Social Media Measurement

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If you haven’t read the Social Media Analytics report from Web Analytics Demystified and Altimeter Group, you should. It’s an excellent piece of work.

In fact, I plan on leveraging the work they’ve done (they encourage readers to utilize the framework under the concept of open research) in a social media research effort I’m launching with EFMA (European Financial Marketing Association). I’m going to use the framework to find out what financial firms are measuring, plan to measure, and how well they think they’re doing along the metrics defined in the framework.

I sat in on a webinar given by the authors of the report, John Lovett and Jeremiah Owyang, and I was struck — but really not surprised — by a comment that John made: No one vendor can pull together all the metrics defined within the framework. Not surprising at all, given the relative immaturity of social media tools and processes.

But here’s what it got me thinking:

At what point does the cost of measurement outweigh the benefits of measurement?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. That’s a load of crap. First off, how many things in the business world can we really manage, anyway? And of the things we measure, how accurate are those measurements, anyway? Please don’t spew mindless pablum at me.

Here’s the social media reality for 2010: You can’t measure everything, and you shouldn’t be. It’s too damn costly, and requires too much effort relative to the value you’ll get from doing it. Vendors may promise the moon, but at what cost? Considering the overall investment that social media represents as a percentage of the total marketing spend, there’s got to be a marketing measure more important to invest in.

My take: You’ve got to prioritize the metrics in the framework to figure out what to measure. Measuring what’s easy to measure is nice, but could backfire on you. If you start trumpeting the results of the metrics you can easily track — and those metrics aren’t tied to important business goals or bottom line business value — then you’ll be “lookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground.”

Instead, do the following:

1. Use the framework to determine which business objective is most important, and identify the metrics that relate to that objective.

2.In addition, identify metrics that you think will best help you prove the value of social media investments to the firm. If showing senior management your “share of voice” doesn’t get them excited, it doesn’t fit here.

If the metrics you define in step #2 don’t align with the ones you defined in step #1, something’s wrong.

If you find yourself out of alignment, here’s my bet what’s causing it: Your firm doesn’t have clearly defined strategic objectives. There’s no beacon to follow. This is no longer a “social media measurement” problem. And that makes this a good point to end this post.

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