Practical Social Media Measurement: A New Series

practical social media measurementThe more comfortable we get about the idea of measuring social media, the more we want to dig into the practical application of it. So I wanted to pen a series that puts a little more hands-on thinking to the practice and process of measuring and analyzing social media.

I’m going to approach a few of the key categories where I think social media can have an impact: awareness and attention, revenue streams, cost savings, and community engagement & interest.

We’ll list out a few of the measurements you might look at under each category, along with some simple steps for how to capture and track each of them.

But before we start, it’s very important to make clear my approach, attitude, and a few caveats about this series. Some of them I’ve said before, but they bear repeating, so that we’re all on the same page about how I’m tackling this.

Context:

  • In order for measurement to be effective, it has to align directly with the objectives you’ve set. If you need help setting measurable objectives, skip this series for now and start here.
  • The power in measurement is rarely in a single metric, but rather in how a combination of metrics helps illustrate progress toward a goal. Followers or click throughs on their own don’t tell you anything of value. Making metrics meaningful means weaving them together to glean insights, not just data.
  • Having a hypothesis is important. For instance, “we think that an increase in blog subscribers over 6 months will correlate with an increase in sales”, or “post activity on our help forum will decrease call center costs.” You build your goals based on these hypotheses, and you measure against them to see if you’re on the right track.
  • Measurement is a discipline and has to be wired into your organization. If you don’t measure anything else, you’re going to struggle with measuring social media.
  • We’ll be approaching a mix of quantitative and qualitative measurements, because both matter.

The Caveats:

  • We need reliable statistical data about the usage of sites and their users to make solid assumptions about things like reach and awareness, and those numbers can be nebulous and subjective.  You have to apply consistent definitions of those things in order for your measurements to accurately reflect trends and probabilities. I am NOT a statistician, and my conclusions are imperfect. What I’m trying to illustrate is a thought process more than a perfect methodology, to get your brain connecting dots and thinking beyond fixed data points.
  • Measurement at a granular level can limit your perspective. Big picture results – like annual sales – are influenced and impacted by SEVERAL factors, so crediting one small, segmented effort directly and solely with reaching a larger goal is inaccurate. You need to think of measurement at a macro level, and understand that the more detailed measurements all tie into a larger picture.
  • There is no “kit of parts” for measurement, nor a global set of standards that applies universally (and hint: our more familiar and traditional metrics aren’t universally applicable either). Sorry. You have to THINK about this stuff to give it the right context for you. Everyone wants to know what they should be measuring, and the answer to that question is always “it depends.” What may emerge over time are collections of useful metrics in specific contexts like lead gen or cost savings, or verticals like pharma or consumer goods. But that requires many companies to test consistent data over time and share results, and we’re just starting in that realm.
  • I cannot possibly cover every possible metric, every possible measurement, and every possible scenario or combination of metrics in a post series on a blog, so I’m tackling a few that I think are the most straightforward and broadly applicable. For more posts on metrics and measurement to give you more ideas about what to measure, check out my delicious bookmarks on social media measurement.
  • I work for Radian6, a social media monitoring company. I use our platform and I believe in its value, and I’m quite certain I have biases in favor of our product and the measurements and analysis it can help with.

Does all that sound okay to you?

Remember that measurement takes work, and I feel like so many of the “we can’t measure this” conversations are really “we don’t really know where to start and we don’t want to do the work to find out”. But assuming you’re ready, willing, and able to be serious about measurement and put forth the effort, let’s dig in a bit.

First up in the series, we’ll talk about awareness, attention, and reach. Stay tuned.

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  • http://cynthiacutright.wordpress.com/ Cynthia C. Cutright

    Social media metrics are in such an infancy stage that as a marketing student I feel I am missing out on an important aspect of the industry. I can’t wait to read this series. Thanks!
    .-= Cynthia C. Cutright´s last blog ..Valuation Methodologies =-.

  • http://cynthiacutright.wordpress.com/ Cynthia C. Cutright

    Social media metrics are in such an infancy stage that as a marketing student I feel I am missing out on an important aspect of the industry. I can’t wait to read this series. Thanks!
    .-= Cynthia C. Cutright´s last blog ..Valuation Methodologies =-.

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  • http://www.sulmoz.com Puja Madan

    Amber, I’ve been lapping up your blogposts for social media ROI goodies and have found those (and everything else, for that matter!) immensely valuable. I look forward to this series and thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us :)

  • http://www.sulmoz.com Puja Madan

    Amber, I’ve been lapping up your blogposts for social media ROI goodies and have found those (and everything else, for that matter!) immensely valuable. I look forward to this series and thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us :)

  • http://www.potluckmama.wordpress.com Beth Coetzee

    Oh, goodie…I’m looking forward to it! I’m going to try and keep my “practical” hat on through this, pulling the ideas and tools from your series that make sense for my workload and my company instead of getting caught up in the immense possibilities:)
    .-= Beth Coetzee´s last blog ..Perspective: View from a High Horse =-.

  • http://www.potluckmama.wordpress.com Beth Coetzee

    Oh, goodie…I’m looking forward to it! I’m going to try and keep my “practical” hat on through this, pulling the ideas and tools from your series that make sense for my workload and my company instead of getting caught up in the immense possibilities:)
    .-= Beth Coetzee´s last blog ..Perspective: View from a High Horse =-.

