Social media programs generate a torrent of data from fans to wall posts to rate of pass-along and poll results. A Social Media Insider column by David Berkowitz two years ago actually listed 100 different metrics for tracking activity in the category. But how should all that information be sifted and presented within an organization?
That's a question Forrester analyst Nate Elliott tackles in a new report recommending that social media reporting should be geared to the different internal audiences they are shared with. He breaks them into three basic groups: online community managers and social strategists, interactive marketers and marketing executives and C-level officers.
"If part of your job is measuring the success of your social media marketing programs, then you need to start segmenting the stakeholder groups you're providing that data to and tailoring the type of metrics, the volume of metrics, and the frequency of reporting you provide them," wrote Elliott in a blog post about his study "Social Media Marketing Metrics That Matter."
In short, that means the people most closely involved in a business's social media efforts should have access to the most detailed data. Social strategists should track things like the number of fans, visitors and comments on an hourly or daily basis. "Without that reporting, they can't do their jobs well," noted Elliott.
But marketing managers don't necessarily need to keep as close an eye on every new post and comment. Instead, they should be more focused on brand metrics like awareness and purchase intent through media, as well as product trial results reflected in lead generation and coupon redemption rates.
Similarly, the CEO and other top company executives need only review bottom-line business numbers from social media marketing programs, such as sales conversions and revenues on a quarterly or annual basis. (Of course, that assumes a connection can be made between social media and sales.)
The report observes that each management level has to build on the efforts of those below it. "It's true that the digital metrics that your community managers require can't define success in social media marketing -- but those metrics do tell you if those employees are doing their jobs well, and those smaller victories create the foundation your marketing team needs to succeed," according to Elliott.
Gartner analyst Michael Maoz offered a more jaundiced view of the topic this week in a post titled "How Soon Before your Social Media Program Gets You Fired?" He warns that it won't be long before program heads come under severe scrutiny for their social media initiatives. His advice?
"Here is what you do: pull together all of the performance metrics you have for your social media / co-creation / listening project, put them in a very compelling graphical format, and develop a rudimentary ROI, and publicize the daylights out of it." With companies only in "Social 1.0," he suggested the next step is to formalize social strategy and reporting "and "pull the pieces of the patchwork together."