Five Ways To Measure Social Media

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:

  • How highly connected is an entity within a network?
  • What is an entity's overall importance in a network?
  • How central is an entity within a network?
  • How does information flow within a network?

    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:

  • Subscribe?
  • Become a member?
  • Register?
  • Fill out a survey?
  • Make an appointment?
  • Buy something? (!)

    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.


  • 5 comments about "Five Ways To Measure Social Media ".
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    1. Joop Rijk from Advanced Media Productions, August 28, 2009 at 12:20 p.m.


      You mentioned social media tools that do sentiment analysis. What about Sysomos MAP and Radion 6 do they not fall into this category? I thought that Buzzlogic changed strategy and is now primarily focussed on ad serving.

      Joop Rijk
      Advanced Media Productions

    2. Rick Boyce from Rooftop Media, August 28, 2009 at 12:45 p.m.


      I'm glad you referenced out-of-home advertising in this piece. As I see it, billboards have a lot to fear from Facebook because, like an outdoor media program, FB can deliver massive reach, very quickly at a remarkably low target audience CPM.

      Plus FB allows a brand to target their demo precisely, to change copy frequently, to frequency cap impressions, etc, etc.

      If I were an out-of-home media planner looking to use billboards and transit for a national #100 showing targeting A18-34, I would give FB a pretty close look. I bet the ad involvement/awareness scores are comparable between the two media and I bet the buy could be placed at a much lower target audience CPM and at (obviously) massively reduced creative, production and trafficking costs if the "showing" appeared on Facebook rather than on 10,000+ billboards, bus-sides and transit shelters.

      Plus the planner won't need to ride a single market!

      And who cares if anyone clicks on these "out-of-home" ads on FB. You can't click a billboard either.

      -Rick Boyce

    3. Bruce Christensen from PartyWeDo, August 28, 2009 at 3:34 p.m.

      We had our developer build in a system that measures every action that our party attendees complete in a particular event.
      Because a white elephant gift exchange is mostly about the friendly banter; we have called this algorithm the Banterithm.
      We have applied points to everything that they say and do while they play, so that at the end of the game, we can award something to the most engaged party animal.

      This might be harder to do outside of a private party application.

    4. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, August 29, 2009 at 12:13 p.m.

      You forget that while social media word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing channels good and bad, social networks are a very private space. Just like mobile. And when brands invade this space it is like invading someones bedroom. And with so much advertising already EVERYWHERE, why brands and agencies feel they have to invade wherever people are looking is to me illogical. Especially since for most brands and products everyone already a] knows about the brand b] knows about the product c]has already tried the product unless it is less than a year old. And yet still most buying decisions for many products are at point of sale.

      When I bought this laptop I saw one in the Best Buy circular. Then at the store actually saw 4 in the price range from 3 brands and did not buy the one that drew me to Best Buy. Would social media advertising by the other brands have helped steer my choice? Nope.

      Think of Coke and Pepsi. Has anyone EVER told a waiter at a restaurant they will not take the cola they carry? I am 41 and have never had that happen. Yet Coke and Pepsi spend billions on advertising a year only to have all that effort derailed at the supermarket because the pepsi vs coke is on sale that week.

    5. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, August 31, 2009 at 3:07 p.m.

      To Joop Rijk, perhaps it's changed but a as a past user of Radian6 it was up to the user to determine if sentiment was positive or negative.

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