  • http://www.whatifspecialist.com Richard Bosworth

    As with all the debates about Social Media measurement you raise some interesting points however, from my experience and perspectived as a business development and growth consultant the debate may be a bit premature.

    The innovators and early adopters are still busy experimenting with this new medium, trying to work out how best it can be applied and in which situations. The most important thing at this stage is to monitor is what they are learning.

    I began four months ago with no other objective than finding out about how the medium could be used and in that short time have learned a great deal from just being involved, however, I’m not able to propose any metrics because things are changing and developing almost daily.

    I am reminded of the early days of cell/mobile phones, where in those original business plans were the revenues from text messaging, it was only as young people began to experiment with the medium that this vastly important application emerged. My sense is that the same will happen with Social Media and it is good that we should be asking questions about the ROI but the answers may not be with us for a while yet. So hold the faith and go explore.
    .-= Richard Bosworth´s last blog ..What if you knew what your customers value now? =-.

  • http://www.whatifspecialist.com Richard Bosworth

    As with all the debates about Social Media measurement you raise some interesting points however, from my experience and perspectived as a business development and growth consultant the debate may be a bit premature.

    The innovators and early adopters are still busy experimenting with this new medium, trying to work out how best it can be applied and in which situations. The most important thing at this stage is to monitor is what they are learning.

    I began four months ago with no other objective than finding out about how the medium could be used and in that short time have learned a great deal from just being involved, however, I’m not able to propose any metrics because things are changing and developing almost daily.

    I am reminded of the early days of cell/mobile phones, where in those original business plans were the revenues from text messaging, it was only as young people began to experiment with the medium that this vastly important application emerged. My sense is that the same will happen with Social Media and it is good that we should be asking questions about the ROI but the answers may not be with us for a while yet. So hold the faith and go explore.
    .-= Richard Bosworth´s last blog ..What if you knew what your customers value now? =-.

  • http://onlinemarketingmashup.com Zack

    Very timely. I think the craz in 2010 will be more on social media measurement. Most companies that might dip their toes in social media already have, now it’s time to prove if it proves valuable or a time waster.
    .-= Zack´s last blog ..6 SEO Sales Pitches to Stay Far Away From =-.

  • http://onlinemarketingmashup.com Zack

    Very timely. I think the craz in 2010 will be more on social media measurement. Most companies that might dip their toes in social media already have, now it’s time to prove if it proves valuable or a time waster.
    .-= Zack´s last blog ..6 SEO Sales Pitches to Stay Far Away From =-.

  • http://ShopTOism.com David Pylyp

    Thank you for an interesting blog post to articulate some concepts that have been “simmering” out back.

    The metrics are indeed hard to quantify. Tweets and social media drive fresh eyes to updated content. Updated content and clicks bring improved google ranking.

    Better Google rankings and ongoing conversions seem to be at 1.5 to 2% of visitation. I think the social media ROI is very worthwhile.

    Thank you for your posts!

    David Pylyp
    Toronto

  • http://ShopTOism.com David Pylyp

    Thank you for an interesting blog post to articulate some concepts that have been “simmering” out back.

    The metrics are indeed hard to quantify. Tweets and social media drive fresh eyes to updated content. Updated content and clicks bring improved google ranking.

    Better Google rankings and ongoing conversions seem to be at 1.5 to 2% of visitation. I think the social media ROI is very worthwhile.

    Thank you for your posts!

    David Pylyp
    Toronto

  • http://christammiller.com Christa M. Miller

    OK, I know you aren’t posting this just because I commented I was looking to learn more about measurement, but I LOVE that you are posting it. Thank you!!

  • http://christammiller.com Christa M. Miller

    OK, I know you aren’t posting this just because I commented I was looking to learn more about measurement, but I LOVE that you are posting it. Thank you!!

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  • http://GlobalPatriot.com/ Global Patriot

    Your point about measurement being wired into an organization is important. Without that discipline the numbers produced mean very little. The problem that I sometimes encounter is that many executives who understand finance (balance sheet, P&L, cash flow) still need a bit of education when it comes to marketing metrics, and that is especially true for social media metrics.

    Looking forward to this series as a way to shed some light on the topic!
    .-= Global Patriot´s last blog ..Fossil Fuel Fundamentals – Oil =-.

  • http://GlobalPatriot.com/ Global Patriot

    Your point about measurement being wired into an organization is important. Without that discipline the numbers produced mean very little. The problem that I sometimes encounter is that many executives who understand finance (balance sheet, P&L, cash flow) still need a bit of education when it comes to marketing metrics, and that is especially true for social media metrics.

    Looking forward to this series as a way to shed some light on the topic!
    .-= Global Patriot´s last blog ..Fossil Fuel Fundamentals – Oil =-.

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  • http://markkilens.com/ Mark Kilens

    Love the part about developing a hypothesis and aligning your goals and strategy around that.

    Mark

  • http://markkilens.com/ Mark Kilens

    Love the part about developing a hypothesis and aligning your goals and strategy around that.

    Mark

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