In this episode of Augurs on the Town, Josh talks about the ROI of social media with Abby Kelsey, Social Media Strategist at SPS Commerce. Learn all about how Social can impact ROI as well as other performance indicators like awareness, customer reviews, employee advocacy and recruiting.
Connect with Abby: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abbykelsey/
Abby Kelsey: Thanks for having me.
Josh: You have taken a unique path to get to SPS Commerce. Take us back a little bit to like that first job at Target Corp and then give the viewers a sense for your journey, how you got into social and ended up at SPS Commerce.
Abby: Absolutely. Like you said, kind of a different career path starting out. I started at Target headquarters and I actually started in the construction and property development department which looking back on now, I’m like, “Wait, I knew nothing about that industry.” Although it was a great learning experience, I quickly found out that that was not the way I wanted my career path to go.
I networked the heck out of Target and eventually landed on the target.com team.
At a young age I thought here, I made it, I went from one department to the next and finally got into the marketing scene. Here I was ready to just roll up my sleeves, start from the bottom up, find my area of expertise and just go through that corporate ladder.
Abby: Especially back in, I think it was 2014, 2015, something like that. It was really exciting. Little did I know nine short months into that role got to experience a lot within those nine months, but Target had those major layoffs and I was a part of that cut. This was a point that just only being, I think I was 24 at the time. I really got the opportunity to stop and think about my career path. I did like what I was doing at target.com, but I think sometimes we all get this sense of, “What do I want to be when I grow up, what do I like to do? What’s my passion?” For some that comes right away, others, it could be 30 years down the road.
For me, this was a really good opportunity to just really sit back and say, “What is it that I want to do?” Thinking about what makes me happy versus the positioning of my job or where I say I work. Through this time, I had a little self-reflection, you could call it at a young age.
Josh: I like it.
Abby: Through that time, then I went back to the school at university of St. Thomas. They were doing some higher education classes and at my time with Target, I got to experience a little bit of their social media world. I just thought it was so cool I didn’t see myself. It was foreshadowing what I was going to be going into. I was interested in it, but I didn’t know enough about it. Going through these classes at St. Thomas, I just really fell in love with social media and digital marketing and continued to pursue that path.
Fast forward, I joined a startup company. This same type of thing happened. I came onto that company as a PR and social strategist, if you will, at that time. We skyrocketed it up, I was traveling, going to conferences that life was great and here I made it. I’m on the magic carpet ride and that was going to be that for my career. Start up didn’t work out. There I was back to square one again, and I’m like, “I have to figure out what I want to do.”
Is through these experiences that I started my own business and started consulting on the side for social media really focusing in on small mom-and-pop shops. I wanted to help the ice cream store down the street, understand how they could let more people know about their business using social media. That’s like where my passion started for it. It’s only continued to grow.
Throughout that time, I held various other positions. I never went full-time with my business. It’s more of that consulting on the side. Worked for over six search and consulting. Their internal agency led their social division, then went back to their marketing side and a whole bunch of other things and then led me to SPS Commerce where I am now.
Josh: Cool. Then why don’t you tell us a little bit about your current role at SPS and what you really enjoy about the work that you’re doing there.
Abby: Absolutely. At SPS I am their social media strategist. I actually was the first position ever hired for social media. Joining SPS about a year and a half ago, we’ve had now 81 consecutive quarters of growth, which is a huge accomplishment. To have the opportunity to come in and be the first person ever who specializes in social media, it’s just been a really exciting opportunity. What I really love about my current role is people think social media, they think, “Oh, Instagram,” but when you’re in a B2B tech company, that is not the case.
What I love about my job right now is it allows me to work across all areas of the company. Collaborating with other departments on a weekly, even daily basis. I get to work with sales, sales training, at HR, and recruiting, our executive team, events, just encompassing all around. Yes, it’s a really fun opportunity and you get to learn so much about the business and other departments too.
Josh: That sounds super fun. I know in you’re consulting and just talking with B2B businesses, you always get asks, so where’s the ROI in social media? How can you tie the actions and activities that are happening on social to revenue? When you get asked that, what’s your answer?
