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Analytics boost social marketing efforts

Acting quickly on the correct data helps engage more customers.

By Sandra Gittlen
February 28, 2013 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - With dozens of social marketing venues for its divisions and subdivisions, General Electric still retains central oversight, largely through its use of analytics.

As new platforms rise and fall, Paul Marcum, director of global digital marketing and programming at GE, keeps a close watch, game to test-drive their effectiveness. But he's just as willing to move on if the venue doesn't attract the desired audience. For instance, the company let its Foursquare presence go when it realized the platform was not a match for GE's marketing needs.

With brand, divisional and subdivisional social media presences on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+ and more, GE found that developing and deploying content and managing every response to each audience was too time-consuming for in-house resources.

Offloading content development has allowed the company to develop an overarching social media strategy that plays to each platform's strength. Marcum considers Facebook as "GE at its most accessible" because it has the most content and fastest response times. YouTube is an avenue to celebrate GE's technology and manufacturing impact with engaging videos.

Taken together these channels "humanize the organization in a way it never had been before," Marcum says.

Outsourcing content

He selects advertising agencies based on their expertise with specific social media formats. For instance, one agency skilled in visual presentation and video deals with Instagram content; another that is known for its ability to generate micro-content is tapped for Facebook and Twitter.

Marcum acknowledges that this "robust mix requires more overhead" in terms of managing it all but ultimately calls it time well-spent.

Marcum continues to finesse GE's social marketing approach, mostly through improved analytics. In the early days, Marcum received a PDF each week with basic results such as likes, fans and followers. But that was inadequate, because "it wasn't tailored to engagement or real time and really didn't reflect the opportunity in social media," he says.

Nowadays, GE uses homegrown analytics and visualization software that pings all social media APIs for data, including Google Analytics, Facebook and Twitter. Managers can access real-time customizable dashboards that illustrate performance on a daily basis.

Marcum says this model is far better for determining the best social media platforms for specific customer segments. His ultimate goal: to have clear visibility into cost per engagement.

(Story continues on page 2.)

Social marketing goes better with IT

Social marketing pioneers know the road to success runs through IT and, therefore, include CIOs and other IT leaders in their strategy sessions. Pam Wickham, vice president of corporate affairs and communications at Raytheon, and Deborah Holland, an executive vice president at Publishers Clearing House, share insights from their own experiences in bringing IT into the social marketing fold.

Which departments are instrumental in gathering social media analytics?

Wickham: Our digital and social media team partners with IT to do this. IT manages our Web Trends analytics software, so we work closely with them to track activity on our website. IT also helps us vet external analytics vendors.

Holland: It's mainly marketing, including statistical analysis, but IT and finance also are involved.

What challenges have marketing and IT faced in working together and how has that relationship evolved?

Wickham: We have always considered IT our strongest partner -- even well before social media became such an important part of our strategy. IT is an enabler of our communications function, whether through hardware, software or social platforms.

Holland: As with any IT project, the challenges in working together include cost/benefit justification, allocation of resources and full communication. Technology is continuing to build loosely coupled frameworks to make it easier to integrate.

At PCH we have successfully implemented an agile development framework to respond to high-value marketing needs and strategies in a more timely and iterative manner. We are also implementing more and more Web services and APIs that tie into our various user engagement platforms (Instant Win, Path Campaigns, Sweeps Entries, etc.), so it is becoming more seamless to introduce new channels to our marketing and customer-acquisition strategies.

How do you expect social marketing analytics to mature and what role will IT play?

Holland: Technology is continuing to be strategic in capturing more and more data to be fed into our data warehouse to better identify customer segments and build better user engagement experiences that traverse all our properties and programs.

Wickham: You need only look to the recent presidential election and the successful use of analytics and micro-targeting to understand that we have a tremendous runway ahead of us to grow and customize analytics.

What advice do you have for your peers venturing into this arena and the role IT can play?

Wickham: Partner early and often. It might sound trite, but for social media marketing to truly succeed, you need your IT partners to help shape and inform your strategy. They are experts on the tools, and you should be the expert on how to deploy them. Combined, this is a powerful alliance.

Holland: Going outside your comfort zone or trying something new can be rewarding and refreshing for a brand, but just make sure your technology team is able to support it, or at least agree to be part of the vetting-out process, especially if it is truly something new and bold.

-- Sandra Gittlen

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