5 Objectives for Social Media Measurement

Brass Tack Thinking - 5 Objectives for Social Media MeasurementMeasurement and analysis of social media can mean many things. All of them are useful, and not all of them are about that widely-misunderstood ROI.

And as we’ve talked about before, there are some things you need to realize and understand about social media measurement before you get started.

One of the most important pieces of putting together any kind of sound analysis strategy around social media is figuring out what, exactly, you’re trying to diagnose and determine. We often use the term “ROI” as a catch-all for saying “prove that this is worth it to our business”, when there are really many ways to look at success, value, impact, or input. Let’s take a look at five useful objectives for measurement itself, and some of the metrics that might apply.

Please note, before you start emailing me like crazy, this list isn’t meant to be exhaustive. There are literally hundreds of metrics that can apply to any of these scenarios, and they should be as linked up as possible with data you’re already collecting. If you’re not collecting data for sales, leads, etc., using web analytics, or tracking your activity in social media to leave a digital trail, it’s going to be tough to properly measure outcomes for social media. In that case, getting your data house in order is where you need to start.

1. Determine Financial Return

Here’s where the ROI folks live, in the truest sense of the word. When your goal is determining financial return, you’re either looking for money in a direct fashion, money in an indirect fashion, or cost savings. In order to calculate this effectively, you need to keep careful track of your investment costs, meaning both human and capital expenditures. Some of the things you might look at here include:

Direct Revenue (where social media is the sales mechanism itself):

  • Conversions via unique links (those distributed solely via social networks)
  • Sales via SM promo codes
  • Social media-specific coupon redemptions
  • Conversions via social media advertising mechanisms

Indirect/Potential Revenue (where social media activity impacts sales numbers)

  • % of leads converted that originated in via social networks/contacts
  • % probability of conversion on a referral/recommendation via social media
  • Total coupon downloads (might represent intent to buy and can be interesting when looking at % conversions above)

Cost Savings

  • reduced per-call costs due to social customer service
  • decreased customer churn rate
  • cost per qualified lead

2. Accountability

This answers the question “did we meet our goals?” or “did we do our job?” and the measurements/metrics are entirely dependent upon what that goal is. If you have a goal to increase your community outreach in your online forum by X% over 6 months, you might track the number of posts in a 30 day period initiated by your team members and watch the trend line month to month. If your goal is to increase the number of qualified leads you get via content downloads by X number this year, you’ll track website hits to the landing page, the number of people who download the content, and the conversion rate for those specific leads.

You can also have internal goals for content creation, speaking opportunities garnered, that kind of thing. The takeaway from this bit is that you have to set measurable objectives for your social media initiatives so that your measurement can help tell you whether or not you’ve reached them.

3. Demonstrate Value or Impact

This is what many people mistake for ROI. Instead, we’re really talking about justifying your efforts because they help in the supporting roles – like brand awareness, customer satisfaction, product innovation – that are on the path toward revenue generation. In other words, it’s not tracking direct sales via social media, but instead increasing their likelihood by creating a positive impact in other areas to answer “was this effort worthwhile?”. What shows you that? Things like:

  • increased positive sentiment over time
  • overall brand awareness in social media channels (via mentions in a specific time period)
  • campaign or content spread and time series (i.e how long do people continue to talk about a campaign after it’s over)
  • number of referrals/recommendations/complimentary posts in social media
  • positive trends on key website stats: unique visitors, time on site, downloads of content
  • increased lead generation through social channels
  • viable product innovation/improvement ideas via community, social, or online feedback channels
  • share of conversation
  • recruiting/retention costs of employees

This is the single largest place where social media can lend a hand. The list above is just a way to get you started thinking about all the different places in your business where social media can have a positive impact. Much of it is correlative, meaning that you’re tracking a potential relationship between these positive trends and your social media work (causality is much harder unless you’re going to not change a thing while you experiment with a social initiative).

4. Assessing Resource Needs

How much time, money, people did this take to do? What did social media cost us in terms of implementation?

Tracking activity metrics – like content creation, number of Tweets posted, blog posts per week, time per week in community forums, comments on blog posts – can be helpful when determining the resource commitments that social media requires in your organization. You can also look at it from a listening perspective: how many posts/mentions do you uncover per week via your monitoring that are relevant to you (brand, competition, industry, whatever you’re tracking), and how much time does it take to:

  • respond to the posts
  • compile/aggregate the results
  • generate reports
  • create ancillary/supporting content like blog posts or videos

In addition to time and human resource costs, you can look at measuring around capital expenditures (software, hardware, overhead) as well as supporting costs like creative, app development, and the like.

5. Testing Assumptions

Testing, testing, testing, is sometimes the only want to see if something is working.

If you assume that a building a Facebook page is going to increase brand awareness for your company over a 6 month pilot period, you’re going to have to keep track of your benchmark (where you’re starting from), investment, and then outcomes. So in this scenario you’d need to look at:

  • what your current level of brand awareness is based on measurements you’ve already got (media coverage, baseline mentions via social media monitoring, website stats, lead numbers)
  • what it’s going to take to launch the page, including content creation, human management and maintenance, and any costs involved
  • what your indicators of success are going to be, i.e. which of those benchmark metrics you’re going to expect to see movement on
  • how you’ll track outcomes unique to the FB page (via web analytics, unique URLs and offers, etc)

So measurement can be about putting out a hypothesis, building a framework of assumptions and metrics to track against it, and measuring the outcomes. If something didn’t work the way you expected, you review the data, and decide what you can or might change, and test again. Is it time consuming? Yes. Is it critical to really having your you-know-what together? Yes.

(Note: If you’re claiming that waiting weeks or months for data and outcomes is too long for the boss to wait, then perhaps meaningful, diagnostic data isn’t as important as they say it is).

If you do it these as finite, pilot tests, you can use measurement to build a business case for a broader, longer-term strategy.

Remember that measurment is diagnostic, it’s not an end in itself. The point is to use measurement to understand the impact of your efforts, and take the time to analyze the results to determine what, if anything, you should be doing differently. The real gold in measurement isn’t in the data, it’s in the insights. And that, my friends, is the part where you’ll have to make a concerted effort and put in the elbow grease.

So, does this help bring you some clarity about the different things measurement is used for? Can you see the differences, and how not all measurement is alike (and how ROI isn’t the only thing that matters)? Can you see the importance of creating assumptions and goals and measuring against them, and being willing to invest the time and effort to do so?

Add your experiences and ideas to the comments.

Photo credit: HeyThereSpaceman.