The 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.
- 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.
- 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.