Lee Odden

Social Media & Content Marketing Success: Short & Long Term

Social Media Content ROIThe number of inquiries we get at our Online Marketing Agency has stayed pretty steady over the past few years but there’s been a notable shift in interest specifically towards social & content marketing.  What’s interesting is the focus on leveraging social media marketing solely for direct consumer acquisition. What’s the problem with that? Nothing. But there’s a lot of missed opportunity by focusing only on the short term benefits of social media & content.

Here’s a typical approach: Create a campaign that leverages a creative content object (hub) supported by PPC, social ads, email, online PR and social content (all optimized for keywords of course) to drive traffic & awareness. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, we love integrated campaigns because there’s so much to work with in terms of promotable content, digital assets to be optimized and social engagement. This can be a great mix, but if the company never runs another campaign, or runs them without any coordination between campaigns, it can be like starting over each time.

What I think a lot of early maturity social media and content marketers are missing out on is the longer term impact of their social content campaigns and the need to focus not just on the direct acquisition of customers through social channels, but also to grow relationships with the people and brands that influence customers who buy.

Launching an interactive tool, game or campaign all by itself usually involves quite a bit of promotion. That means exposure, content, shares, rankings, traffic and engagement. When the campaign stops, the activity will slow down. That’s to be expected, but I think it could be a problem when the competition continues to create interesting, engaging and shareable experiences with social content and media. Each time a new campaign or creative content object is created and promoted, it grows the network and the anticipation of what’s coming next.

I think a focus on tactical execution that emphasizes short term and/or first level return on investment misses out on the broader impact.  Imagine this hypothetical example, which I admit, is intentionally biased towards a bigger picture, longer term approach:

Company A identifies a mix of highly promotable tactics within their target audience of potential customers and creates content relevant to those needs for promotion. Success is measured by the initial reach and traffic generated as well as leads and sales. These tactics are repeated on a continuous basis following Creation, Optimization, Promotion, Social Engagement and Measurement best practices. Tactics achieve a certain level of success, but network growth and reach is a slow climb.

Company B identifies the pain points of key customer segments and builds out a content plan to uniquely position itself as an authority by packaging content in creative ways and allocating social engagement resources to interact with both customers and relevant industry thought leaders in the space.  Understanding what makes those influentials tick in terms of how they align themselves with vendors, products and services is factored into the content marketing and social media marketing strategy in tandem with customer focused marketing.

Content Objects are promoted through social networks in support of customer acquisition as well as objectives related to alignment with industry thought leaders.  Crowdsourcing content with the community invests them in the success of the brand. First level of success is measured by initial reach, traffic, leads and sales.  Second level and long term success is also measured by growth of relationships with influencers, publications and the ability for the brand to influence messages through those relationships.

Growth and cyclical engagement with online networks and communities expands the company’s ability to grow the reach of its distribution channels creating a network effect for it’s online marketing. The more people involved with the brand’s communities, the more value each participant receives in return, motivating them to share and recruit others.

Maybe the difference is simply a matter of a tactical approach vs. strategic, or focusing on short term results vs. long term. It might also involve how the organization’s leadership sees the potential impact of the social web on sales growth vs. how healthy social communities can amplify that growth.

The drive towards incremental and short term increases in new revenue can make it difficult to justify the cost of long term creative content campaigns, social engagement and relationship building.  A focus on simultaneous goals of direct customer acquisition in the short term as well as growing the community at large, can result in tremendous influence and momentum in the long term. The investment in an approach that doesn’t yield immediate ROI outcomes might seem a marketing budgeting crapshoot, but I think it’s essential to dominate in a category. And increasingly, that’s what it takes to achieve the success the company is after, especially in the long run.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Social Media should be looked at from a long term perspective because this is what determines the strength of the company in the long run i.e customer retention. Great post

    • Thanks Gabrielle. We get so many inquiries focused on short term outcomes, the posts was the start of pointing out longer term impact.

  2. Great post! I agree you need to not just look at the short term but also the long term affect of the Social Media Campaign and determine how to best engage with that audience.

