Social Measurement Best Practices
The Value of Social Media Measurement
According to Forrester, 82% of US online adults use social tools, with an increasing number shifting their use from listening to participation and contribution. As a result of trends like these, social media continues to gain mindshare with marketing, sales, and customer service organizations at brands of all sizes.
With that comes an urgent and growing need for managers to understand the nature of the conversations swirling around their brands across the social media landscape:
- What is being said about a brand online?
- Who is saying it, where, and how often?
- Is it negative or positive?
- Who is really paying attention?
- Are their actions making an impact?
Adding to the challenge is the sheer scale of the available tools and sites. As the Web becomes increasingly social and fluid, comments affecting a brand’s reputation rapidly jump between blogs, forums, tweets, videos, podcasts, social networks, fan pages, review sites, and beyond. New channels emerge to extend or displace existing ones almost daily. At any given time, hundreds or even thousands of conversations about a brand may be happening throughout this maze.
To gain a clearer understanding of the social media landscape, and their brand’s role within it, smart managers are seeking out metrics, analysis models, and tools to help them listen,learn, and engage in the conversation.
A practical first step for a social media manager involves developing trackable, relevant, and actionable metrics that align with an organization’s business priorities. While companies continue to explore key performance indicators that reflect value in social media rather than just activity, several useful and accepted listening metrics related to reach, influence and impact have emerged.
Foundation Metrics for Social Media Measurement
As outlined above, social media can quickly overwhelm: With millions of potential voices across dozens of major channels, a listening system can generate massive amounts of raw data feeding endless activity metrics. If not properly filtered, these can rapidly distract social media marketers and practitioners from developing a solid measurement foundation that cuts through the noise, surfacing metrics that are clear, relevant, and most importantly, actionable.
Creating that foundation can help your brand both listen and learn from social media. It hinges on five primary measures which, taken together, begin to paint a useful picture of impact:
- Volume: The raw number of aggregate mentions of your brand across all social media channels. How many times are your key URLs, products, executives, and campaigns tweeted and blogged about?
- Frequency: The pace of references to your brand, helping you understand if clusters form around specific events such as conferences and product launches, or if a steadier, more broad-based buzz exists.
- Influence: The potential impact, often tracked in terms of followers, subscribers, and qualitative measures of trust, of the individuals and groups driving the conversation. Who are they and what level of real sway does their perspective have on their communities?
- Reach: The penetration of your brand and engagement efforts into your target customer audiences and influencer groups. Is your brand being talked about by the right people?
- Sentiment: The tone of influencer reactions to your brand. Is the conversation positive, negative, or neutral, and how is that changing over time?
A related data point should also be collected, of equal importance: Where are the conversation clusters forming around the brand? Are they in isolated blogs, heavily trafficked groups on social networks and fan forums, or forming around popular #hashtags on Twitter?
Properly developed, these foundational metrics are useful for both point-in-time snapshots as well as trend analysis. With listening tools such as Visible Intelligence®, brands can develop an audit of their current position across multiple channels while compiling trend data to track direction as well as the impact of their own engagement efforts.
Listening and Learning feed Engagement, on the Path to ROI
An effective foundation of smart metrics, coupled with a willingness by brands to consistently listen and learn from them, sets the stage for that engagement. These metrics, tracked over time, can help identify key influencers, conversation clusters, and hot topics that matter to customers, partners, and the audience as a whole.
Armed with this knowledge, marketers can craft plans for engaging the right people through the right channels and with effective stories and messages. Impact can then be tracked over time by measuring changes in the foundation metrics, laying the groundwork for a clearer understanding of real Return on Investment (ROI) for all social media activities.
Social Media is Difficult to Track…
- 68% of social marketers believe that it is difficult to compare the results of various social marketing campaigns.
- Only 30% of social marketers feel they are able to accurately compare their social marketing results with those of other marketing channels. (Emily Riley Senior Analyst, Forrester Research March 2009)
…So Many Companies Just Don’t Do It
- 70% of respondents don’t believe their company adequately measures their own social media initiatives.
- 30% of respondents feel a lack of dedicated resources is a hurdle to social media measurement; 25% feel there is a lack of understanding of what to measure. (MarketingProfs poll data June 2009, Social Media ROI Success Stories)
Xerox: Understanding the Buzz
With the launch of ColorQube, a game-changing new product, Xerox expected substantial feedback from users, reviewers, and commentators from across the social media landscape. They needed a plan and toolset in place to monitor and track these reactions, one they could get up and running quickly without a major investment of staff time and could rapidly scale across the enterprise.
Xerox turned to Visible Intelligence from Visible Technologies®. Visible Intelligence enabled Xerox to rapidly process a vast array of posts, tweets, and comments. They tracked foundational metrics to measure overall sentiment, calculate volume, pull, and reach of each response, and identify highly influential sites and individuals, setting the stage for future engagement efforts.
Microsoft: Engaging with Focus and Scale
Microsoft has spent years cultivating a thriving community of over 20 million IT professionals, a community the Springboard team at Microsoft needed to start preparing for the launch of Windows 7. The first step was to identify hot topics and influential voices across a myriad of sites and tools, to lay the groundwork for engagement programs. Microsoft turned to Visible Intelligence from Visible Technologies as the foundation for these efforts.
Using Visible Intelligence’s filtering and sentiment scoring features, the Springboard team was able to quickly develop a sustainable, highly scalable engagement program that had a direct and measurable impact on the IT professional community. The Springboard team ultimately identified 250 influential subject matter experts in 29 countries, scaled up their engagements from dozens to hundreds each week, and reduced the time needed to identify and respond to highly relevant posts from hours to minutes.