3 Experts Discuss How to Measure Social Media

In our Social Media Analytics: The Small Business Guide to Metrics and Tools we discussed important topics like what you should be monitoring, tips for setting targets and how to monitor the impact of your social media efforts. If you haven't read it yet, you really should !!. In this edition of our interview with the experts, we ask 3 of the industries best for their feedback on a range of questions across social media measurement.

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Charlie Osmond

CEO and Co-Founder, FreshNetworks

Charlie is a co-founder of FreshNetworks, a social business consultancy

FreshNetworks help global brands, like Telefónica, Allianz and Jimmy Choo, engage with customers to drive advocacy and increase revenue. In 2008 FreshNetworks won the HBOS / Sunday Times £5M London Entrepreneur Challenge.

1) Are there any words, tips or advice you would like to provide for companies who are trying to understand how best to measure the impact of social media?

Social media can benefit businesses in a range of ways, not just in marketing and communications. With this in mind, the most effective way to measure the impact and value of social media is to create metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators) that align with your key business goals, whatever they may be. If you think about it, you’re probably already using different metrics to measure the value of new product development or customer retention for example. The same should apply to social media: there isn’t a “one cap fits all” metric that will measure the impact of social media in its entirety. Your metrics should be determined by what you want to achieve through social.

2) What do you think are the most common mistakes you see companies make when it comes to creating metrics for social media?

The most common mistake is building a strategy around metrics that happen to be easily measurable – for example the number Facebook ‘fans’ or the number of followers they have on Twitter without being clear on whether value lies behind such a metric. We were delighted to see Facebook recently surface the “people talking about” metric on fan pages. At the very least, this ought to prompt a more educated debate about what is really likely to drive value for a business.

3) What metrics do you feel can help evangelise the role of social media internally, (perhaps to stakeholders who have concerns over the value of it)?

Don’t look to social media for the metrics. Take the metrics used in the business, the metrics used by your CEO or board – for example net promoter score– and then find a social media metric which can act as a proxy.

4) How do you see social media metrics evolving over the next 5 years in terms of what is currently being measured and what you hope to see being measured?

I am certain part of the market will migrate towards strategic business targets. Tools like Socialbakers are making real headway by looking at metrics that track engagement (number of interactions, frequency of comments etc) and I hope this area continues to flourish.

 

I suspect another part of the market will be attracted to the simplification that can come from a single number – for example a Klout score. There are pros and cons to this kind of simplification; its value will really depend on how well the owners of such scores improve their algorithms in the future.

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Ian Lurie

President, Portent

Ian Lurie is Chief Marketing Curmudgeon and President at Portent, an internet marketing agency he started in 1995. Portent is a full-service internet marketing company whose services include SEO, SEM and strategic consulting. He started practicing SEO in 1997 and has been addicted ever since.

Ian rants and raves, with a little teaching mixed in, on Conversation Marketing. He co-published the Web Marketing for Dummies All In One Desk Reference and is working on a second edition of the same book. In it, he wrote the sections on SEO, blogging, social media and web analytics.

He also attends and speaks at various marketing conferences, including SES, Ad::Tech, SMX West, Pubcon and Blogworld.

1) Are there any words, tips or advice you would like to provide for companies who are trying to understand how best to measure the impact of social media?

Treat social media as list building, not sales. Building a social media audience gives you a list of 'subscribers' who can then respond when you offer them something. Don't expect someone to buy from you the first time they visit your Facebook page.

Also, exploit your existing tools. Chances are the existing analytics software you've got goes a long way to closing the loop between social media and interactions on your site.

2) What do you think are the most common mistakes you see companies make when it comes to creating metrics for social media?

Companies over-value followership and under-value participation. Yes, you can go out and buy 1000 followers. But if they all ignore you from that point on, they're worthless. Getting 10 followers organically is far more valuable.

3) What metrics do you feel can help evangelise the role of social media internally, (perhaps to stakeholders who have concerns over the value of it)?

Two things:

  1. The influence of social media on search rankings. Assuming your boss cares about ranking well on Google & Bing, she needs to care about social media, because it's a strong ranking factor. Pull the top 10 ranking sites for the terms for which your boss most wants to rank. Then match up followers and participation. The results will raise eyebrows.
  2. The cost/sale for existing social media followers. Depending on your product, you can promote and sell to your existing social media audience for close to zero dollars per sale. Once you've made that initial investment in audience building you've got a fantastic asset. And those followers will participate again and again, so it's a long-term asset.

