A Frank Conversation About Social Media Measurement

Everything you need to know about social media measurement was covered in 45 minutes at MediaPost's OMMA Social event in San Francisco last week.


OK, that's not entirely true, but the five panelists I had the honor of moderating covered a lot of ground. They probably could tell you everything that matters -- if you gave them just a little more time to do so. There is a lot of ground to cover, as you might have inferred from my column on 100 ways to measure social media.

Instead of trying to rehash the session, I'm letting the panelists share their thoughts in their own words. Below are a series of questions that I either asked during the session, I planned on asking, or the audience asked. Note that I shortened this version somewhat for readability; the "director's cut" is on my blog.

The panelists included:



·      Carla Bourque, VP of Sales and Business Development, Six Apart

·      Steve Kerho, SVP, Analytics, Media & Marketing Optimization, Organic, Inc.

·      Amber Naslund, Director of Community, Radian6

·      Bill Stephenson, VP, Social Media Sales & Client Service, Nielsen Online

·      Jim Sterne, President, Target Marketing of Santa Barbara

Not everyone was able to get their answers in before the deadline, but Carla, Bill, and Jim have all shared their candid thoughts below.

When a marketer wants to know what the value is of a Facebook fan, a Twitter follower, or a blog commenter, what do you tell them? 

Jim:  It's much more than a person on the freeway not looking at your billboard or the person in the bathroom while your TV ad blathers into an empty room. On the other hand, once you link reach and awareness to conversion, you can do the math and tell me.

Bill: Placing a specific value on a fan or follower or commenter is a slippery slope.  At Nielsen, we believe the best currency to use when valuing fans, followers, commenters, etc., is advocacy.  This is a metric that can be calculated across most social networking sites and one that most large companies can relate to and value, based on their unique industry, product, transaction price, etc.   

Carla: The "value" of a fan is directly related to the relationship that that fan has with the brand, and with the broader audience of influencers.  Fans may have a certain value today based on their level of engagement -- but they can be even more valuable if you keep them engaged and leverage them as a source for advocacy.  Engagement, Amplification, and Equity are the three highly connected measures for determining value.

Do you see attribution models playing a role in social marketing? 

Jim: Absolutely. Marketers need to know if they should invest 30% of their social budget in blogs, 10% in tweets and 50% in Facebook -- or 10% in blogs and 50% in tweets and 30% in Facebook. Without attribution, there's only deciding by guess, by God and by gut feel. Oh  -- and by last year's (now useless) results of course.

Bill: The best marketers are taking an enterprise approach to measuring social media, recognizing that near real-time, voice-of-the-consumer affects all aspects of the business, from customer service to marketing to public relations and corporate communications, to design, quality and the retail experience. 

Carla: Yes. While certain industry segments are embracing the use of attribution models as a way to measure influential points across advertising channels, the most accurate results have been when attribution models have been applied to the search industry. As these models develop and gain greater adoption, their role in accurately measuring social media will also increase.

Via the audience (Faisal Laljee): With social media, messages and content can spread many degrees from the source. How far can and should marketers track these ripple effects?  

Jim:  As far as you can  -- within reason. If the seventh forward or retweet brings in buckets of money, that is very valuable to know... unless it costs a ridiculous amount of cash to find out.

Bill: The dispersion of social media about your company, products, executives, issues, etc. should be measured continually as it ebbs and flows from one network to the next, from one influencer to the next. At Nielsen, we've seen social media catastrophes start with a decidedly non-influential consumer and then get picked up by an influential blogger or other influencer. 

Carla: Depending on marketers' objectives, and the type of audience they are trying to reach, the level of analysis will vary.  Messages and content can spread widely, and often even beyond the proverbial six degrees.   Understanding how and when content dissipates, and which forms of content gain momentum, can deliver valuable insights to inform a marketer's publishing strategy.  

What needs more improvement right now: the technological tools that marketers use, or the way marketers and agencies use them and analyze the information? 

Jim: We have far more technology and waaaaay more data than we know what to do with. What we need is technology that can identify what we should be looking at rather than throwing more reports at us.

Bill: The technology is out there but there is a lag in standard Key Performance Indicators and a common currency that companies across industries can use and leverage.

Carla: Both. The technology and tools are still somewhat nascent, as are the metrics and approaches for utilizing them.  The more marketers and agencies can embrace a "test and learn" approach to social media measurement, the more our industry can adopt measurement standards and best practices.

Via Twitter (smcatl): When is predictive analysis going to become part of social media return on investment (ROI) considerations?  

Jim: ROI is a backward-looking concept and predictive analytics is a forward-looking technique. Predictive methods are being applied by scrappy start-ups as we speak. Stay tuned!!

Bill: Predictive analysis is already part of social media ROI, but it's more of a niche metric because it is difficult to calculate and the data needed to calculate isn't always easy to get.  

Carla: See above re: emerging metrics -- "test and learn." All in good time!

2 comments about "A Frank Conversation About Social Media Measurement".
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  1. Keilee Park from yb, February 3, 2010 at 12:42 p.m.

    I would like to see how much of this would apply to SMBs. Right now much of the social media buzz really applies to large, brand building companies.

    Small mom and pop companies struggle to keep pace with large businesses in the advertising arena. They don't typically have time to even post or tweet let alone follow the mountains of metrics to optimize their campaign. Many will look to old forms of metrics (the print ones that they are used to) to determine the worth of their social campaign. Education will be key to their success.

    I like the "test and learn" approach but worry that will leave main street businesses in the dust due to the fast pace of the social world.

  2. Uri Bar-joseph from Optify, Inc., February 18, 2010 at 2:34 p.m.

    For all business the ultimate test is revenue, and the way to measure your social media efforts is by looking at your bottom line. The hard part is how to link a sale to a specific effort, and the answer to this is by using tracking tools that can link a specific lead to a specific source. Doing that will help you not just measure your social media efforts, but also analyze them and optimize your channels.

    Optify ( offers such application; with our suite of marketing applications you will be able to track you leads all the way to the source and learn, and measure, what channels generated the most leads, and how to optimize you channel strategy and your social media efforts.

    Check us out at

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