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Social Media Best Practices

Keep the dialogue going.

Marketers have become more than willing to start a conversation about their brands through social media. But that’s only the beginning of the marketing effort.

In late 2008, MarketingSherpa surveyed social media marketers about the effectiveness of their practices. Large majorities rated social media marketing effective at influencing brand reputation, increasing awareness and improving search rankings and site traffic.

Social media was considered less effective, but still good, for internal communications and driving online sales.

Marketers thought the best specific tactics were user reviews, relationships with bloggers and discussion groups. But they also found those tactics difficult to measure—only around 10% of respondents thought they were “very accurately measured.”

Measuring effectiveness can’t be easy, though, when companies don’t have a strategy in place for social media marketing. While one-third of larger businesses had a written policy to manage brand communications, only 13% of smaller business did.

Even among large businesses, 39% had no policy despite recognizing its importance, and 9% believed it unnecessary. Three-quarters of small businesses had no written policy.

Such a policy can be particularly valuable when it comes to responding to user feedback. Social media marketing is a conversation, and brands must be ready to respond to consumers.

“A lot of the time, brands will put up a corporate blog or Facebook profile and think that’s social media marketing,” Lou Cuming of social media marketing agency DEI Worldwide told eMarketer.

“It’s getting consumers into those environments and engaging with them online that becomes more difficult and requires more resources,” he said. “You really have to continue to nurture the conversation, otherwise it just dries up—it’s like having a one-way conversation, and if people aren’t listening, it does damage to the brand.”

All the same, around one-quarter of businesses of all sizes reported not monitoring social media commentary at all. Nearly one-half of large businesses kept an eye on discussions without responding publicly. Another quarter of all firms attempted to contact the writer of a negative comment.

Only tiny minorities of businesses posted public rebuttals to negative comments.

“You need to have resources for engaging consumers and answering questions, and an exit strategy,” said Mr. Cuming.

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