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By Hilary Baar

I was surprised to read in Direct that Ning was no longer offering a free version of their online community platform.  When DMAW began setting up its social media presence and channels, we looked at including Ning for a while in the offerings.  Whew, I’m glad we didn’t.  The bigger issue, as Direct points out, is how would you move your community off Ning???

The other salient point discussed within the article was about owning your data to perform analytics and measure ROI.  I shouldn’t be surprised that Direct would include a discussion of metrics within an article on social media.  But, regardless, bravo!  The more we talk about how to measure social media, the more we can incorporate social media into our broader direct marketing programs.

Yes, social media is about building communities but it can be more than that.  The way I see it, strong communities support their brand and that means there is a measurable action taking place, be it purchasing the product/service, referring the product/service to other communities or endorsing the product/service.  Yes, I have drunk the social media flavored water, but I’ve seen it work to drive sales and donations.  As direct marketers, this social media thing is being defined still … and, although I’m partial, I think direct marketers will have a positive impact on how social media is used and why.

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Hilary Baar is an Account Director at The Lukens Company and member of  the Direct Marketing Association of Washington.