  3. I think sometimes there is this sort of “rush” to get things done quickly. Thanks for pointing out longer term goals.

    • That pretty much nails it Karen – a rush to revenue without considering short and long term impact. It’s basically acting without a bigger picture or strategy in mind – in most cases 🙂

  4. Very insightful post! I agree, with Grabrielle’s comment, social media contributes to customer retention and engagement, which is something that cannot be measured in a short term mindset. A strong connection with your consumer base may lead to multiple future purchases and strong brand loyalty, which is the goal for every company.

    • Exactly – there’s an entire customer lifecycle to be considered and the momentum gained by leveraging social community building and content is to serve both top of funnel growth objectives as well as providing content and experiences for customers to become advocates.

  5. I agree that it’s important to find influencers for your brand. My question is, How do we find “the people and brands that influence customers who buy”?

    • Hey HighWay – that’s a great question. You can start through participation in the channels where discussions are happening on topics relevant to your offering. Use social media monitoring to identify those channels. There are a host of other tools that sift through social data to identify influentials. Klout for example. None of them is perfect but doing data collection and research in combination with first hand participation and surveying your customers – you can get a pretty good idea of who those influencers are. 

      Please take a look at our commenting guidelines – we prefer real names or handles vs. company names. Normally, I just delete them.  Thanks!

      • Avatar Brian Haferkamp says

        @leeodden, sorry about the name. I’ll put in my real name from now on. I’ve looked at Klout before, but don’t really have tons of time to check out everything out there and try it out. I’m not in my business full-time, so I really have to use my time wisely. I’ll do some research and check it out. 
        To be honest, however, I’m pretty lost when it comes to developing an overall strategy for social media. I can’t seem to get many straight answers or anecdotes. Because it involves relationships, I assume it’s a little like asking a guy exactly how to pick up a girl in a bar; it’s different in every situation, but there are general things to remember. Keep up the great work!

        • Thanks Brian – nice to meet you 🙂 Try focusing on identifying your goals, then investigate customer preferences for content and sharing. You can build a social content plan around that and get started, knowing you’d adjust things as you go.

  6. It’s important to keep a long term perspective, especially when it comes to every changing social media. The internet is not a get rich quick kind of place. It certainly can take a business to very successful, but that is rarely going to happen overnight.

  7. I agree to a certain extent but if you have a good product, it should only justify minimal marketing as a good product would start to market itself once it reaches a reasonable mass.

  8. I agreed social media and content distribution on to various site is great thing.

  9. Social Media started becoming the next big thing a couple of years ago, just like the internet became the next big thing a couple of decades ago. And like the internet and a lot of other things Yury Mintskovsky puts it splendid when he says “Every great idea that has good potential of generating revenue has either been taken, it doesn’t work or it’s illegal”. Unfortunately for us, the social media train is leaving the station and it’s getting harder and harder to catch it.

    • I agree, social media is something that’s taking hold, but like an iceberg, we’re only seeing what’s above the surface. If companies have a thoughtful vision for what they stand for and what their customers care about, I don’t think standing out on the social web needs to be hard for anyone. It takes the right people, tools and creative/smarts to be successful with any kind of business and I don’t know that it would be so different a social media world.

      • Precisely! I think some companies are reluctant towards social media because it’s so simple and obvious. I mean you can literally advertise your company in front of a huge number of viewers and thus potential clients and it’s so easy to do it that most people think there is a catch somewhere and in stead of trying to see exactly when and where’s the catch they just prefer to not try it. Of course only the future can tell who acted right and who didn’t.

        • Great optimism Connor. I’m betting on analytics to measure success – that and knowing customers. Social isn’t right for all situations and companies that act in accordance with meeting customer needs will invest where it matters, both short and long term.

  10. Business should be long term. Yes, immediate results are great, but a lot of times they are short lived. When a company is weighing the pros and cons of a campaign like managing online reputation it should consider booth long and short term effects but long term effects should hold more weight.

  11. Avatar Dave Kaiser says

    Thanks for the post. I just launched my own social media campaign for my company The Deal Pages. We’re trying to make the campaign as interactive as possible but there’s a trade-off between degree of interaction and willingness to participate.

  12. Avatar Dave Kaiser says

    Thanks for the post. I just launched my own social media campaign for my company The Deal Pages. We’re trying to make the campaign as interactive as possible but there’s a trade-off between degree of interaction and willingness to participate.