4) How do you see social media metrics evolving over the next 5 years in terms of what is currently being measured and what you hope to see being measured?

I'd really like to see more done with level of participation and the value of an individual follower. I want to be able to tell a client, "One follower is worth $2," the same way I can now provide that information regarding a house e-mail list. There's no real reason why we can't, except that social media platforms make it hard to track transactions.

5) How do you see social media metrics evolving over the next 5 years in terms of what is currently being measured and what you hope to see being measured?

It's not a blogpost - it's an e-book: Kevin Hillstrom's Hashtag Analytics is pure gold. Kevin doesn't pay me a dime, I swear :)
- http://minethatdata.com/books.html

 

After that, Dan Zarrella's blog has so many great posts, I'm not sure where to start
- http://danzarrella.com/

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Jennifer Sable Lopez

Community Manager, SEOmoz

Jennifer Sable Lopez, an experienced Social Media Strategist, SEO, web developer, speaker and writer is the Community Manager for SEOmoz, the leader in SEO Software. Jen brings a unique skillset to the field of search optimization and online community management. She started her search career as an in-house technical SEO and has presented at multiple Search Marketing Expo conferences, SEOmoz Seminars and Webinars, Affiliate Conference and the Jane and Robot Search Developer Summit. Jen is passionate about all things search and social and has gained a loyal following in the SEO community. Be sure to follow her on twitter @jennita

1) Are there any words, tips or advice you would like to provide for companies who are trying to understand how best to measure the impact of social media?

Measuring social media isn't as straightforward as most would like it to be. While it's quite easy to track followers, fans, subscribers and such, it's not as easy to measure sentiment or intent (even though these are the interesting aspects of social). There are a few steps every organization should take before they even jump into social.

Since it can be a bit complicated, it's important to take the time up-front to determine why you're participating in social in the first place. Once you decide why you're here the next step is to figure out what data you actually care about. Finally, it's necessary to determine how you'll get the data and where it comes from. Since there isn't one site or tool that gives you all the data in one place, you'll need to spend time gathering data and combining it yourself.

Have a plan, determine what data you care about and get started. It can be as simple as you make it. :)

2) What do you think are the most common mistakes you see companies make when it comes to creating metrics for social media?

This sort of goes in line with the previous question. I think a common mistake is for a company to track too many unnecessary metrics. Just because you can measure something, it doesn't mean that it's going to be useful. Some people would disagree and say it's better to measure everything "just in case." Be focused in your efforts and you'll get more out of it.

3) What metrics do you feel can help evangelise the role of social media internally, (perhaps to stakeholders who have concerns over the value of it)?

When it comes to the stakeholders, let's be honest, they probably don't care about the "feel good" stuff. They don't necessarily want to see sentiment (as it's difficult to track that anyway) or even the number of followers, retweets or shares. These are just a bunch of irrelevant numbers to many executives. What they often care about most is how much money is being made from the amount of work going into Social Media.

Of course every organization is different, and it's imperative that you have that conversation with all the stakeholders. Find out exactly what they care about, what matters most to them. Do they only want to know how many conversions happened or do they want to see that paired with the number of hours spent managing Social Media efforts? Or perhaps they want to see the rate of "likes" and follower increase over time. Rather than just jumping in and showing data willy nilly, narrow down what matters to your organization. You'll look like a rockstar for giving them exactly what they want.

I'm seeing this as a running theme here, rather than just jumping into social and tracking anything and everything. Be focused in your efforts.

4) How do you see social media metrics evolving over the next 5 years in terms of what is currently being measured and what you hope to see being measured?

People want to know how their engagement in social media has directly impacted their business. Right now this is a bit difficult to determine. Moving forward, I think the demand for tools to not only help us to capture this data, but to have it all in one place, will be imperative. I'm not sure if the actual metrics will change much over the years, but the way we measure them will.

5) What’s the best blog post you have read on social media measurement/metrics?

There are literally hundreds of blog posts on the subject but the one I've been most excited about is a recent post from Avinash Kaushik: http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/best-social-media-metrics-conversation-amplification-applause-economic-value/. In it he talks about not just measuring a bunch of numbers, but actually determining the rate of conversation, amplification, applause and economic value. It digs a bit deeper than most posts and really got me thinking about how we measure social media here at SEOmoz.

Additionally, this post from Amber Naslund, titled The Most Powerful Social Media Measurement Tool Money Can Buy, really sums up my feelings on measuring social. There are so many numbers you can track, but if you don't think about what you really need and want to get out of it, those numbers mean nothing. This is a great reminder to use your head.

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