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How do you define success in social media?

How do you define success in social media?  PR pros that grew up in a traditional world will remember this question – what defines success?  Every agency proposal I ever worked on and every RFP I’ve ever submitted has always had a reference to success.

To be clear, I’m not speaking of what is fast becoming conventional social media measurement.  I’m not pointing towards counting followers, fans, clicks, lists, ReTweets, interactions, engagements, leads or even sales (though I have long believed that PR, and now social media, does and should facilitate the sales cycle).  Those social media measurements have merit in their own right and context, but what is the end-state?  What is the point of engagement?

To me, success is the:
  •  Unsolicited Twitter follower that posts, “I love your product.  Use it every day.”
  • Community member that comments (positively) on a blog post about which product is better
  •  Fan that replies positively to a Facebook status update that says, “Anyone ever heard of ACME corporation?
  • Surprise blog post from a customer that describes your product, why they use it and the benefit they see
  • Comment on your corporate blog announcing a new product development that says, “Hey gang, nice work on this, keep it up!”

Lately, I’ve noticed a couple of posts that mention the overwhelming pace and fatigue with engagement in a social media world.  Success like those above don’t just happen – and though they are unsolicited – they are also the effect of 1) a great product 2) excellent service and 3) a lot of hard work building a community in social media.  My only advice is keep your eye on what constitutes success. 

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2 Responses

  1. Davina K. Brewer

    Frank, Success will vary per every company, brand and individual. Each campaign will have different goals and objectives, therefor different benchmarks for success.

    I totally agree with you that it goes beyond the numbers, the stats.. and that PR and communications should drive the sales, the company's business goals.

    For me, I put a lot of time and effort into my social media efforts. In some ways, it's been more successful than I imagined: networking, learning, building relationships within my community. That one elusive success, connect with a new, paying customer (client). Like you said, put in the time and the work, it'll happen. FWIW.

  2. Frank Strong, MA, MBA

    Hi Davina, thanks for the comment. I think your comments underscore a two key points: 1) we must have objectives in social media and 2) trust the process — there are many touch points along the sales cycle — this challenge of measurement is not all that much different than the challenge of measurement yesteryear: what's the sales impact of an article on page B4 of your major daily? Cheers!

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