Ahhhhh -- social media. Addictive. Fun. Downright social!
But how valuable is it? How do you tell?
There are dozens of reckoning tools online to tally up any and all countable social media elements. Most of them are interesting and some actually useful. Rather than drill down into specifics, let's take a bird's-eye view of the types of measurements that might prove useful to the marketing professional.
We're looking to answer these questions:
1. Did they get the chance? Put up a billboard on the highway and so many thousand commuters have an "opportunity to see" your message -- unless they were texting, applying makeup, tuning the radio, disciplining their kids or, heaven forbid, watching traffic. Put an ad on TV and so many million viewers have an "opportunity to see" your message. Unless they were fast-forwarding, texting, applying makeup, tuning the radio, disciplining their kids or, most likely, answering nature's call. Or the phone.
Send out a message online, and some unknown number of people will have the opportunity to see it if -- they have already subscribed, befriended or followed you or know somebody who did. And the glory of social networking is that they might only have known somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody .. who did.
So there's your first metric: the base number of people who are in a position to get a message from you directly. Your RRS readers, newsletter subscribers, Web site visitors -- throw them all into the stew. These are the ones to whom you are directly connected.
2. Did they get the message? Being otherwise engaged is fairly incalculable unless you trust people to tell you the truth when you interview them. "Do you read all my Tweets?" is more than likely to produce 100% positive result. There is a reason Facebook does not tell you when people unfriend you. At least with email, you can get a rough number of opens, but with Twitter, you may as well put your finger up in the air and feel the breeze.
3. Did they get the urge to repeat it? Lots of tools are out there to help you monitor what pearls of your wisdom others deem worthy of retweeting. Between Tweetbeep, trackbacks and Google Alerts, you'll be able to maintain your vigilant brand-spread watch.
But suddenly, it gets trickier. Did they get your message from others who got it from others? If you're Susan Boyle, they got the message, but this is where you feel the urge to map out the connections and figure out who are the real influentials. This is not as easy as Tom Lehrer's social map from 1980. This requires other specialized tools like Sentinal Visualizer that claims to answer questions like:
Influence becomes the prime mover in the worlds of online virality. Knowing who can lengthen your reach helps you determine what your message should look like.
4. Did they get a good feeling about it? Sentiment analysis is a different kettle of fish. In Hollywood, Oscar Wilde is right, the only thing worse than people talking about you is people not talking about you. In Hollywood, there's no such thing as bad press. In business, that they are talking is good only if what they are saying is good.
As so, another category of social media tools pops up like BuzzLogic, JD Power WebIntelligence and ScoutLabs. The important thing about sentiment analysis is that it is a more direct window into the hearts and minds of the marketplace. It is the actual pulse of opinion -- whether it's about your brand, your industry or your latest viral video. This is market research at its best.
5. Did they get out their wallets? And finally, we get to the measurement at the end of the equation. We want to improve all of the above in order to move the needle on the bottom line. Did they:
While getting all excited about all the new calculators out there, let's not forget that it's about doing business in the end. There's nothing below the bottom line.