Social sells – when ads are planned

Facebook, Instagram and other social-media channels help achieve business goals.

Social sells – when ads are planned

Turning fans into buyers: social media can be used for more than disseminating pretty images and snappy slogans; they can also be combined with hard business targets. “Instagram can transport far more than just beautiful brand content,” says Amir Tavakolian, Managing Director at Virtual Identity Vienna. At its Munich location, the digital agency recently launched its first “Social sells” meet-up. In front of around 30 brand managers, it used three Instagram and Facebook campaigns to demonstrate how BMW, Bosch and Generali used these to achieve contacts or even generate online purchases. “Where social media are concerned, lots of companies are investing in the wrong things,” Tavakolian points out. “We’ve since learned what you can accomplish with social media, the things a company needs to pay attention to. What matters here are the goals you set.”

New figures, better impact

Instead of looking at fans, followers, comments, shares and reach, companies should analyze their value chain and the customer journey with an eye to determining where social media strengthens business goals and sales measures: in areas such as building customer data, in product testing, but also in sales and after-sales. This creates new metrics for success. Instead of fans, for example, customer contacts become relevant; commitment conversions instead of comments; and sales in place of shares. When it comes to measuring effectiveness, the platforms leave it to their advertisers to go it alone: Facebook and Instagram report meaningful user and range figures with some usefulness, but they do not offer any data on comparable campaigns. “The publicly available, comparable key performance indicators for a competitor analysis are missing,” says Sarah Limberger, Account Director at Virtual Identity. This makes it difficult not only to plan social media, but particularly to budget them, too.

Own data create comparability

Specialists in social media recommend tighter links between campaigns and business goals, with companies developing their own criteria and indicators of success. This makes social media comparable to other advertising. BMW, for instance: In a campaign covering the entire funnel from brand awareness to conversion, targeting was dynamically refined on each funnel day. The campaign thus searched for its target group itself.

The videos reached around ten million Austrians; 1.2 million wanted to know more, and 1500 test drove a car. Such numbers permit comparisons with mailings or print ads. Incidentally, the campaign received an award for the solid result.

Tests change goals

“Essentially, ads in social media have to fit the business and the goals involved,” says Birgit Sedelmayer, who is in charge of business development at Virtual Identity in Vienna. Leeway for experimentation is needed, though, too. B/S/H contributed this experience to the “Social Sells Meet-up:” The home appliance manufacturer used Facebook to try to attract customers to its recently opened shop on Mariahilfer Strasse in Vienna. But a lack of tracking tools made it impossible to measure the impact of the campaigns, so the focus was shifted to online sales instead. And advertisements immediately showed noticeable effect here; sales figures provide a basis for comparison with other advertising media.

Uniformity concentrates impact

A campaign’s effectiveness is promoted least by harmonization. Generali, in turn, contributed this experience: The company is represented by a Facebook in Austria, and by the pages of its roughly 400 sales representatives. They have shared content through their private accounts. An internal content management system for social media content has now been developed for the field staff – and their own business pages have been set up. Under the motto “Content as a Service”, content is made available centrally and played out locally by field staff. The conversion and implementation was and is accompanied by ongoing training courses on how to deal with social media and user enquiries.

The bottom line: Social media requires planning

As the social media come of age, ads can be used to collect customer data and boost sales. Stakeholders who link business goals with social media should plan their measures well. But brands cannot rely on the data the communities deliver. Own success criteria and indicators derived from them permit comparisons and help pinpoint measures that are effective. And yet: The brand managers at Virtual Identity’’ “Social Sells Meet-up” also discussed whether hard revenue and marketing targets thwart the charm of personal customer and user contact in social media. More and more users are turning away from Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, and one reason for this is that they find themselves flooded with ads there. This is precisely why it is so important to control relevant data-based content and not to understand social media as a mass advertising channel.