Get A Yardstick

Ah, measurement. How we love to have a gauge of whether what we’re doing is working or not. No more telling me that you can’t measure the impact of social media. Here’s a pile of metrics you can consider. Try benchmarking them before you start your online outreach or community efforts, and tracking them throughout and after.

Your Metrics Should Vary

As you embark on this list, you ought to work backwards. Start with your objective in mind, and from there, work back toward the measures and metrics most likely to drive toward that goal and support the intelligence you hope to gather. Measure those. You can’t and shouldn’t measure everything. You should measure the indicators and drivers of what you want to accomplish.

What You Might Measure

Revenue and Business Development: (benchmark before and after SM initiatives begin)

  • Speed/length of sales cycle
  • Number or % of Repeat customers
  • % of Customer Retention
  • Number of customer referrals (new business), net number of new leads
  • Transaction value per customer
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Conversions from blog/email subs to leads or customers
  • Website conversions for leads or sales
  • Organic search rankings > converted leads
  • % of Converted leads from online vs. offline sources

Potential Cost Savings:

  • Shorter customer service/issue resolution time
  • % of issues resolved via offline vs. online channels
  • Number of support calls before/after outreach effort
  • Recruiting costs through online presence (vs. recruiters)
  • Training costs
  • % of quarterly or annual customer/account turnover
  • Overhead costs for communication (measure costs of online outreach vs. analog as compared to resolution ratios)
  • Number/ ratio of viable community-driven product ideas
  • Length of concept-to-development cycle (use of online community as testing/focus/idea development)

Value, Awareness, Influence

  • Brand Loyalty
  • Sentiment of posts online – advocates, detractors
  • Share of conversation/voice
  • Number and frequency of mentions in media (online or print)
  • Net Promoter Score (likelihood of recommendation)
  • Subscribers to blog/email/newsletter
  • Comments/engagement on posted material, downloads of ebooks, etc. (interaction with content)
  • Inbound links to site/blog (total as well as on-topic/relevant)
  • Number of Tags, votes, social bookmarks
  • Fans/followers/group members for social profiles (implication of a brand following)

A note about Cause and Influence:

For all the metrics you track, you have to realize that the path from initial contact to desired result is a winding one when it comes to marketing. Direct marketing efforts like “get postcard, enter code, buy said product” are more obviously causal and can outline a clear sales path. But in a social and online world where there are literally hundreds of touchpoints in effect at any given point, metrics themselves don’t indicate success or failure.

In most cases, it’s a combination of several factors – need, awareness, cost, sentiment, reputation, availability – that drive a business/purchase decision. So what you’re really after is not “we do X and Y happens”. What you’re after is a combination of both qualitative and quantitative measurements that – in combination over time – increase the likelihood that when a revenue decision is on the table, your business is the likely recipient. Individual metrics are snapshots of behavior, but what you’re striving for is a stronger, more consistent tie with your business for the long term.

Make no mistake that value-based metrics are as important as numbers-based ones. Awareness and loyalty aren’t immediate, but they add to the whole. In this great post by Dave Evans of ClickZ, he says (emphasis mine):

“Rather than planning a campaign with defined start and end dates and a certain spend that’s guaranteed to produce a specified exposure (reach and frequency), social media is an ongoing effort that builds and converges toward an objective. By understanding what’s happening now on the social Web and measuring over time, you can see the trend emerge. The dynamic trend, rather than static measures like reach and frequency, becomes the quantitative guidepost for your social media program.

My Last Word…For Now

I’m going to take the last bit of this mammoth post to say something critically important. Every single metric above – every single one – is tied to something else that doesn’t have it’s own metric. It’s the strength of the relationships between people. That’s nearly impossible to put on any kind of yardstick, but it’s the underpinning of ALL of these things. Better relationships drive better business, period. You may not be able to measure the relationships themselves, but all of the metrics above are indications – the results, if you will – of how well you’ve cultivated those relationships on a human level.

So what do you think? What other metrics do you use? Still want to tell me that social media isn’t measurable?

Photo Credit: Charlyn W on Flickr

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