Which digital channels are best for your brand's marketing strategy?

Ary Esfahani

This post was originally created by Spredfast before Spredfast and Lithium merged and became Khoros.

Is it just us, or does it seem like another new social network is popping up every other week? From Snapping to streaming to (Peri)scoping, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the fear of missing out and the drive for innovation. How can you determine which channels are right for your brand?

In this post, we’re breaking down two methods to help you answer this question:

Method 1 — Lean on Best Practices: Focusing on key areas of your business and marketing strategy to determine which channels to prioritize.

Method 2 — Utilizing the Social Media Performance Model: A data-driven, scientific approach for more predictable results.

Method 1: Leveraging best practices for a social media strategy

1. Know your audience

The first question is one you already know to ask: Who is your primary demographic? Marketing to young millennials interested in cosmetics is significantly different from marketing to professionals interested in the Fortune 500 industry — and I don’t just mean content-wise.

For example, Snapchat is hugely popular with younger audiences, reaching 41% of U.S. 18- to 34-year-olds on any given day. Millennial-focused retail brands like Glossier and Kylie (Jenner) Cosmetics have announced new products via Snapchat; Glossier also included a Snapchat-exclusive website password to drive sales to their Balm Dotcom lip trio before the site was open to everyone. As a result of the pre-launch announcement (and partially due to her celebrity status), Kylie Cosmetics’ new Kyshadow collection sold out on the website in sixty seconds on the day of the launch.

2. Know your goals

What’s the primary purpose of each of your social channels: To drive sales? Drive clicks to site? Provide customer support?

@spgassist Thank you!
— Traci Koller Mazurek (@heytrace) June 9, 2016

Let’s take customer support. Facebook and Twitter make it easy for brands to respond to individual customer questions where the customer can easily find them, thanks to tagging and chained replies. While Instagram and Pinterest’s platforms allow tagging, the lack of chained replies make these channels less desirable for customer support inquiries and responses; LinkedIn is geared toward professionals, so B2C customer support is even less desirable there. While Snapchat features a 1x1 chat feature, that level of individual customer response can quickly overwhelm small social teams. Steering customer support inquiries toward Facebook and Twitter pages can streamline the response process for both the customer and the social team.

3. Know your content

If your goal is to drive sales or clicks from older millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers, especially if your brand is retail-, travel-, or food & beverage-focused, Pinterest can be a great way to showcase your products, recipes, influencer content, and more in an easily shoppable format. If your goal is to drive sales or clicks from millennials, Instagram should be included in your content strategy, to highlight individual products, quick video tutorials, and updates, or influencer content.

However, in order to be successful on visual-first channels like Instagram and Pinterest, content must be highly visually appealing — think high-resolution assets, easily readable text overlays, vivid colors, and an overall clean, well-designed look. If you’re unable to create branded content and must rely on stock imagery, or if you’re unable to create high-resolution images formatted by platform, the hard truth is your content may not find success on Instagram and Pinterest.

4. Know your team

Evaluate your team’s bandwidth and determine your channel priorities from there. If you have a large social team, as well as internal visual designers, or if you partner with an agency dedicated to your brand, it will likely be easier to manage multiple thriving channels while also building new ones.

However, that doesn’t mean that smaller (or even single-person) social teams should avoid new channels. Larger teams can immediately create channel-specific content for testing; however, smaller teams should explore the channel for image and copy specs, and reformat existing planned content for the new channel to test which content performs best on the new channel. Creating a video, image, or GIF for Twitter or Facebook? Go ahead and test that video or image on Instagram. Planning a Twitter chat with an influencer? Consider a Periscope chat instead.

How to get started

As soon as you hear of a new social network, go ahead and set up an account to secure your brand’s username or usernames, including prominent figures within your organization. Once secured, start exploring the channel and begin brainstorming ways to plan content and integrate it into your editorial calendar. Encourage your social team to set up personal accounts and test and learn their own content as well, to get a feel for the channel and its intricacies.

From there, it’s time to publish your content and measure the results. Testing and measurement are always key to social media success, but especially when you’re experimenting with new platforms and content. To learn exactly which metrics are important, watch our recorded webinar.

Method 2: A predictive model that can help answer the question

To best explain how your business can utilize the data-driven Social Media Performance Model (more on exactly what the SMPM model is soon), we’d like to give you an example of how we at Khoros have used it in the past.

A few years ago, when we were still Spredfast, we decided we wanted to interact with more people offline, face to face. In a world that is increasingly digital, personal interactions become an (ironically) fresh way to distinguish your brand from others. Throwing an event allows you to cut through your audience’s cluttered digital lives while also personifying your brand or product. In Spredfast’s case, we doubled down on events to show our commitment to our customers.

In preparation for Spredfast Summit 2016, we created an integrated marketing campaign, utilizing all of our digital channels to create demand for our event. Our goal was to drive awareness and conversions/event registrations amongst our key audience of current and potential customers.

