The Outer Layer of Social Media Impact
Influencing a Community We Can’t Measure
There are a lot of discussions on businesses participating in social media and how they can appropriately measure their efforts and document their successes (or failures). How do you measure social media ROI? Does ROI even exist for social media? Those just stepping into the social sphere have a lot to consider.
However, regardless of whether you’re tracking retweets, followers, or video views, successful online efforts can influence people who are essentially off your radar. Businesses who engage online have the opportunity to influence an outer layer of individuals who may be unmeasurable by any social media metrics.
The Roger Smith Hotel is a boutique hotel in New York City that engages in social media. However, I’m not one of their Twitter followers, I’ve never seen their Flickr photos, and I have no idea if they have a Facebook page. I’ve also never visited their hotel, and I hadn’t heard of their brand until a few months ago. It wouldn’t matter how they measured their online reach – I’ve had little to no interaction with their online channels and I don’t represent any clicks, tweets, links, or mentions (until now).
However, they’ve reached a point online where their branding has stretched beyond their immediate control and their hotel evangelists have begun doing their marketing for them. I know about the Roger Smith Hotel, and I found out about them online.
The Wisdom of Word of Mouth
I follow a pretty small group of people on Twitter right now, but I read what they post. I look at their TwitPics, and I click on their links. Even though the group is small, I would guess that half of the knowledge and new information I acquire each day can be attributed to something that I saw on Twitter.
I’ve seen the Roger Smith Hotel mentioned a couple of times in the past few months – and I saw it mentioned by different people. I’ve read their updates, and I’ve clicked their links to the Roger Smith Life blog. None of this came directly from the Roger Smith team.
To be fair, the Roger Smith Hotel has very little reason to seek me out or know I exist. I live on the West Coast, so I won’t be attending any of their events in the near future; I don’t have any immediate plans in New York, so I’m not searching for hotels in the city right now. In fact, normally if I was hunting down hotels in NYC, the Roger Smith won’t make it onto my list. The prices are probably beyond any budget-traveler limits I’d have set, and it’s not a national chain, so it’d be easy to not notice.
However, via the powers of the Roger Smith online community, their brand has found me. I’ve seen pictures where I recognized the Roger Smith sign, and I’ve read posts where people have mentioned meeting up with friends at Roger Smith. It sounds like fun.
A Human Face for a Business Brand
I visited their blog and was confused. At first, I wondered if it was really a hotel. Where were all the articles pimping room specials and announcing how great the service is? They’re not there. Instead they have real pictures and real video accompanying real stories about real people. In short, they have useful and interesting content. And it’s not there just to get high search engine rankings or to generate links back to their website. It’s there to humanize their company and put a personal face on their brand.
Since I’m now intrigued by their content and their persona, I begin visiting other pages and looking at their website further. The Roger Smith Hotel doesn’t know that because I’m a dancer and choreographer, I have an interest in performance art. But I do, so their information on the installation art space, The Lab, immediately gets my interest. As I browse the artists and performances featured on The Lab site, the Roger Smith Hotel has not only presented me with a possible place to stay the next time I’m in NYC, but now they’ve given me another reason to want to plan a trip.
If the Roger Smith marketing team does measure social media ROI, and if I do book a room at their hotel when I’m next in NYC, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to attribute that booking directly to a social media campaign. Maybe sometime I’ll sign up for their email or maybe I’ll check visit them on Twitter and click on a few links. But if I don’t, have their efforts been any less of a success? Is their use of social media unjustified?
No. They’ve created a persona strong enough to reach people beyond the immediate scope of their own online community. Even when it’s unmeasurable, the influence is there.