How to un-tap social media and measure ROI with technology

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I was recently asked what technology or innovation in digital marketing that I was most excited about. Although I am biased in my answer, I am always excited to see the results when technology can provide both innovation, and results in the bottom line.  

There are many successful case studies of brands leveraging user-generated social content to tell their stories. Early adopters have been rewarded with deeper relationships with influencers, powerful website and marketing content that is so captivating to their audiences that they are staying connected to the brand website longer.

The longer that eyes remain engaged with the content, the more meaningful the  experience will be in learning about the product, service or experiences that a brand offers.


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The technology behind user generated content marketing is not new. However, executing the strategy around the technology to fully leverage the thousands of images and video content being created around every brand, product or experience, is the key to ensuring that an investment in technology or software generates the return on investment that it should.

How to un-tap the power of social media

Ontario’s invites visitors to become part of their story.

There are hundreds and maybe thousands of pieces of content being created and shared about your brand every day.  Consider the amount of social content being posted and shared by these two popular brands, just in the last 30 days:



This is the “visual word of mouth” that the socially connected consumer has created, and that wise marketers have untapped in helping them to reach, capture and retain both new influencers who will be their best brand ambassador’s, but also more engaged customers – at the point of transaction.

What should marketers be thinking about when determining a technology platform and  strategy to capture and un-tap crowd-sourced content as part of the marketing mix?


Influencer marketing

Photos, videos and brand stories are being created and shared by Instagrammers, top influencers on Twitter and YouTube stars who have an engaged community of followers en mass. Rewarding influencers with a shout out, a follow, or a reward, and featuring their content alongside other brand messages is a means of not only generating good content – but also in building an army of powerful brand ambassadors.

The future of influencer marketing is to be able to build and engage with a wider net of influencers, who may have niche communities and a smaller audience as a whole – but powerful content and more targeted reach. Marketers must find a way to manage and measure this in order to gain reach.

Social Media Contesting

Social media contesting works to engage new Fans on Facebook, but are these leads being nurtured and developed into a perspective customer or brand ambassador?  How do you determine a return on your investment when the transaction or lead generation has occurred outside of the brand web asset?

The idea is to pull the contest to a landing page on the website instead of running it through Facebook or YouTube, and manage both the content assets, as well as the entries to ensure that the lead generation you are looking for is not simply lead gen for Facebook. Leverage social media channels as the powerful marketing vehicles they are – and drive your customers back to the point of conversion.


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Nova Scotia tourism was recently named by SKIFT as one of the Top 25 Destination Websites in the World, with a specific mention of the creative use of crowd-sourced content.


Managing permissions and rights for images and videos

All UGC marketing platforms, or social media aggregators of content worth looking at should have the ability to pull in and re-publish social media content and provide an automated permissions request built in. Outside of the obvious reasons to obtain permissions to use content posted on Facebook or Instagram, asking permission also gives marketers the opportunity to initiate a conversation with posters of content, encourage more content submissions and increase the number of shares. This also allows the brand to build an arsenal of images and videos that can be re-published to become part of the brand marketing strategy.

Adding fresh social media content to the website will immediately improve the stickiness of the website and keep customers close to your point of conversion longer. Consider nurturing relationships with professional photographers who use Instagram as a means of promoting themselves. Work with them to showcase their work – and tell your story. Follows and shares are the currency of the social media economy, and content creators will be thrilled to be recognized and supported by your brand.

Social data asset development and management

Sourcing photography and video production from vendors can be an expensive hit to your bottom line. In addition, research shows that user generated content is more engaging and more trusted than professionally produced content. It is important for marketers to start to build asset libraries of user generated social media images and videos to add into the marketing mix to keep it fresh and vibrant. In addition, keeping image and video assets sorted and categorized by content type increases marketing automation and efficiency.

Lead capture and measuring ROI on social media

Many companies struggle to find their ROI from social media, but believe it or not, you can gauge the return on your social media investment. By using technology and analytics, marketers are now able to track conversions on a sign up, App download, purchase, or page visit as a means to measure the impact that social media content has on their sales.

