Social marketing changes every day – new tools, new strategies, new best practices. So I had a chat with Adam Metz, VP of Business Development at The Social Concept, to talk about the state of social today. Adam has consulted with nearly 200 companies on how to acquire, manage, monetize, and retain customers from the social web. His first book, There Is No Secret Sauce, has sold or downloaded over 3000 copies, and his second, The Social Customer, recently hit #1 on the Amazon marketing charts.

Everyone is always talking about important social media is for brands and retailers but, in your opinion, has anybody really figured out a way to effectively measure social?

Yes, actually a lot of companies have figured out how to measure social media, and its impact on retail’s bottom line, like Wet Seal. Others, like Apple, have consciously chosen to avoid using social as a sales and marketing channel, because their organizations lack the cultural values of openness and transparency needed to be successful here. (This is not a value judgment on Apple; they simply chose to take a different route – when you’re that big, you have no imperative to be social).

The impact on social can be easily measured, as it relates to ecommerce. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Use your CRM to figure out which customers are the 9-28% of your customer base that does not use social media.
  2. Measure their purchase size and frequency versus the rest of your customers.

What’s your advice for ecommerce folks trying to fashion a social strategy?

Do not improvise. The stakes are simply too high. If it’s your first time out, collaborate with a social strategy expert that has experience with ecommerce brands, and specific case studies with tangible ecommerce increases tied directly to social.

Can you give us some examples of how social has influenced brands? How about e-commerce sites?

Social media has influenced brands such that in the last five years, it has gone from being a negligible marketing expense to what is projected to be a $9.8B paid spend by 2016, according to a recent ClickZ article. Online ad spending eclipsed print spending this year, according to eMarketer .

The amount of social media-driven purchasing from ecommerce sites has boomed in the last 24 months, with the growth of social photo-sharing sites like Pinterest. From a recent Shopify study, orders that came from Pinterest, as reported by retailers, were double the size of orders that came from Facebook .

What are some of the common pitfalls folks should avoid when developing a social strategy?

First off, if the social strategy is not tied to top-level demand generation issues (total revenue needed, total leads needed), I doubt the strategy will secure buy-in from key executives in your company. Even if it does, the strategy will likely fail to do more than attract top-of-funnel attention, and will not achieve ROI.

Second, if a high amount of sales and marketing automation is not used to execute the strategy, your organization will lack any competitive advantage. If your competitors are not using automation yet, they will be within six to 12 months.

Feel free to have anyone who you’d consider speaking at press conference on behalf of your company executing the strategy. If you don’t think the individual is experienced enough to speak on your behalf in front of television cameras, don’t let them implement your social strategy.

A friend once described the confluence of ecommerce and social as the biggest thing in decades, do you agree?

For ecommerce, I’d agree that it’s the biggest thing in about a decade, yes. That said, I’m more excited about recent advances in HIV research, in terms of big-picture impact on mankind.