"Having good analytics around your social marketing starts with having your own analytics that can actually track down to what we would call closed-loop marketing," he adds. Pinpointing that lead origination or first point of contact all the way through the funnel to an eventual purchase is paramount. Companies who rely entirely on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other social companies for this data miss the bigger picture.
These platforms can be very effective channels for brand awareness, public relations and testimonials. All of those activities should eventually drive revenue, Volpe says, but none of these social platforms deliver that most valuable metric of all. "I don't feel like any of them actually go as far as they should in that direction."
Of course, there are still unique marketing benefits to be gained from each of these platforms. Facebook has formulated the social graph to enable very fine-grained targeting, for example, but it's Twitter that's done the better job of building the advertising into the natural experience of the platform, according to Volpe. He also gives LinkedIn high marks for business-to-business marketing.
"People on Twitter seem to be more accepting of the advertisements than on Facebook," he says. "I think Twitter's done a little bit better job of building in that to the overall experience. That being said, a lot boils down to how people are using it and what the content of the ad is."
Trick of the Trade: Bridging the Analytics Gap
The first step for every company is to make sure that any analytics tools they use can connect to the customer relationship management (CRM) and ecommerce systems that track their revenue. "It's really about bridging that gap," Volpe says, adding that it's about business analytics or marketing analytics, not necessarily Web analytics.
"We actually measure the number of new inquiries we get from social media, how those progress through our sales process, how many of them become customers and what revenue we get off of it," Volpe adds. "We literally just do it by measuring for the people that find us through social media, how many of them actually end up purchasing and what they actually purchase."
Those eager to get ahead of the curve should put a priority on identifying the points where customer data and social conversations intersect. This mash-up of disjointed data is viewed by Volpe as one of the most important emerging trends today.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.