Social media is a powerful driving engine for commerce. The argument could be made that no other channel has the potential to influence as many purchases as social. But social media doesn’t get the credit it deserves because most marketers think of it in a linear fashion. Your credit union posts something, it gets a certain level of engagement, and then after six months there’s no telling what those posts did to contribute to growth.
Nearly every marketer has struggled with social media management and ROI tracking at some point, and many have gotten so fed up that they’ve decided social media isn’t worth the hassle. That’s a shame, because they’re missing out on a powerful tool.
How Social Media Influences Purchase Decisions
To demonstrate this point, we conducted an informal and totally unscientific experiment. We went around and asked Third Degree employees how social media has influenced a recent purchase. From Millennials to Boomers, married-with-kids to single-and-loving-it, early tech adopters to ehhh…not so much, Third Degree employees come from a variety of demographic and psychographic profiles. And while the responses varied slightly, everyone sang a similar tune: social media influences purchase decisions.
One clicked on a sponsored post for car tires and ended up making an appointment. Another used a similar path to conversion from another sponsored post, buying a lamp at Target. That’s trackable social media ROI as long as the website can capture the conversion and tie it to that referral click.
Out of 17 responses, those two were the most direct and easy stories for tracking ROI. And that’s where most marketers stop when it comes to social measurement. However, the other 15 people shared stories of indirect influence. This type of influence is harder to track but incredibly powerful.
From restaurant recommendations to finding a plumber, everyone told stories of how social media directly influenced their purchases in a major way. The influencing force wasn’t some brand’s post or promoted tweet, it was the stories other people were sharing about the brand.
Social media has become a huge word-of-mouth referral tool for consumers. The days of calling 20 friends to see what dentist inflicts the least amount of pain are gone. Instead, people get online to share their experiences in venues like Facebook, and others rely on that information to help them make decisions. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, information from friends carries a 97% trust rate compared to a 48% trust rate for marketing messages.
3 Ways You Can Get Better at Tracking Social Success
1. Track those easy conversions.
When someone clicks on your content, lands on your site, and then converts, it’s pretty easy to track. The key is making sure you have the right tracking tools in place. You should have the capability to see what happens all the way from referral to close. The good news is that these tracking tools can be incorporated into your current site. In many cases, you’ll even be able to track those who they leave your site and come back later.
2. Find ways to stir engagement.
Have you ever heard the case study about a brand giving ROI credit to social media when that brand wasn’t engaged on social media? We haven’t either. That’s because companies who actively engage on social media are the ones who are more likely to get referred. Don’t box yourself into traditional social media channels. Ask your members to review you on Yelp (it’s an increasingly influential social referral driver). Invite some local bloggers to participate in your financial fitness program. Get creative and showcase your brand in ways that will get users talking about you online.
3. Listen, ask and compare.
It’s hard to make direct connections between referrals and ROI, but that doesn’t mean referrals aren’t helping your business. If Sally asks about a good place to get a car loan and her friend replies with your credit union name, there’s a very real chance Sally will come to you for a loan. Your analytics won’t be able to trace that loan to the most influential part of Sally’s decision process, but you can find some measurable data to help you understand the influence social media is having.
- Use tools to listen: When people talk about you, what are they saying to each other? That feedback is often different than what you’ll hear directly. Listening to social media can help you identify what you’re doing well and where the issues are. Start tracking how often you are mentioned and in what context.
- Survey your members: Ask them if social media has ever influenced their purchase. When a new member signs on, find out what brought them to you.
Website referrals from survey data and social listening results can provide a better picture of how much social media is driving business for your credit union.