Honest Social Media Evaluation

Social Media has become a popular marketing topic.  That’s not news to anyone.  In fact, I’d suggest it’s become a trendy topic.  The problem with trendy things is that people tend to overweight the importance assigned to it.  Social media seems to be heading that direction.  Many marketers overemphasize the engagement levels of their social media audience to artificially inflate its importance.

To make a valid assessment of your social media channels, solid metrics need to be established.  In other words, it’s not worth spending a lot of time working on social networks if your audience isn’t paying attention.  Generating a list of people that accepted a single request is not valuable.  An engaged audience that pays attention to, and acts on, your communications is the goal.  So how can a marketer assess social media engagement?

The first rule is that just showing up doesn’t count as engagement.  A like click for your Facebook fan page is not engagement.  A follower on Twitter is not automatically engaged.  Gaining a contact in LinkedIn is not an engagement, etc.  Any of these activities are just showing up.  Sure, it’s a critical part of becoming engaged but not the act itself.

A better gauge would be someone on Facebook who liked the fan page and takes part in discussions or references links in their own communications.  Someone who retweets your posts is engaged.  Some one who provides a referral or joins your company group on LinkedIn is engaged.  Simply put, someone needs to actively interact with your content or offer to be engaged.

Engagement is flexible and can be custom defined from marketer to marketer.  Ideally a marketer should be able to put some general metrics on engaged contacts.  Social media can be a powerful communication channel but over-inflating its value often leads to neglecting other marketing efforts that might offer better ROI.

While translating social media marketing to a bottom line dollar can be difficult, marketers need to be careful they aren’t looking at social media through rose colored glasses.  After all, most of us have accepted a Facebook friend or LinkedIn contact we don’t really care for.  Just because they show up doesn’t mean we want anything to do with them.  Same goes for your company’s social media interactions.

Buying or Renting Email Lists

It’s not uncommon for people to want to infuse their email list with a batch of new people.  The stock answer from email marketers (myself included) is to gradually and methodically build a list.  Use your network of contacts and regular business interactions to build up a legitimate opt-in email marketing list.  However, some people are in a hurry or don’t have the patience to build a list.  So if you find you are backed in a corner, the last resort is to buy or sell an email list.

The theory on any bought or rented list is that the people have opted in for marketing communications.  That assumption is only as good as the person you are buying or renting from.  The first thing that email marketers need to understand is that buying or renting a list has become difficult and/or expensive.

Buying a list is very rare.  In fact, if I run into someone that is selling lists, I am suspicious.  Selling lists legally has become very challenging, if not impossible, and is typically not a good route to pursue.  You’re more likely to run into a scam than a legitimate list source.

List brokers will rent a list by sending a communication to people that have opted in but prices can run up to 50 cents a name.  In most cases, that multiplies the overall expense of the send by at least five.  If the price doesn’t scare you off, the good list brokers can also offer some kind of targeting so that the list is sent to people that fit your email offer.  Bad list brokers don’t even share basic demographic data.  I ran into one that couldn’t/wouldn’t verify the email was sent to their list.  In shor