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Social Media & the Forest Products Industry: Reasons for Adoption and Metrics for Success

by editor 16. June 2016 07:36

By: Iris Montague, Research Forester: USDA Forest Service; Kathryn Arano, Associate Professor of Forest Resources Management: West Virginia University and Jan Wiedenbeck, Team Leader/Research Forest Products Technologist: USDA Forest Service

In 2013, we investigated social media use by companies in the forest products industry in the U.S. We received information from 166 companies.  About 60% were using some form of social media as part of their marketing mix and most of these companies (90%) had started using social media recently (since 2008).  We learned from these companies that Facebook was the most used social media site, followed by LinkedIn.

The majority (63%) of the companies that were using social media have a person who is dedicated to social media development, yet responses indicated that on average their social media sites only get updated on a monthly basis or less. Research shows that message frequency (the number of times an average person or household is exposed to a company or brand’s message) is very important in achieving consumer recall and attitude change and maintaining fresh content on company social media sites is considered a key to being successful at engaging current and potential customers (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010).

The top three reasons cited by companies for using social media were (1) to increase exposure, (2) to establish branding, and (3) to improve sales. Although the benefits of social media use are well documented, there are still many who are apprehensive about using it.  Generating a return on investment (ROI) to cover costs, generating member/customer activity, having staff to manage social media sites, getting members or fans, and maintaining site security were identified as challenges of adopting social media.

Because the nature of social media as a marketing tool makes calculation of ROI challenging, forest products companies mostly focus on other quantitative metrics (non-dollar) as well as on qualitative metrics for measuring the effectiveness of social media. The top three quantitative metrics used for evaluating social media effectiveness were: (1) number of site visits, (2) number of social network friends, and (3) number of comments/profile views. In terms of qualitative metrics used by companies to measure social media effectiveness, the three most commonly used metrics were: (1) growth of relationships with key audiences, (2) audience participation, and 3) moving from monologue to dialogue with consumers. From a marketing standpoint, focusing on these metrics rather than just ROI may be a good social media strategy.

To learn more about social media and obtain important tips on building a successful social media strategy, please join us at IWF 2016 Education Conference for our sessions, "Social Media Tips and Trends for the Forest Product Industry."

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