Abby: That is the age-old question. [laughs] I think whenever that gets brought up, because especially with an executive team, they want to know, what’s the ROI of social media? What is this doing for us? I think the first thing that I always bring to the table is, and this is when talking to any business is social media ROI is not a one size fits all situation. There is no like, this is the way that you track it and this is how you’re going to find success because it all depends on the business, the industry, the products.
A quick example, a B2C company, selling clothing. Tracking ROI from social media on that is going to be much, much different than a B2B company where a product or service maybe takes three to even eight months to close that deal. Really what I say, we know when I have these conversations, it’s thinking more of rather than how do I measure our ROI in social media, it’s taking a step back and saying, “What is my purpose of having social media for my company?”
Once you have that answer, then you’re able to really create a strategy that focuses on defining your objectives and goals, really understanding the KPIs that you want to track that it’s going to measure success. I know that seems like a really cookie-cutter answer like, “Oh, set your objectives and goals.” It’s true because you have to know the purpose behind what you’re doing on social media, set up goals to align with that purpose and then track. I think a lot of company [crosstalk] yes.
Josh: It doesn’t really help to go down this path and do all this tracking when you’re not actually paying attention to the right stuff. That pre-work of really aligning on why are we doing this? Why is it important? Where will we see the impacts? Then being able to track to that I think that’s really smart.
Abby: Yes, and I would say even too, from an organic perspective, your organic strategy is going to be much different than your paid strategy. If you have a paid campaign focused on a specific outcome, that’s going to be different than aligning that ROI measuring with your organic presence that has a mix of content going out. I always say the one piece of advice as people dive into social media and trying to measure that and share success with their executive teams or business owners, or whatever that looks like is to really understand your tracking. That’s where it all starts.
Having your conversion tracking defined, and how you’re going to measure that. For example, B2B companies, highly suggest a multi-touch attribution model when it comes to conversion tracking. Because if you do last touch, we know that consumers these days, they have very little attention span and they need about, I think the last time I looked, we were on average of 12 to 14 touchpoints before we decide to make a decision.
You think about that and it’s like, “Well, if social is a place that you’re really trying to engage with your audience, educate your audience, and then you’re going to encourage them to buy, you need to understand those different touchpoints, to understand if social is helping with that influence.” I do think it help and it also just helps understand the customer journey too from the time they come to our site, how many touchpoints do they need before they convert, and what were they? I always say that that’s a really key piece for ROI is just understanding your tracking of your company in general.
Josh: Attribution modeling is super important. There are all kinds of assisted conversions, social plays a huge role in that. I think you’re right. Then that helps demonstrate that ROI, which is what we’re really talking about. Beyond those business results, what other areas do you see like social impacting a business? I think when we talked in prepping for this, you talked about employee advocacy. Can you talk a little bit about some of these other areas where social impacts business results?
Abby: I would say if you’re taking away the ROI, and the marketing efforts, and all of that, social plays a huge role in just your brand reputation. We all know when you go to a website, that website is built for what that company wants you to read. Social, of course, is too but it’s also the proof in the pudding or whatever, if you will. What are people saying about your brand? Are people engaging with your content? Do people like what you’re talking about?
I think that’s the first thing that comes to mind is, it helps to increase that brand reputation, and then show not only the people behind the company but also what that company stands for. Consumers buy from companies they like these days. I think brand reputation is key for another area outside of demand gen or conversion tracking, or ROI.
Then talent acquisition because if you want to get the top talent, you want to provide a good experience. Before someone even applies or interviews with a company, it’s pretty, I’d say 90% of the time, and that is a stat I totally just made up so don’t quote me on that. [chuckles]
Abby: A lot of the time, we’ll go with that. A lot of the time the talent is going to also look at not only your website to get information, but they’re also going to go to your social channels. What does it look like to work there? What does this company care about? Do they really, I think we hear practice what you preach as far as your company values. I think, yes, brand reputation, kind of that talent attraction are two big ways that social impacts outside of revenue.