They key is to use social media channels as marketing tactics to drive users back to the point of conversion, not send them back out to Instagram once you have the customer on the website.

SEO and Website content

Website bounce rates, time on site, and average  number of pages per visits have been illustrating to marketers for quite some time that websites are not engaging or as good at closing the sale as they once were.

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Consumer user behaviour has changed, but most brand websites have not kept up to ensure that their storefront is engaging to a new kind of customer.

Consumers spend more time on Social Media channels than ever before, and less time on websites. By showcasing social stories on the website,  visitors are able to engage and share social media content from the website, and are more likely to remain on the website, instead of bouncing out to Facebook or Instagram. By giving users a similar experience they get on Instagram or Facebook – brands will keep customers on the website longer, and have the chance to further engage them to sign up or buy.

In addition, “Social signals” – or referring traffic back from a social network have also become a key factor in Google’s search ranking. Marketers need to continue to add links to social media posts to encourage users to go back to the website and engage with the brand. By providing similar content on the website, marketers can capture and retain that lead longer, and also increase the amount of fresh SEO friendly content added to the website.


What’s next in the technology behind UGC marketing platforms?


Personalized delivery of social content upon returning to the website, within marketing messages – and in emails.

This can be done now with platforms such as Hashtagio, allowing brands to tag and categorize UGC content to be searched and re-published at any time, to any place.

Automated tagging of visual content via AI technology

Although this is the not so distant future, I would caution that many brands are not even fully leveraging crowd sourced content now.   There are only a few brands that are fully un-tapping the potential in injecting social stories into the marketing mix.  Testing how crowd sourced content can impact the website performance and sales should be the first step before investing in automating the tagging of content.

It is the curation and categorizing of the content itself, as well as the implementation and measurement of success that is more of a priority for most brands.



Technology and marketing automation are on the minds of marketers more than ever before.

Keep this advice in mind when researching solutions for managing user generated content, or any other software or technology for that matter. Software bells and whistles will not be the key to tapping into the power of crowd-sourced content. Take the time and deploy resources to the right implementation strategy. The results will be improved efficiencies in social media marketing, proven ROI and of course, increased sales.


By Alicia Whalen

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 3.17.50 PMAlicia Whalen is a blogger, speaker and Chief Evangelist for Hashtagio the platform pulls in social content by Hashtag, Location or @handle. Content is tagged and searchable and can be republished on brand websites, in emails, and in other media. The Hashtagio UGC marketing platform provides automated rights management to obtain permissions to use images, and advanced analytics to brands build direct connects with Instagrammers, tweeters and Youtubers. Hashtagio is a social data asset management tool, a UCG marketing platform, and a website marketing automation tool that allows brands to fully leverage social media stories.  

Hashtagio Case Studies in Injecting Social Media into the Website

On-boarding brands with Hashtagio’s Social Media integration platform over the past few months has already been a great success for our clients.  Our theory was that by injecting social stories into the website – at the point of transaction, that brands would be able to fully leverage powerful social media content that is currently only driving engagement and traffic to social media channels Facebook, Instagram and YouTube – instead of the brand website.  It is working!


What we have learned:

Inject powerful Social stories to the place of purchase and build more loyalty, traffic and sales.

Injecting social stories into the brand website keeps website traffic on the website longer, keeps the user from leaving the point of transaction – and leads to more sharing of brand social stories.  Website engagement metrics improve dramatically.

Pages with social media hubs of content are seeing bounce rates under 10%, compared against industry averages of 30% plus.  In addition, important Social referrer traffic is increasing with shares of social content coming from the website.  This is important in determining website search engine ranking now more than ever.


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As we work with new brands looking to inject both user-generated content, and their own brand social media content into the website, we continue to see this theory play out.  In addition to drive website engagement metrics, we are also seeing Visitor’s share/follow’s increase which means more important social links back to the website.

