Let’s Stop Cheating Ourselves and Measure Social Media

Each and every day millions, even billions, of dollars are spent based on measurement. Nielsen, Arbitron and a variety of other services provide the basis for marketing decisions to get brands’ messages to consumers, even though this data is, at best, an estimate. It’s not fact. However, the information is the best we can get, so we have to base our decisions on something.

This is why I’m always surprised that so many make social media marketing decisions without measurement or data. eMarketer reports that the social media monitoring tool used by 40% by businesses is “Don’t know,” while the majority, 56%, rely on free top-line tools like Google Alerts, which, I’ll admit is better than nothing. 

Social media is new, but it’s not brand new. To gain that next level of legitimacy, social media needs to be held accountable with measurement. Not having some way to measure your social media efforts means you don’t know if your decisions are sound or producing results, which means money, time and resources may be going to waste.

Why We Cheat Ourselves

There are a lot of excuses for marketers and those that execute social media on behalf of clients to leave measurement out of the mix. A few common reasons and the reasons why they aren’t valid include:

  1. No tools. There is no lack of tools out there to measure social media. If you have a Facebook Page, Facebook Insights provides a great way to determine how successful your efforts are. Sysomos, Radian6 and others provide a viable and cost-effective means to monitor conversations about brands, categories and competitors. The tools are out there. One simply needs to use them. 
  2. Too much data. Yes, social media is a big place. Consumers are talking and producing content all of the time. The good news is you don’t have to look at all of it. Start small and bite off what you can chew. Look at the big picture. If conversation sky-rockets one day, take a look at what people were talking about that day and optimize from there.
  3. Lack of resources. Time, money and personnel are always running low, but if you aren’t ready to commit to determining whether or not you’re doing the right thing in social media (even to a small degree), you’re not ready to begin social media executions. You wouldn’t run a TV ad without determining which show your audience watches, would you? Bite the bullet and invest. Social media measurement is cost-effective. Give yourself permission to take the next step.

Do Social Media Justice

Social media measurement, for the time being, won’t fit nicely on a flowchart, and it won’t be the same for every business. However, in order to be successful (and to know if you’re successful) in this space, you need to determine what your brand needs to communicate and to whom, what the right social media tactics are to achieve this and what the appropriate objectives are for the effort. All of this requires pre-work before engaging and ongoing measurement to shift and optimize effectively.

The metrics Brand A uses will be different than Brand B, Brand C and so on, but here are some starters:

  1. Source of website traffic. Determine if your social media platforms or any are driving traffic to your site.
  2. Conversation drivers. Look at the volume of content and see which topics surrounding your brand are most prominently discussed. If it’s negative, you have an insight on a change you may need to make. If it’s positive, see how you can use that topic to drive more conversation.
  3. Engagement. Keep track of what kind of content is most often engaged with. What kinds of tweets are retweeted, which blog posts get the most comments and so on.
  4. Sentiment analysis. Determine the amount of positive content surrounding your brand compared to negative content. See if your efforts influence that.
  5. Follow the conversation thought leaders. Don’t forget to track who is talking. Sometimes they’re thought leaders in your category and may be worth talking to one-on-one to build a relationship.

Determine what success means for any effort, social media or not, and determine measurement criteria from there. In the end, measurement points us in the right direction no matter where your brand is talking. Grab a compass, and start leveraging social media, instead of just using it.