Social Media Monitoring And Measurement

Social media is a complex space and many companies are just getting their feet wet (yes, still!). The main questions they are asking: If I don't have active social media campaigns, do I still need to measure this space? And what should I expect to get out of it?

They want to use social media to find the pulse of the consumer: What do consumers think of my brand? How do they describe the competition? Are there any surprises or blind spots in my brand strategy?

These companies are not actively launching active social media campaigns that shape consumer behavior; they just want to know "what's out there." Social media is a feedback loop for such companies and hence social media monitoring is all they need. This achieves two purposes. One, they catch any major change in activity or sentiment pretty quickly, and two, it helps them get a quick (though not statistical) snapshot of what consumers think of them.

I think the above two are valuable but not hugely useful in the short term. A lot of people are talking about your brand (you would hope so) and very little of that is relevant or actionable. More often than not, the results validate what you already knew through market research and other means. And unless there is a major buzzworthy event, you probably will not see much change in the short term, anyway.

Over the long term, though, such monitoring can bring to light some brand attributes that you might not have considered or been aware of. So, stick with the basics metrics of amount of activity, type of sentiment and major conversation topics. Don't spend too much on anything more than that.

Another application of such monitoring is to get feedback on a particular aspect of your product or brand, answering questions like: What do consumers think of my ad? Do they think my product is too expensive?

Since the objective is much narrower, you can expect to get more actionable results out of this exercise. These can be especially useful for creative and messaging changes. The caveat to this is how buzzworthy or talked about the specific product attribute is. There should be enough activity out there to guide future decision-making.

Media selection is one area that most social monitoring tools in the market today don't focus on as much. There is a lot of emphasis on what consumers are talking about. There is also information available on where they are talking. However, the results of the latter are far too obvious: it is the social networking sites. This does not help a media planner buy in the right places (outside the social networking sites) or target better.  Yet the insights for media planning are present ; they are just buried and not readily available in most dashboards or automated solutions. Further analysis (and dollars) are necessary to get to that information.

Now, we come to the other side. These companies are actively interacting with their consumers through social media. The questions they ask are: What is the ROI on my social media campaigns? Is it paying for itself? It is worth the effort?

The actively managed social media campaigns want consumers to take a desired action -- either directly or in the future (sales). The direct actions are easy to measure and hence calculate the ROI on. Direct actions like site visits, engagement, downloads and content consumption can be valued like any other form of direct response.

The indirect actions are more complex, of course. We hope that consistent social media campaigns will lead to an increase in overall share of voice in the social media space, an improvement in sentiment or conversations on the desired attribute and finally more product sales.

This is a valid approach and a pre-post analysis can usually be used. However, we need to remember two issues. One, social media campaigns aren't about broadcasting your message. They are about building the trust and credibility within your target. This means that they take time. Second, social media campaigns are usually a really small percentage of the overall marketing investment and effort. Thus, the results, especially sales impact, might not be readily visible (I am guessing this is what you will see if you put it in you media mix-model). Thus, you might have to use proxies (like change in product consideration) to get to an ROI.

Going back to the basics of all measurement, less is more. If online media is information overload, social media can easily put it to shame.

7 comments about "Social Media Monitoring And Measurement ".
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  1. Will Larson from Ticketmaster / Live Nation Entertainment, February 18, 2009 at 2:02 p.m.

    Sooo...ROI from Social Media is unmeasurable as we had previously thought? What about calculating a figure that can serve as the lowest possible ROI achieved from Social Media (eg conversions coming directly from social networks and social bookmarks)? Then we may at least have some sort of idea about whether or not we're making our bucks back.

  2. Dave Tidler from iHook Creative, February 18, 2009 at 2:08 p.m.

    What I am looking for is a comparable value to what is measured in television or magazines for that matter. How many eyeballs are seeing my product and in a positive or negative view. I agree with Will Larson, let's not over inflate the room like every other measurement on the Web, let's get a lowest possible number without any fluff, this will be a more practical approach that can have some concrete value to the dollar.

