Commentary

Why Social Audience Measurement Hasn't Yet Delivered

‘Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose’ is a French proverb that pretty much sums up the world we live in -- especially from a tech perspective. ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’ can be applied to the world of social media in so many ways: We still communicate -- just differently; we still market -- just through newer outlets; we still rely on word of mouth - wait, that one never changed! But this little truism really reverberates when talking about audience monitoring and measurement.

Audience measurement continues to get kicked in the pants today. Especially when it comes to social. Social Audience Measurement was heralded as the next big shiny thing for marketers, promising rivers of psychographic and demographic data and close interaction with consumers. But it hasn’t really delivered, and the actual execution of leveraging social data has been somewhat disappointing.

Just as Arthur C. Nielsen was criticized because the increased number of radio stations on the dial made it difficult for his Audimeter listening device to distinguish among them, so too, are marketers experiencing an unprecedented deluge of data and information.

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They’re getting a lot of that information from measuring single platform activity, Twitter, Facebook, etc. But don’t forget, even Twitter CEO Dick Costolo admitted recently that on average, a staggering 40% of active Twitter users don’t tweet. Think about that. Nearly half of all Twitter users are passive. They’re not retweeting, sharing or mentioning your brand, but they’re watching and listening to you.

Standard engagement and activity metrics are not going to pick them up. How do you distinguish between your active and passive community members? Who’s really following you? Right now, you potentially don’t know nearly half your audience. Toss in an increase in spam that ‘games’ user statistics, and single scoring metrics like Klout. Lots of white noise, but an incomplete picture of the consumer and the larger audience.

The Power Of Relevancy

Yahoo! and Innerscope Research partnered last April for a revealing research study. Using biometric and eye-tracking measures they examined emotional and cognitive responses of people to online advertising. They found that people spend 25% more time fixating on ads that are personally relevant to them. In fact, pupil dilation increased by 27%, which means that potential consumers are processing and remembering the key messages to a greater extent. Contextually relevant ads triggered emotional response 2 times higher than those without. What does that mean for marketers?

• Personal relevance increases cognitive engagement among consumers.

• Contextual relevance can help build long-term memory of the brand.

• And if you want to emotionally and cognitively connect with a consumer at the highest level, contextual and personal relevance combined tend to deliver stronger responses than each on its own.

Science proves that knowing who you are selling to, demographically, beyond tweets and shares, has a real visceral impact on the consumer.

Listen In Or Lose Out

Social media monitoring platforms have become fairly common, and they play an important role in every aspect of marketing, sales, customer service and community growth. That said, customers are individuals. And superior customer service is becoming the thing that separates the men from the boys in organizations large and small. How do you scale the social Web to ensure better results and a more ‘human’ response that reflects the people who make up your community? You know them.

A recent report revealed that while CMOs are realizing that social is a key channel for engagement, they’re still turning a blind eye to a key ingredient. Listening.

Only a quarter of the survey group were actively tracking blogs and roughly half were paying attention to online reviews of their brand or corporation. It’s no surprise, given those stats that when asked, they were quick to note that ‘expressing ROI on social media is difficult’ and that ‘developing their skills and understanding of social media was low priority’.

And that is wrong on so many levels. Social has fundamentally changed consumer spending decision making. Here’s a stat that should give you pause. On average, 89% of people look online before making a purchase decision. And they’re not looking to hear corporate speak or company platitudes. They are looking for word of mouth recommendations from friends and family. People just like them. Trust is a powerful commodity these days. Social pull. Online and off.

Audience Measurement Is The New Clout

Where social audience measurement has failed, social pull delivers the goods. A user’s real, measurable social pull is a reflection of their reputation -- online and off -- as well as a barometer of their social trust.

Contextually relevant, personally targeted marketing campaigns evoke deeper emotional response in consumers, but knowing the scope of your broader audience can also deliver other actionable results, depending on your position in the marketplace:

• Publishers - determine audience, content deliverables, reach.

• Brands - create/share targeted content, measure campaign success.

• Influencers - prove and validate real audience worth to potential clients.

• Media buyers - understand audience, know where to buy and why.

Technology rules our lives in ways Nielsen would never have thought possible. But even then, he recognized the power of measuring what people do. What the individual wants. And where they were ‘looking.’ Today, they’re looking -- and communicating -- online. Mobile devices are on pace to outsell PCs by 2012.

78% of Americans are on the Internet. And they spend nearly a quarter of that time using social media.

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