The main challenge was determining the overall cost-effectiveness of our efforts — and which channels were most efficient in driving clicks that converted into registrations. We needed to confidently answer the classic advertising quote, “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” We needed to continually report on the impact of our traffic due to the length of the campaign. Understanding that sponsored promotions on all networks help drive overall awareness, we needed to be able to distinguish the strengths and weaknesses of our media strategy, separating the networks that drive awareness from the networks that actually drive conversion.

Digital channels we used to reach our goals

Our media strategy was to use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Google Adwords to drive traffic to the Summit landing page. Email was a key channel in driving registrations with our established audience. We also employed a variety of retargeting campaigns, custom audiences built from email lists, and custom audiences based on job titles and companies for social. On Google Adwords, we targeted relevant keywords.

With Spredfast’s established audience, email was a key channel for driving registration.

Our initial solution for conversion rate optimization was examining sources that lead to registration button clicks. Since this was a paid event, we used a secure third-party vendor for transactions; therefore, we were not able to see attribution by the channel for completed transactions. Although registration button clicks may be enough for most people to determine where to allocate their budget, we were interested in taking this a step further.

Let’s examine the overall scope of the integrated marketing campaign and investigate the impact it is having, in addition to registrations/conversions.

Going deeper: the Social Media Performance Model

We deferred deep analysis to Dr. Gary Wilcox, Professor at the University of Texas. Wilcox is a recognized expert on social media, advertising research, and branding whose opinions and work have been featured in such national media as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, U.S. News and World Report, The Huffington Post and AdWeek, among others. In 2011, he began the development of the social media performance model to measure important relationships between marketing efforts and brand key performance indicators (KPIs).

With an understanding of these measurement issues, we used the social media performance model (SMPM) using data provided through Spredfast. This analysis procedure enables improved insights using data science. In this case, the improved insights are to assist conversion rate optimization. In the context of a business-to-consumer brand, executed across organic social media, e-mails and social spend across four platforms (Facebook, Twitter, AdWords and Instagram), the model was used to provide predictive insights.

As new insights are derived from the findings, the SMPM enables data-driven strategy that can be used to influence business outcomes achieved not only through organic social media but also other forms of marketing efforts.

Adaptation of the Social Media Performance Model

Previous research using the SMPM examined a wide variety of brands from nonprofits to B2C and B2B brands. KPIs for this project with Spredfast included website sessions, registrations, and revenue. Website landing page sessions and registrations were obtained from the company’s Google Analytics with revenue calculated based on varying registrations fees. Organic social media vehicles included Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and were collected and tabulated by Spredfast. Paid social was reported in dollars spent by each social vehicle. Email was measured by the number of landing page sessions originating from email. All data were reported on a daily basis.

The SMPM utilizes a time-series analysis approach to examine the relationship of the predictor variables on the outcome variables. In the past, the use of measures of website traffic has been found to be useful for modeling campaign effectiveness, especially website visitors/sessions as an accurate predictors of sales. Three analyses were completed – one for website sessions, one for registrations, and one for revenue. Significant predictors for the sessions series are listed in the table below.

For website landing page sessions, two paid social channels exhibited statistically significant relationships – Facebook and Twitter. In addition, Google AdWords and email-driven sessions were significantly related to website landing page sessions. In other words, for this particular Spredfast event, Facebook and Twitter—as well as AdWords and email—stood out in terms of driving substantial website traffic.

Facebook and Twitter stood out in terms of driving substantial website traffic.

The models also provide evidence of the relative importance of the predictor variables in each of the regression series. For example, a 1 percent increase in Facebook spend was associated with a 0.83 percent increase in website sessions, whereas a 1 percent increase in AdWord spend was associated with only a 0.32 percent increase in website sessions.

When examining the registration and revenue data, only one individual predictor variable was significantly related — email sessions. The results of the revenue/registration models mirrored each other with only minor differences in fit statistics. However, these final models only explained approximately 25% of the variation in registration and revenue data, indicating that other marketing activities such as social selling or personal emails, not present in the digital model, played an important role impacting registrations and revenue.

Know Where You’re Spending Effectively

The SMPM enables a data-driven strategy that is beneficial as we analyze our performance during long campaigns and determine future budget allocations. This method enables marketers a way to analyze their data with more confidence. For brands investing in not only social media but other digital activities as well, understanding the importance of these performance indicators is crucial to making the smartest use of your marketing communication budget.

Because we’ve seen that email is a significant driver in registrations, we are able to validate our hunch that email is an effective channel to allocate resources to. Since we’ve seen ads on Facebook and Twitter along with Google AdWords have noteworthy impact on website sessions, we’ll likely tweak our organic and paid social scale for upcoming events like Smart Social New York and Smart Social London.

Ultimately, the ability to prioritize promotional tactics with proven outcomes may be the most useful business result of them all, allowing any brand to make more effective digital marketing decisions.

To learn more about this topic, watch our recorded webinar: Digital Marketing Metrics That Matter.

Would you like to learn more about Khoros?