According to a new study at least 72% of all internet users are now active on at least one social media platform, making it one of the most powerful tools in digital marketing today. But as brands continue to fight for the public’s attention, a McKinsey study has found that word-of-mouth generates 50% more sales than paid advertising.
This puts social sharing on a pedestal, and the closest of all social metrics to monetary gain. But with a lot of confusion about what generates social shares, marketers can often be left barking up the wrong tree. By analysing leading studies and successful campaigns, we take a look at exactly how brands are increasing their own social shares and making their campaigns a success.
Call to Action
Simply asking people to retweet can increase your chances of a share by 160% on Twitter according to a recent study by Crazy Egg. However, the New York Times found that 94% of Facebook users will consider how useful a link will be to their following before they post it. These studies suggest that to increase social shares we must first provide value and then ask others to share it.
One campaign that took this idea to another level is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which gave people the opportunity to contribute and feel good whilst also engaging with a popular trend. The ‘nomination’ process as a call to action was so successful that it was soon copied by the #FeelingNuts and the #NoMakeUpSelfie campaigns.
When it comes to influencing consumer behaviour, emotion is a great place to start. According to a study from Buffer App, which asked more than 800 participants to report their feelings on 23 viral images, it was found that the most effective positive feelings in generating a share were joy, interest, anticipation and trust. However when we take examples such as Paddy Power’s 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign, it’s clear that negative emotions can be just as powerful.
In support of England heading over to Brazil, Paddy Power made it look like they had bulldozed a good-luck message into the Amazonian rainforest. Although it was a hoax, the image gathered shares and a lot of media coverage as the public thought it was real. Paddy Power is well known for its mischievous PR stunts and later admitted it was staged generating more social word of mouth and coverage. Using negative emotions is a controversial way to generate social shares and brand awareness and it not suited for all companies but does indicate the power that an emotional connection can have on a social word of mouth campaign.
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) June 7, 2014
Celebrity endorsements are big money, and often out of reach for many brands. But thanks to social media, influencer endorsements have been made more readily available, with brands now opting to pay for social mentions from those with a large following. Although it can be classed as paid advertising, influencer marketing taps into a more ‘natural’ form of advertising which maximises the value of word-of-mouth on a bigger scale.
Although sometimes under-valued, word-of-mouth and influencer marketing are powerful tools and can make or break a company. Take for example global clothing brand Superdry, which has based its start-up growth strategy purely on word-of-mouth with no advertising, sponsorship or celebrity endorsement deals. The companies renegade approach hit the jackpot when they mailed one of its trademark leather jackets to David Beckham who was seen wearing the brand in public with photographs spread through social media helping to contribute to the viral growth of the brand and their profits tripling.
Images count for 87% of social shares on Facebook, so creating visual content is a wise method to grab attention. This spike in visual value has led to various new mediums of content such as memes and Vines. Perhaps most popular among brands, are micrographics also known as infographics, which you can see below. Micrographics are a great way to drive social sharing and increase click-through rate as they stand out and are easily digestible.
Measuring Social ROI
Although nobody doubts the value of social media, marketers have sometimes struggled to define exactly how much a ‘like’ or a share is actually worth. Fortunately, as we aim to justify a return on investment, Facebook and Twitter now offer analytics programs to monitor the success of campaigns. The most valuable metrics to consider are:
- Share: A share provides natural word-of-mouth value to spread a brand name through social circles.
- Following: Once you’re followed, users will see your posts free of charge (on some networks), leaving you able to build a relationship at low cost.
- Click-Through: This is by far the most valuable as it gets the user closer to a sale, as they are going from the social platform to your website.
- Sales: If you have tracking setup and a conversion focused website you will easily be able to work out an accurate social ROI.
Whilst interaction is also a worthwhile metric, and can be measured through the number of likes and comments a post receives, it could be argued that it is not as valuable as the big four mentioned above. Nevertheless it is a great indicator of what your audience is interested in.
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