How Do You Measure Social Media? Return On Influence

Ask a marketer today what’s weighing on her mind -- and you’ll find social media near the top of the list. Forty percent of marketers believe it’s a CEO-level priority in their company, according to a Booz & Company/Buddy Media survey. It’s important because social media and the applications that sit on its platforms such as social gaming, LinkedIn, Twitter and Yelp are too big to ignore in terms of growth, mass reach, time spent and engagement.

Social media passed email as the top activity over the Internet two years ago and hasn’t slowed down. So while the impact of social media is undeniable, how we measure its effect and integrate it into our marketing practices presents a challenge.

According to the Booz & Company/ Buddy Media “Campaigns to Capabilities: Social Media and Marketing 2011,” survey, the cost of labor and resources to “execute and support social media” along with “unproven ROI” top the list of challenges for 60 percent of leading Fortune 500 marketers. Simply put, it’s hard to directly measure the contribution that social media makes.



Why? The path to measuring the impact of social media is nuanced. While it’s possible to measure reach, frequency and time of engagement, those metrics don’t get to the heart of how social media works: sharing an experience. According to “Zuck’s Law” (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s informal rule), the number of experiences people are sharing via social media is doubling each year. So the “target” in social media isn’t a consumer in the traditional marketing sense. The target is the “interest networks” and “second-generation affiliation networks” of people and algorithms measuring influence, which is an elusive point of attribution.

In social media, the action is the reaction and the “I” in ROI is influence.

A pioneer in thinking deeply about measuring influence, Klout CEO Joe Fernandez describes influence as “the ability to get others to take action.” To measure influence, Klout uses over 28 points of data from social networks to measure an individual’s true reach, amplification and network impact. This data is then compiled into an influencer’s score and indexed on a 100-point scale.

So who has the most Klout? Justin Bieber boasts the only perfect 100 score due to his strong influence, reach and engagement. By comparison, if Bieber and President Obama (with a Klout score of 87) both posted the same video on social media and asked their followers to “check it out,” the President would motivate only a fraction of the potential responses that Bieber would generate. Influence in these terms is about actions and reaction -- and advantages.

Can online influence convert to real-world transactions? You might conclude as much when looking at the launch sales results for the Kardashian line at Sears. On the first days of introducing their line, the Kardashians were topping Google searches for the retailer and selling out at Sears stores across the country. Kim Kardashian’s Klout score is a stellar 92, and clearly she’s producing results in influencing her followers to stop by their local Sears. While attribution to sales is only directional, we believe the emerging science behind online influence will underpin advertising platforms in the coming years.

Klout is not the only company studying the application of influence, but it’s probably the most publicly accessible today. Within their walled stockades of massive data, Facebook, Google, Rapleaf, Microsoft and others see how we engage in social media and assign page rank, edge rank and other trust metrics based on how we behave and relate to one another. In addition, start-ups like People Browser and Socialmatica are introducing influence scoring of their own, with their “Kred” and comparative brand influence ratings, respectively. And increasingly we see the smartphone as the next “chokehold” on social data, as 50 percent of Facebook’s 800 million users, 55 percent of Twitter’s 100 million active monthly users, and 60 percent of consumers for services like Spotify access or log in via mobile devices.

All of this activity benefits brands interested in engaging and aligning influencers to their mission. Influence will only become easier to identify, prioritize and engage in the future. And there will be better attribution and respect for the role of influence in marketing and sales as marketers seek greater Returns On Influence.


1 comment about "How Do You Measure Social Media? Return On Influence".
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  1. Mark Silva from KITE, February 29, 2012 at 11:35 p.m.

    Check out the new book just off the presses with the same name of this article's title, "Return on Influence" by Mark Schaefer. can get details and buy the book at

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