Companies have long had problems putting numbers on social media marketing results. Wetpaint and the Altimeter Group have now released a study looking at how engagement with consumers through social media correlates with financial performance.
The "ENGAGEMENTdb study" shows that companies who measured as having "the greatest breadth and depth of social media engagement" grew revenues by 18% over the last year, while the companies that were the least engaged dropped 6% on average.

Charlene Li "This is the first study of this depth on the top global brands and we think the results provide a good guide for corporations and brand marketers in every industry," says Charlene Li, Founder, Altimeter Group. "The success stories we have uncovered provide a blueprint for companies making decisions about how to best apply their marketing and consumer relations resources."

Channels taken into consideration for the study were:

- Blogs
- Facebook
- Twitter
- Wikis
- Discussion Forums

Brands looked at were the 100 most valuable ones as identified by the 2008 BusinessWeek/Interbrand Best Global Brands ranking. In case you were wondering what the top ten brands are according to the ENGAGEMENTdb study, they are as follows:

1. Starbucks
2. Dell
3. eBay
4. Google
5. Microsoft
6. Thomson Reuters
7. Nike
8. Amazon
9. SAP
10. Yahoo!/Intel (Tie)
Engagementdb graph - Starbucks on top
So what are these brands doing right?

According to Wetpaint and the Altimeter Group, the companies that scored well have dedicated teams (of varying sizes) who are active in the social media channels they utilize. Basically, it shows that it pays (literally) to have a team working full time on engaging with customers via social media. Even if that team consists of one person, it means they will not be distracted by other tasks and can give the social channel the attention required for it to make a significant impact.

As the social web continues to grow (meaning more people joining social networks, more people blogging, and more sites becoming social), there is a growing number of channels that require said attention.

Ben Elowitz "The ENGAGEMENTdb study goes a long way towards validating the importance of social media for business," says Ben Elowitz, CEO of Wetpaint. "The closer any company is to its customers, the better, and it's hard to argue with the ability for social media to create such proximity. In this day and age, companies should feel much more comfortable investing in social media -- the correlation to results is so clear."

It is in fact that clarity that many companies have had a hard time seeing in the past. Social media is still in its early stages though really. In the grand scheme of things, it's still a relatively new concept. Keep in mind, that many businesses still do not even have websites, let alone a social media presence.

It is going to take studies like this and concrete data showing the financial benefits for more small businesses to truly get on board and engage. Having dedicated teams is a strategy that will likely become more commonplace as companies realize that half-assing it is just a waste of time.

A couple of other highlights from the study:

- The study found that the most successful teams evangelize social media across the entire organization to pull in a broad range of stakeholders.

- These companies view social media as an indispensable tool to help them achieve results, and their approach is conversational.

Along with the study, the ENGAGEMENTdb site was launched as a tool where companies can measure themselves against the top 100 in terms of the strength of their social media efforts. It's probably not a bad idea to take a look if you're serious about those efforts.


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