Taking stock of social media
People magazine recently eclipsed 4 million followers on Twitter. Vogue has 3.1 million Facebook fans. The big numbers underscore the progress magazine publishers have made establishing a strong social media presence. But the question remains, what impact do these followers have on the business?
Measuring social ROI continues to be a challenge for media companies and marketers alike. Some say it’s a fool’s errand to even try to formulate an ROI metric for social media.
“Keep dreaming,” Unmetric CEO Lakshmanan Narayan wrote in a guest post for Forbes about the folly of brands (not publishers specifically) attempting to pinpoint social media ROI. He adds:
In terms of social media today, we often hear questions like “what is the monetary value of a fan?” Ironic, considering that we still have not fully defined the value of a TV commercial viewer. In fact, we continue to ‘invest’ in television and other mass media advertising, notwithstanding the fact that we still don’t know which (proverbial) 50% of our budget is working.
L2 ThinkTank, in its most recent Digital IQ Index for magazines, found that only 38% of the 80 magazine brands it studied are actively monetizing a Facebook tab (for example, by referencing an advertiser), and just 35% are monetizing their tweet stream (eg, through sponsored tweets).
Although publishers haven’t yet figured out the magic ROI formula for Facebook and Twitter, not to mention emerging platforms such as Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and Google+, they are collecting an awful lot of information about how their audience likes to engage on social media. This data can lead to insights that inform content and audience development decisions and, indirectly at least, boost revenues.
A recent MPA study of 18-to-34-year-olds sheds some light on how magazine brands are attracting Millennials into their social media communities. The study found that 56% of magazine readers who use Twitter follow a magazine brand on Twitter. For respondents who identified themselves as “avid magazine readers,” that figure jumps to 69%. Two-thirds of avid readers said they had re-tweeted articles from a magazine’s feed.
The numbers are similar for Facebook. About half (49%) said they had visited a magazine’s Facebook page and 41% said they had “liked” a page. Asked why they visited a magazine’s Facebook page, a majority (59%) said the content was relevant to them.
The survey also asked respondents who had never visited a magazine’s Facebook page why they didn’t. The overwhelming response: They never even considered it. This response shows that publishers still have plenty of work to do to turn their print readers into highly engaged, multi-channel loyalists.
So where are the opportunities to draw a larger portion of the audience into social media? Not necessarily with content. Here are three areas that are emerging as key drivers of social media engagement – and possibly revenue – for publishers.
At least half of the respondents in the MPA study said they: enter contests on Facebook or Twitter to win products or receive discounts; download coupons from a company’s Facebook page; tell their friends on Facebook or Twitter about a special sale; or redeem an offer from a company’s Twitter feed or Facebook page.
While 54% said they would follow a magazine’s Twitter account for special offers, contests or games, only 31% said they would follow the magazine for real-time news or updates. Asked about what magazines could offer exclusively to subscribers on Facebook or Twitter that would add value, respondents chose tangible rewards – product samples (50%) and special offers from advertisers (44%) – over insider-type offerings such as sneak previews or other exclusive access to content.
The results point to a big opportunity for publishers to engage users with contests and bring advertisers into the mix with exclusive product offerings or giveaways.
The jury is still out on social commerce, but Pinterest has caught online retailers’ attention as a way to showcase products – and sell them directly to members. Earlier this year, Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten led a $100 million round of funding for Pinterest. At the time, Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani told TechCrunch that his company wants to commercialize Pinterest so users can buy products directly from the site.
Online shoe retailer Zappos yesterday announced a new service called Pinpointing that recommends Zappos products based on a user’s pins. Users can click on recommended pins to purchase them on Zappos.
The growing success of Pinterest could diminish the potential of social shopping on Facebook, where publishers such as Elle have launched s-commerce initiatives. Publishers may want to look at shifting their social commerce efforts from Facebook to the highly visual and more product-oriented Pinterest.
A recent Harris Interactive survey for MediaBrix found that 33% of Facebook’s 1 billion users said they had used an app on Facebook in the previous 12 months and 65% of these users said they played a game on Facebook over that period. No surprise then that some publishers are taking a long look at social gaming for their Facebook pages.
Self’s Workout in the Park game, for example, attracted nearly 200,000 players in its first two months on Facebook, and the publisher has expectations of creating a standalone gaming business, according to VP and publisher Laura McEwen.
Last fall, Car & Driver partnered with Cie Games, developer of the Facebook game Car Town, for cross-promotion and a series of monthly virtual design contests.
Contests, commerce and gaming? Sounds like a brave new social world for digital media companies.