  3. Kevin Horne from Verizon, February 18, 2009 at 3:07 p.m.

    Excellent post up until your closing line. Less can NOT be more, esp when you say " change in product consideration" can satisfy ROI demands. The definition of ROI is clear, and you need MORE info to get from consideration to revenue. That path (and others built on proxies) is the holy grail.

  4. Pat Mcgraw from [mcgraw | marketing], February 19, 2009 at 3:12 a.m.

    First, if organizations have stepped into social media without answering the question you put forth ("And what should I expect to get out of it?") their CMO should be tanked - especially in this day and age.

    A business invests resources in order to get some type of measurable return - or that business is wasting resources. That's a simple truth and we, as a people, need to accept it and move on.

    Yes, we 'test' in order to learn, to better understand. But our tests have measurable objectives that help us determine if that investment was worthwhile. (Let me clarify that - our tests damn well better have measurable objectives...)

    We all have limited resources and we all need to maximize ROI - so we should either have a measurable goal in mind or focus elsewhere.

    Second, my response to the following is simple: "Bullshit!"

    "They want to use social media to find the pulse of the consumer: What do consumers think of my brand? How do they describe the competition? Are there any surprises or blind spots in my brand strategy?"

    Prior to 'social media', there was (and still is) research. If so-called "marketing professionals" have not "found the pulse of the consumer" before social media, they aren't likely to find it now. This is an excuse...a rationalization for poor planning and lousy marketing.

    Finally, in regard to calculating ROI from social media efforts, I want to offer the following for consideration - and I look forward to responses because, heck, maybe I am missing something.

    In the past 3-months, I have established and developed approximately 20 new relationships that I consider 'worthwhile' via my social media activities.

    By 'established and developed' I mean that [a] my initial contact (introduction, exchange of information, dialogue) started via a social media channel. Some of these relationships have moved into other channels - direct mail, email, telemarketing, face-to-face sales - while some have remained within social media due to the preference of the individual.

    By 'worthwhile' I mean that these individuals are [a] decision-makers/buyers of the services I provide and [b] they work within organizations that I target for business development opportunities.

    Moving forward, I will track how many business opportunities these people will present to me - either directly with their organizations or indirectly via referrals.

    Additionally, my promotional efforts, including social media, are tracked in terms of dollars and time invested.

    This enables me to compare my investment with my returns - ROI. What's difficult about this?

  5. Srishti Gupta from MediaCom, February 19, 2009 at 10:03 a.m.

    As I mentioned above, the lowest possible denominator in terms of direct conversions should definitely be used and in many categories, it would suffice (direct response, B2B lead generation etc.). However, in other categories where there isn't an online/direct short-term conversion, proxies or pre-post testing needs to be used.

  6. Guy Powell from ProRelevant Marketing Solutions, February 19, 2009 at 10:28 a.m.

    I just posted a few things on my blog about this. Social media success has to do with choice. Individuals have a limited amount of time to spend being involved in social media, so they have to allocate their time based on the utility they get from spending their limited time on one site versus another. Once a marketer understands how these choices are made, then he/she can start to determine how to improve their social media offerings in order to garner as much time as possible. Once time is garnered from individuals, the marketer has to make certain that the time spent engaged with the social media content delivers a message aligned with the goals of the brand.

    To read the whole post please go to

  7. Will Larson from Ticketmaster / Live Nation Entertainment, February 20, 2009 at 5:52 p.m.

    In response to Patrick McGraw--I agree with you until the last line, "What's difficult about [measuring ROI]?"

    Obviously the denominator, the investment, is easy to measure but what about the return? Measuring the minimum possible return via direct, single-session conversions is easy but measuring the exact ROI is difficult. How do you factor in indirect conversions, disjoint sessions, and the value of hype?

    Guy Powell mentioned resources in a post below. It takes a lot of them to measure the exact ROI. I stick with my original point, I'll use a ROI floor.

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