Josh: I think what’s really cool is you can have a web page on your website that says, “This is our culture or these are our values,” if you have a really awesome Instagram profile that actually shows those values in action, where if the company has a value to give back, and there’s pictures of volunteerism happening, where social provides that lens that actually demonstrates this versus just a web page that says, “Yes, we believe in these things.”
Abby: Absolutely. With that, it humanizes your brand. I think that is so important in today’s world. It gives you a glimpse inside the people behind the company. To your point too, if it’s maybe not the company, maybe its employees talking about it. Something like a large corporation, it might be hard for them to post every single thing that they do but now if your employees are going to do it, it’s sharing a whole another side that goes into that as well.
Josh: Yes, because employees, they’re not required to share by any means and so if they’re sharing, it’s because they believe in it, and they believe in the company.
Josh: Two more questions for you. First, I love to ask, tell me, is there any new tech or strategies or tactics that you’re paying attention to or curious about or excited about? Then number two, if you had one piece of advice for marketers who are responsible for social, what would that be?
Abby: All right. First question, thinking about that, what comes to mind right away is one strategy and one tactic. I’m going to share both of those. The first one focusing more on that strategy is adopting literally just from what we just talked about, more of a employee or people first social strategy. Like we said, people want to hear from people. They don’t want to hear how cool, awesome, amazing your brand is and how much you help other people. They want to understand your company in a different light than maybe what your website says or something like that.
Really what this does is it allows companies to show that side. I think it’s not a new strategy, but it’s not fully adopted yet either by a lot of brands and right away two reasons come to mind of why that it’s a good model. The first one, the algorithms like social media algorithms will always favor people and conversations, always. If you think about next time you go on LinkedIn, look at as you’re scrolling through your news feed, if you see a post that like has a bunch of likes and you know, it’s pretty– you’re probably going to have a lot of comments going on, meaning conversation.
The algorithms like conversations are what make posts go almost viral or tells the algorithm, “Let’s keep showing this because people care and want to talk about it.” When you think about that, when you put people first into your strategy, hopefully you gain more engagement and conversation. The second part is like we talked about, it highlights employees, customers, and influencers. That’s like the key three things that you want to bring into a strategy like that. You still, of course, sprinkle in your services and your blogs and case studies and things like that. You really focus on how you’re helping them, who your employees are. Again, just bring more of that human aspect to your brand. Yes, I think that’s something that we’ll continue to see, not necessarily new, but not fully adopted either.
From the tactical perspective, I would say live video or just video marketing in general. We saw a huge-
Josh: What we’re doing right now.
Abby: Yes, absolutely. Real conversations. That’s exactly it. We saw a huge spike in this over the last year, but I don’t think it’s something that brands have yet fully optimized or like taken advantage of. Even just live Q&As or like we said, conversations like this, utilizing videos to really showcase expertise, educate, all of those things is really what people want and how people are consuming information.
Someone could watch this and they could watch us engage, or they could put their headphones in and be walking with it too. You can take in that information so many different ways too. I think that’s another key one. Video, live video, video marketing, any of that would be one from a strategy perspective, if you don’t have it in play right now to really get on that. I guess my advice I did not-
Josh: Question two. What piece of advice might you have for somebody who’s managing social media?
Abby: Yes. For someone managing social media, I would say my biggest piece of advice is again, to just understand and drive home the purpose of it. Social media, there’s a lot that goes on our plate. Sometimes people think we’re graphic designers, they think we’re video editors. They think that we’re really witty and can respond back on Twitter. That’s not always the case. I would say really just focusing on the purpose of why you want to be on social media for your brand and then build your strategy off of that. That is I think, and when you do that, you come up with a really a strategic, but also believable strategy and approach, which is what social is all about.
Josh: Yes. Begin with the end in mind. Figure out what your goals are, where you want to go with this? Why are you doing it? Then from there build. I really love that. That’s a great piece of advice. We could probably talk social media for hours, but I really appreciate your time, Abby. This has been a lot of fun but we’re going to have to say goodbye for now for episode 17, Augurs On The Town. Thanks so much, Abby. Really appreciate it.
Abby: Thank you.