Practical Measurement Methods for Social Media Marketing

by Dion Hinchcliffe 29 Nov 2012 Blog Post

There’s a relatively new thing you can now say for sure about social media. Despite the sheer volume and variety of online conversation today, it can now be readily measured and analyzed in scale. With the advent of powerful new methods and tools for dissecting and making sense of the millions of conversations taking place globally every day, measurement has become the fundamental skill for cultivating impact with our business activities in social media (aka social business.)

The nascent social analytics industry has given us potent toolkits that didn’t exist in usable form more than about two years ago. Leading the vanguard, marketers in particular have jumped into this space as they seek to figure out exactly what effect their efforts have as they employ social media to amplify their traditional marketing, as well as move into pure play social marketing. Never mind that there are still too many tools vendors striving for market leadership, it’s clearly a fast growing industry. Leaders are still emerging and some will inevitably fall by the wayside.

For now, however, we currently advise customers to experiment extensively with social analytics, hedge their bets, stay agile, and keep a stable of tools that provide results without building too much on them (yet) as a firm foundation. In general, strategy is more important than tools.

Going Beyond Tools To Impactful Measures

So, at this point, the availability of tools is generally not the issue when it comes to determining the impact that your social media marketing efforts are having. Instead, the problem is how to best apply them. As the proliferation of social data increases globally, we can now perceive and isolate — almost instantly — what our customers are saying about us, and make smarter marketing, sales, and support decisions. We can also intervene and get involved in those conversations and push them towards useful business outcomes, including brand awareness and management, as well as that all-important result, increasing sales.

It turns out, we can get to results most quickly by focusing on the right enabling measures.

The rise of big data technology now makes it easy to get quantitative and qualitative data about the social universe. But understanding how to use this information in a meaningful way in your social media marketing efforts is the challenge. This is where defining a framework for your measurement efforts can help. As we’ve seen, organizations must tap into the flow of conversation, as well as get involved in it, and measurement can help every step of the way, from identifying the most important conversations, to determine how effective a company’s social messages and activities are.

Certainly, a social team should derive its own set of measures that are relevant to their specific industry, products, and marketing efforts. However, there is a broad set of approaches that they should apply to their efforts, regardless of details. In our experience with social teams in some of the world’s largest brands, we see four major measurement approaches that provide the best results.

Additional Reading: Six Strategies to Optimize Your Social Business Efforts

Four Approaches to Measuring Social Media Marketing

Measuring Social Business Approach 1: Tracking Brand Conversations

Tracking conversations about your brand is the core activity of most marketers and is probably the most common measurement activity that social teams engage in. The trick here is isolating the conversations that matter most to your brand, and that’s the rub. Most of the relevant conversations in social media will happen in unstructured, informal language in engagement platforms (like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Renren) that ar outside of your control. This means your measurement approach must be able to achieve the following:

  • Have a fast link to social networks. Measurement must be timely and that means accessing global social media in near real-time.
  • Be able to parse natural language. Listening to and measuring your brand’s KPIs in social media means understanding the idioms, syntax, slang, and regional languages.
  • Score relevancy of conversations. Every day, thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of conversations about your products and services will occur in social media. Most are not critical to your business. But some absolutely are and can’t be ignored. Effective measurement methodologies can score/rank conversations and quantify them as needed to drive tactical and strategic goals.
  • Maintain accurate key measures of insight. At Dachis Group, we’ve boiled these down to four buckets: Brand Awareness, Brand Love, Brand Mindshare, and Brand Advocacy, but your mileage may vary. Whatever measurement system you design must be able to accurately track the key measures for your brand and keep them updated regularly.

As the industry has learned the hard way, the core lesson of social media is that your community of customers and business partners far outnumbers you. You simply shouldn’t (and can’t) do all the work to make social media work in scale. Instead, you must encourage, enlist, and empower your advocates to partner in the effort. To do this, however, you need to know who your advocates are, and so this forms the next major measurement approach, which should focus on the following:

  • Identifying advocates and tracking them. Correlating across multiple social media accounts is key here as is understanding their level of influence.
  • Categorizing and segmenting advocates. The measurement system must understand if they are co-creators, mavens, amplifiers, helpers, sales prospects, and other business relevant roles (of which they will usually have multiple types.)
  • Making the measures actionable. Expertise location, amplification estimating tools, and other useful types of helper services that build on the data will make your investment in advocacy measures pay off.

Measuring Social Business Approach 3: Correlate Social Activity

Social media marketing rarely happens in a vacuum. It’s usually associated with other cross-channel marketing efforts as well as external events that are highly impactful or relevant to your brand, whether that is in the digital or real world, or both. Often, important events will transpire and be reflected in scale across your social channels. Brands must be able to track and influence these sometimes seismic events when they happen to tap into their power as well as head of any potential crises that can emerge from lack of awareness of or presence in these conversations. An effective measurement approach that will optimize the impact for marketing in these situations consists of:

  • An event detector. A measurement system should be able to identify significant events as they occur.
  • An event discriminator. This consists of scoring events such as their brand impact is understood to be major or minor.
  • An event correlator. Correlating significant events to conversations across social channels is required to understand their impact, what advocates are effected or can be enlisted in scale, and planning the brand’s engagement in response to the event.

Put simply, companies will manage to what they can measure. Connecting the activity of your social business efforts with business outcomes in an objective and consistent way will allow you accomplish many vital goals to sustain your social media marketing initiatives. This includes establishing and tracking ROI, understanding what parts of the business are benefiting most or need more attention, what’s working inside your funnel and what’s not, as well as if your efforts scale properly and result in concrete sales that can actually be tied directly to your engagement in social media. To do this, you’ll need to:

  • Convert your raw measures into business intelligence. Have a way of turning all the qualitative and quantitative measures into artifacts that managers across your organization can use to understand and align their operations. Example: Do your measures show you that inbound social media sales inquiries being ignored? Then get that data into the right hands to do something about it.
  • Establish baselines that are compared frequently. Build a picture of your competencies and weaknesses, then get this data into a place where performance improvements will be sought. Rescore and baseline often, with the interval determining how fast you improve.
  • Build an integrated picture across your entire customer journey. As I explored in Forbes earlier this week, the customer journey is now continuous yet blurrier and less directed than ever before. Customers don’t discriminate channels or activities when it comes to consuming marketing, engaging in sales, seeking support, or trying to get you to change or improve your products. It’s all marketing now. Tie your benchmarks into a complete customer experience.

While there are certainly other approaches and measures that companies can focus on, we find that to be among the most effective and usable ones. What’s your experience in measuring your social business performance?

We’ve made an extensive investment in strategic social business engagement capabilities so that our clients have the best tools at hand to achieve competitive advantage and realize value as rapidly as possible. To learn more about these, just get in touch for a 1-on-1 conversation.