot more with the company than the non-Facebook fan. But they don't really know if that's because the customer is a fan, or if higher tech spenders are more apt to engage with the brand in social media.
ROI also has to exist within a time frame. Do I have ROI over one or two years? A lot of the value created by social media is embodied in longer-term brand equity. Of course, there can be a point where you need a certain amount of transactions to happen in the budgeting time, period, and you need to understand the impact social has on the bottom line. Part of the marketing executive's job will be to communicate the larger value picture, and to draw correlations where possible.
Many organizations have been creating scorecards. At the global IT company I mentioned, for instance, they map out three major components: footprint, engagement, and financial impact. In the last part, they're looking for any transaction where they can show that they purchaser was touched by their social media.
By designing a scorecard that’s specific to your organization, you can get buy-in from executives on what assumptions can be tolerated or not, and how the discussion will be framed.
Q: How important is it for B2B2C companies to have a social presence? What are the best worked social media strategies for B2B2C companies?
In most, I've seen a degree of bifurcation in which the brand needs to influence a small segment of decision makers. For example, an animal pharmaceutical company needs to reach those ten individuals who decide on which vaccines to administer to brood hens. Thought leadership/content marketing type of work tends to make a good impact with those micro-audiences.
But then, the brand also has to insure that the general population of end customers sees the brand in a positive light, aligned with shared values. Also, there's risk mitigation to consider. It's much less effort to respond in a crisis if your brand has already created a sound basis of social interaction.
So, in short, use thought leadership and content marketing to reach the critical influencers. Then, use values-based social interactions with the appropriate communities to create a strong constituency of end users.
Q: After I graduate from college in a couple of months, I am choosing between doing a social media marketing-based certification program and doing a two-year full-time MBA. What factors should go into my decision-making process for pursuing a career in social media strategy?
Ric Dragon is CEO and co-founder of DragonSearch, a digital marketing services and consulting agency, and author of the book Social Marketology.
At larger brands and agencies, much, but not all of the executive management of social media teams is being done by individuals with MBAs. I've seen some notable examples at some really large brands where the individuals came up through ranks at another company. After all, this is all pretty new stuff.
I, myself, am of the mind that a solid understanding of business and marketing principles will make for a better strategist. Then, if that MBA-carrying strategist has also jumped in and been active with social, I'd really be impressed.
When it comes to social media, it isn't enough that someone has "learned it." They have to be gonzo in their continual learning. It's also pretty important for a strategist to have spent some significant time as a community manager themselves. Of course, as it concerns the MBA, that's a pretty expensive bit of education—I'm sure you have a lot to weigh in your decision.