Social Media Measurement Round 2: It's About Listening

This week I moderated a panel at OMMA Social that focused on social media metrics. In preparing for the panel, I started my research with trying to define what social media measurement really is. I had a preconceived notion that everything can be measured, right? Isn't this what I was writing about last month -- the need to open the kimono and talk about the calculations of metrics openly, so that everyone knows exactly how something is being measured? Maybe put a few standards in place?

Well, to quote someone from the conference (who was quoting Einstein), "Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted."

Perhaps a new metric that needs to be instituted is listening. The listening factor that marketers or analysts apply to the process of evaluating their social media strategy will take them further than the metrics will. You have to listen to what your customers are saying to you, and what they are saying to each other, to assess your efforts.



Social media measurement is clearly a mix of art and science. There are so many data points that, to fully understand if your social media agenda is working, you need to evaluate the tone and content of what your users might be generating.

An interesting question that I threw at the panel was, "How do you know if your social media strategy is working?" Stephanie Pike from said that her company ties every marketing effort back to the store purchase. Everything has got to have an ROI -- or they'll evaluate whether to continue the program or not.

I hear what she is saying, and have had that ROI model foundationally set in my brain forever, but the difficulty is that so many of these efforts are hard to quantify.

Another interesting point she brought up was how users in forums actually answer each other's questions on products. Get your own customers to help each other, and now you truly have a cost savings effort. But you must also weigh the tone and quality of how they answer those questions, and the impact on the brand.

Heidi Browning from MySpace touched on her company's metric, called the "momentum effect": "This is a quantifiable measurement of the impact of a brand within a social network beyond traditional advertising impressions to encompass the 'pass along' power of consumer-to-consumer communication." A big quote, I know -- but a research study jointly conducted by Marketing Evolution and Adidas showed how the power of consumer alignment with a brand influences behavior. Although not "directly" quantifiable through a metric that is spit out of a data analysis tool, the impact of consumers aligning with your brand, then inviting their friends or influencing others on their affinity via personal expression on their profile page or through social networking, is pretty powerful.

We have a ways to go in measuring the impact of social media. The discussion on the panel helped me realize that. The metrics vary drastically depending on the type of campaign -- and in most cases, require custom analysis of the qualitative and quantitative in order to assess results. You need to start by outlining what your social media goals are and defining the audience that you are trying to reach. The metrics are available for most aspects of these campaigns, but, at the end of the day, applying the listening factor to understand conversation with the customer is what it's really all about.

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