Injecting social media content into the website has brought the user back to the place of transaction.


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I will continue to post on innovative ways that our clients are leveraging HASHTAGIO to inject social stories into the website.  Stay tuned!

Strategic. Streamlined. Sexy : Keys to Success in Social Media

Planning a Social Media Strategy is about as straight forward as asking a toddler to “sit still for a minute”.  So what is a Marketing Director, Community Manager, accidental social media poster by default to do?

Social Media has morphed many skill-sets together and may be managed by a variety of different people or positions within an organization. Ideally an outside agency or consultant with experience in developing and executing multi-platform social communities and campaigns should be brought in to set up a social strategy, define key metrics for performance, and to train internal teams to manage moving forward.

Having said that, if time and resources are not available – stick with the three S’s in managing successful social media communities and campaigns – and make sure to integrate your social media with your overall marketing efforts, and you will see results and ROI.


Strategic, Streamlined and Sexy:

1. Strategic

Strong brands in social media have a strategy, the right resources, and a plan.  Start with what channels you need to build a presence on based on your target audiences.

Define social media goals.  Don’t jump in on every social media channel until you are doing one really well.  Maybe you have a killer Facebook business page, but you are lacking new fans, engagement or clicks back to a conversion.

Perhaps you have not had the time or resources in moving ahead with LinkedIn for your Sales team, but you know the networking tool could really make the sales process easier.  Build it into your plan and have a solid strategy to ensure that any time and money spent will see an ROI in some way or another.

Write a plan for each social channel you are already using or think your brand needs to have a presence on, and identify what needs to be improved and why.

If you spend time posting and building a community on Twitter and you can’t define a few good reasons why.

That question of ROI will always rear its ugly head.  Key performance metrics can be as simple as driving target referral traffic back to a website, or networking with customers and learning about the competitor.

Define what you (or your competitors) are doing well, how could it be improved, and how you will benchmark the performance or ROI.  Then map out what resources are in place to manage the community, the goals for each community, and how you will measure it.  

Think traffic to a website, increased engagement metrics, increases in content shares and viral distribution of your brand content.


 “Planning a social media strategy is as straight forward as asking a toddler to sit still for a minute.”

2. Streamlined

No one marketing campaign has ever worked in isolation.  At the same time, each of your social communities will be different in the way you deliver content, respond and engage with your followers and brand champions, and in the amount of time and resources you devote to it.

Be smart and streamlined with your messages.  If you are looking to run a contest on Facebook – ensure you plan it out properly, and ensure all roads lead to a point of conversion.  Conversion may be more “likers” or traffic to your website, but ensure that your target audience follows a path to enter the contest and complete an action that you had intend them to complete.

Be streamlined in your efforts overall.  Avoid trying too many tactics on too many social channels.  Stick with what’s working and make sure you manage your resources to be able to build your social brand over the long term.


“You have to stand out, shout out, and be proud of your brand on the social web!” 

3. Sexy

Yes I said sexy.  Digital media allows us to think outside the box.  Try some unique and creative tactics and have fun with it!  If you are going to dedicate time and resources to develop a presence on social communities – you better use them to their fullest potential!

Learn to listen and respond instead of pushing out messages to your target audiences. The social web is the place to show the personality of your brand and really engage your consumers – not to announce a 20% off special.

There are many other MUST DO’s in building out your brand social media strategy, but if you keep these points in mind, focus on good design and content, and at the very least commit to allocating resources to get in the game – you will be ready for all of those RT’s, LIKES, Diggs, G+’s, Shares, Comments and Views.



Alicia Whalen is a Digital + Social Media Marketing Professional and recovering Entrepreneur, who has spent over a decade helping professionals understand how to embrace digital and social media. An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on TwitterLinkedIn or at

LinkedIn and Social Selling: Not your momma’s job board

As a recovering entrepreneur and student of social media, I am keenly aware that LinkedIn is not something that any professional should ignore.  LinkedIn is a powerful social selling platform and builder of Brand YOU.

