One of the most troublesome riddles surrounding social media is measurement. There are countless metrics out there, and up to this point, they've served us well. Still, they aren't enough. How can we attach ROI to social media? The easy argument is that we can't attribute sales to a television spot or full-page magazine ad. The more difficult argument is that we can attach ROI to social media when objectives are set upfront, and measurement is set against those objectives. True or not, these arguments miss the point because neither has been deemed sufficient.
The root of the problem is that social media is unlike any form of media to make it into a marketer's toolkit because it's actually not media at all. It's behavior.
Social Media as Behavior
It's certainly not a new concept, but the roots of social media have been around since the beginning of human interaction. From working together to sharing to creating to refining, the behaviors we see in the social media space are the same things we've been doing since well... forever. The difference now is that technology is slowly but surely starting to meet our behavior halfway.
This illustrates why it's much more important to focus on the behavior being exercised by our audience instead of focusing on the tools. Afterall, platforms like Facebook and Twitter come and go, but human behavior has been consistent for centuries.
Social media measurement that tells a real story is much more than an off-the-cuff mention or YouTube view. It's looking much more into the psyche of the people taking action. Who are they? What are they saying? Why are they saying it? When are they talking and to whom are they talking? Where are they speaking out?
The number of variables that can answer each of those questions is infinite. Unlike traditional media, which takes the approach of either they saw it or they didn't, effective social media measurement measures action, the thought process behind the action and the effect of that action on peers. Every person is different, which means the answer for each individual can be different as well.
We Aren't There Yet
In the grand scheme of things, social media hasn't been around for too long, and we've come a very long way, especially considering the rapid pace of the environment.
As our efforts continue to evolve, our mindset must shift. We can't focus on measurement that works for media. Measurement of behavior offers answers we can't begin to fathom. Just like technology caught up with our behavior, measurement will catch up with our marketing efforts. It's just a matter of time and careful thought.