Do you want to know if your content is working for you?
There is a constant slew of articles, Blog posts, tweets and conversations (online and offline) about how to define success in Social Media. In the past few weeks I've come to one conclusion: you can't measure success if you're unsure of the quality of what the initial input is. What does that mean? You can't be looking at the end result and ask if something was successful in Social Media. You have to look, first, at the content that you're putting into the machine. More often than not, the end result is a function of the quality of the content - and how it connected.
Is there one, ultimate, question that will help you answer this?
Yes. Ask yourself this (and be honest): is what we're doing self-interested or interesting? It may seem like an obvious question to ask (and even easier to answer), but you may well be surprised. Most brands that struggle with Social Media are much more self-interested than interesting. In fact, I would argue that the majority of their interesting content is hampered by a veneer of self-interested undertones.
What does this look like?
You're a plumbing company and you're Blogging about home improvement. You do a Blog post on the ten most important things you need to know about renovating a bathroom, and within that post, the biggest learning/takeaway is that the reader can contact you to help them with the work. While the content may be somewhat interesting, that slight slant to making the content self-interested skews it at a macro level. Last May, I published a Blog post called, Will A Brands Next Big Move Be A Journalism Department? that dovetails into this perfectly. A journalist will not write a self-interested piece. They will (hopefully) write something interesting. It's not just about Blogs. Think about Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even Foursquare. The content that conquers is the content that is interesting. People are smart. They are able to not only be able to figure out where this content came from, but they will build a level of loyalty towards a brand... any brand... that is interesting, valuable and relevant to them.
Don't confuse Social Media Marketing with Social Media Advertising.
They are not the same thing. Fred Reichheld wrote the bestselling business book, The Ultimate Question, about customer experiences. The ultimate question - according to Reichheld - is: "How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?". Perhaps Social Media has a different ultimate question, and it's this: "is what we're doing self-interested or interesting?"
It would be interesting to see how brands would self-assess themselves with this kind of question.