Whether you are selling yourself to a perspective employer, or ensuring that your network of colleagues and customers are close by at all times.

LinkedInforSalesLinkedIn is the rolodex, filing system and fax machine of our time.

LinkedIn 101: The Basics

Although an update to your LinkedIn profile may still lead to a flutter of water cooler gossip, and an emergency HR meeting to find your replacement – it has become a necessary social platform for any business professional, graduating student or anyone who will ever have a career of any kind. Period.

If you are still ignoring those invites to connect, I invite you to turn your privacy settings on, grab a coffee, and take a look at the new LinkedIn. This is not your mamma’s job board.

A few tips before you start posting those congratulations on promotions and skill endorsements:

  1. Don’t blind post. When updating your profile, you can opt out of alerting your network to changes. This is advisable if you are not looking for a new career, but simply updating your profile to ensure your experience and skills are up to date.
  1. Update your profile. Your profile will get indexed in search engines, and people are looking. Use keywords that reflect your skills, post links to other social media channels including Twitter and YouTube and if you have a blog, start posting your content as a LinkedIn contributor.  Ask your colleagues for recommendations and give some back in return. Recommendations are key.
  1. Join groups and share content. Don’t share any and all content. This is not Facebook.  Be careful and purposeful about whom you endorse, content you share, and comments you make in groups. LinkedIn has become an excellent community platform to share good content, and to learn and engage with other professionals.  I recommend a minimalist approach.  Check in daily and don’t obsess. 
  1. Mind your manners. Random connections are not cool. I don’t accept connection requests from people I don’t know, or are not related to my profession – unless of course they write me a nice note to let me know why they are connecting. I guess you could call adding non-relevant connections the new “cold call.”
  1. Add some personality. Also add relevant skills and experience to match your professional profile, but keep in mind – this is not a resume. Ok so sometimes it can act like one.  Use an online resume builder like Do You Buzz to build your CV – then make that available to your network if you are job searching.


Beyond the obvious. Using LinkedIn for Sales and Marketing:   Warning – this is LinkedIn 2.0

If you really want to turbo charge your professional profile, LinkedIn has powered up the platform with the following tools and tricks:

  1. Know your audience. Don’t just know who looking at your profile, but understand why. With LinkedIn analytics, you can see what actions lead to increased activity and profile views. Actions such as endorsements, shared content, and comments can lead to more visibility for brand YOU.
  1. Dig Deep.  A new LinkedIn tool allows for a database download for sales and marketing professionals to use as a relationship management tool. Downloadable data includes first-degree connections, comments, endorsements and shares.

According to this article LinkedIn added this tool as a way for users to manage privacy.  Ironic.

  1. Use your network to open the door: Newly launched, the LinkedIn Sales Navigator promises to be a sales prospecting tool like we have never seen before. I believe them.

According to Techcrunch, the new tool will open the door to “social selling,” (queue the hot new buzz word) which consists of:

“Establishing a presence on social networks, finding the right people, engaging with those people, and building trust.”

Then of course comes the cold (ish) call. Perhaps then it is more of a warm and fuzzy “how are the kids” kind of call instead? Ok I’ll bite.

Note that this is a paid for “Premium” tool outside of what LinkedIn currently offers its users for free.  There are other paid LinkedIn Premium tools that include; Job Seaker Premium, and LinkedIn Premium Business Plus.  I have not paid for these premium services and used them and therefore cannot offer commentary – yet.

LinkedIn has become THE Career Network.

Beyond the obvious, LinkedIn is a connector, content distributer, door opener, and brand-YOU builder.  In a business world where YOU are our own currency, invest some time in making sure you are making the most out of your experience, connections and knowledge.


Alicia Whalen is a digital and social media marketing professional and recovering Entrepreneur, who has spent over a decade helping brands and people understand how to embrace digital and social media in all facets of business. An avid tweeter and lover of travel, technology and the Ah-Ha moments.

Connect with Alicia on Twitter, LinkedIn or here at 

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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