Measurement is the “Social Media 2.0” topic of discussion in 2011. From sessions at South by Southwest Interactive titled “Value of a Facebook Fan” to client inquiries about the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) dollar value of social media, metrics and analytics of social media efforts are front and center these days.
The problem is there is no silver bullet for social media measurement just yet. The social aspect itself is what makes measurement so challenging. What and how social media efforts are measured is going to be different for every business and/or business objective. Social networks exist online, but that doesn’t mean they can be tracked in the same ways, or even with the same expectations, as your online advertising or SEO efforts. Don’t forget that social media is “social.”
We all have access to free services like Google Alerts and Twilerts that provide frequent updates on mentions of your brand, but how can you be sure you’re not missing an important conversation? Subscription-based tools like Radian6 and Sysomos* have become the industry standard for aggregating online conversations about your brand and measuring engagement numbers (things like sentiment, share of voice, etc.), but what about those private Facebook conversations or password-protected Yelp reviews that currently aren’t funneled into your results? Similarly, Google Analytics and trackable links like Bit.ly allow us to monitor click-throughs and conversion rates, but how can you know exactly why a person clicked at the time they chose to do so? Was it the post itself that motivated them to click? Or was it a combination of other influences that resulted in a click on that specific post?
I often compare time spent on social networks to time spent at a cocktail party. For me (and most surveys and industry articles agree), it’s extremely annoying when a person talks all about him/herself without actually having a conversation or lively banter with you. And it would be unheard of to have someone walk up to you, hand you a business card, and then turn and walk away. Have a conversation. Get to know the person, what they do, and how they might help your business. Then, take it a step further and introduce people who might benefit each other. That’s the beauty of networking, and that is what should truly be measured as a result of your social media efforts. Social media is first and foremost about connecting with people, building your brand, being a thought leader. The sales leads and CRM will come as a result of making quality connections. It really is about the quality of your connections, not the quantity.
Twitter’s recent announcement that it has started allowing promoted tweets (from brands you don’t even follow) to appear in your feed is a prime example of removing the “social” from social media. I understand the purpose or end goal – Twitter is working to find ways to boost revenue through “guaranteed” or increased visibility and click-throughs. But please, don’t interject yourself in my current conversation, hand me a business card or a coupon, and then leave. You wouldn’t do that at a cocktail party, and you shouldn’t do that on social platforms either. It’s disingenuous, and sure, it might result in a brief spike in web traffic, but what does it say about your brand and the impression you leave with your customers? Treat social media as an opportunity to connect with people, a chance to network and build your brand. Then measure how well you’re doing it.
~ Jim Licko
*GFM subscribes to and frequently uses both Radian6 and Sysomos on behalf of its clients.