Let's say your brand has ten thousand followers on Twitter and an even greater number of fans on Facebook. Congratulations! Now what?

Throw Out the Superficial Stats

While fan base growth and engagement were high priorities in 2011, a majority of companies are still struggling with the third, and often most desirable, part of the equation: monetization. This year, experts around the way are saying that to see real results, it's going to take long-term strategy.

In other words, we've all got to get beyond likes and followers-- neither of those statistics will hold up in a meeting. 

"Because fans and followers are so easily viewable by all employees of our owned social accounts as well as our competitors, it’s easy to use that as a default index," explains Web Strategist Jeremiah Owyang. "Instead, focus on the business outcomes of the account, whether it be for being involved in influencing them, transacting leads or conversions, fostering word of mouth, improving customer service and support, or generating ideas for future products or the brand." 

A Practical Approach

As usual, step one in defining a more practical approach is understanding. You've got to know about customer preferences and needs before you can meet those needs, so don't put networking on the back-burner-- but do enhance it. ClickZ offers a set of questions marketers can ask themselves in order to achieve this, including:

  • What are your customers' preferences for social content discovery, consumption, and sharing?
  • What goals do you hope to achieve? Have you defined goals for different audiences such as customers, employees, prospects, partners, and the media?
  • What departments, business units, cost centers, and approval entities need to be involved?

The payout is slated to be awesome. "In addition to spending more time thinking about how to engage audiences, marketers will soon begin to measure social media’s impact on the business through a more traditional ROI definition: attributable sales and costs," insists Wildfire Interactive

For example, the company recently conducted a global ROI survey of over 700 marketers and compiled the results in a handy infographic. One statistic notes the long-term benefits of engaging with customers on Facebook:

  • New customer recruitment 
  • Higher conversion rates
  • More frequent purchases

Keep Tabs on Change 

But don't put all your eggs in Zuckerberg's basket. As marketers start to better measure the impact of their social efforts, Wildfire says the specific platform might not always matter: 

While respondents ranked Facebook as their top social media marketing channel, we may see this change in 2012 with services like Twitter’s branded pages, LinkedIn’s developer launch, Google+ and the continued growth of blogging networks like Tumblr and WordPress.

Check out the findings in picture form below and, as usual, feel free to drop a comment if you've got a helpful hint or two to share.