Marketing Automation Needs to Give Credit to Social Sellers

There is an important gap in most marketing automation platforms: They ignore organic interactions in social media. That is, most marketing automation platforms fail to count retweets, likes, comments, etc. As a result, lead scoring and many channel analytics exclude organic social interactions from their calculations. Therefore, brand teams and brand employees who interact with customers are missing some of the credit they deserve. That really should change.

The Problem

Many marketing automation platforms only measure social networks as a source of traffic to a landing page. That is, they can measure when someone clicks a Facebook ad, and goes to a landing page. They can also measure when someone clicks a link in a Tweet and then goes to a landing page.

But most marketing automation platforms can not measure when a customer Likes a post on Facebook, or retweets a tweet from a seller.

For example, if a brand tweets the message, “We make the best security widgets in the world!”, and the CIO of a customer then retweets that message, most marketing automation platforms are unable to count the retweet by the CIO. They can count a phone call with the CIO. They can track emails with the CIO. But they can not track organic interactions in social channels with the CIO.

Further, if a social seller shares a link to a landing page, and a customer clicks the link, then most marketing automation platforms can capture that click. But if a social seller tweets something about their company, and a customer retweets the message, most marketing automation platforms ignore the retweet.

That seems like a big miss in a world where more and more of our interactions occur in social channels, especially for social sellers. While it is true that social networks are increasingly forcing brands to pay for engagement with the audience the brand built, social sellers do not buy ads — usually. Most of the interactions between sellers and their audiences are organic, not paid.

A Potential Solution

For marketing automation platforms to begin counting organic social interactions — and yes they should — they probably need a few things:

Social data source: Connect to the brand’s social media management system (SMMS). This is where the brand posts onto social media, and where the brand captures audience interactions in social media. The information about the interactions needs to pass from the social media management system to the marketing automation platform. Alternatively, you might take the interaction data from a data provider like Gnip or Datasift. In any case, paying for the data twice is a real consideration.

Customizations in the marketing automation platform: Most marketing automation platforms count “social media” interactions, but they really only mean “paid” social media, which is a limited definition. So, there needs to be a separate category within the marketing automation platform for organic social interactions (i.e., retweets, mentions of the brand, Likes and so on). It would be a mistake to count paid and organic social interactions in one set because the natures of the interactions are very different. Also, employees and sales professionals do not buy ads, typically, and seller interactions would be overwhelmed by all of the interactions that the brand buys through paid social ads.

Customized Integration: If a social media management system passes tweets straight to the marketing automation platform, that breaks the terms of service for some social networks. However, you may be able to send a permalink of the tweet or post and “rehydrate” the post through a social data provider.

You also need to join social identities with marketing automation contacts. Many social networks prohibit you from exporting their user handles out of the social media management system (SMMS), but the social network ID within the SMMS can be used for identification.

Also, automated tags should be setup within the SMMS to capture the type of post (i.e., tweet, retweet, paid, branded, etc.). Then, the SMMS passes the tags and permalink to the marketing automation system for scoring and reporting.

CRM reporting: Finally, when the marketing automation system is integrated with the CRM, then the CRM can tie social interactions to deals and opportunities. Then you can associate ROI to the organic social activity of the brand and social sellers, rather than only counting paid social activity and clicks on links.

Other Considerations

While it is true that brands now have to pay to play in social networks, organic interactions still occur and they still matter.

One could argue that organic social interactions have greater value than people clicking paid ads because organic interactions typically send a signal about the user into their social network, whereas paid ads do not.

For example, when I retweet something that a brand posts, everyone who follows me on Twitter can see my retweet. I have to consider that before I retweet anything. On the other hand, if I click a link that a brand posts, no one in my social network will ever know of my click. Clicking a link or ad presents a much lower hurdle in one’s mind.

Moreover, organic interactions are typically THE ONLY kind of online interactions that social sellers produce for the brand. If you have hundreds or thousands of employees creating organic social interactions, and you are not giving them credit as a group, maybe you should think about changing that.

Thanks to Elizabeth Lehman for her expertise in helping to create this post.

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