Measuring social media value–it IS possible

Make no mistake, we’re well past the point where social media marketing is optional–despite what some of our clients and bosses say.

The most recent evidence for this comes from The Society for New Communications Research, whose recent report notes that fifty-seven percent of this group of early social media adopters reported that social media tools are becoming more valuable to their activities. (The report is definitely worth a read.)

One major problem, however, is that the Internet marketing business hasn’t developed a standard way of measuring social media marketing performance which is accepted by its own top honchos (much less clients). So it’s time to pick some standards of our own.

The following is my attempt to come up with some principles, and specific metrics, we can use to decide whether our social media efforts are working to promote. I look forward to your suggestions! – Anne

Social media measurement standards

* Length of stay for visitors referred by social media

Visitors who come to your site through social media promotions may have a different profile than those who arrive through other means. I believe it’s important to find out how they differ from site averages, particularly in terms of length of stay (as a proxy for their level of interest).

* Number of followers/fans on various networks

I sort of dislike this one, as you can have tons of lurkers clicking through on your Facebook fan page or Ning group, while not having too many who agree to sign up. Still, it’s worth taking into account, not as a sign of whether you’re successful but a sense of how given community’s reacting to your message.

* Number of comments/questions made directly to the company rep doing the social media marketing

OK, if social media marketing involves talking with, not at, the audiences you’re hoping to reach, that involves joining a community. One very crude way of looking whether people see you as a member is how many comments and questions they’ve made addressing you.

* Extent to which your social media efforts have brought new assets into your business

If social media marketing is more joining a community (e.g. networking) than making a pitch, then such networking should bear fruit. In one project, for example, I found several potential business partners and a freelance contributor within a couple of weeks of putting it out there.

* Extent to which you’ve concretely raised awareness of your service/product within the community

If you’re on a social networking site, and you see someone say “I know about X because the company’s rep told me so directly on Twitter,” you’re definitely on the right track. You can be pretty confident that someone will visit your site and, if it’s otherwise in good shape, convert into a dedicated customer.

* Frequency with which your brand is mentioned on key sites

As with the number of followers/fans you attract, this is a very tricky way to measure the effectiveness as your marketing, as there’s a million offline methods by which people can discuss your site. Still, keeping track of comments (using, say, TweetScan for Twitter or general search for MySpace and Facebook) certainly offers useful context.

Next: Get more simple, powerful approaches to measuring social media here.

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11 responses to “Measuring social media value–it IS possible

  1. This will be an increasingly important question to answer. I like the suggestions given, but can we push this a bit further to measure sales resulting from social media, or improvements in customer satisfaction or loyalty?

    Another measure that could be really important is the life time value of a member of a social community and their network – ie. if they recommend or refer.

  2. Hi Campbell:

    Great questions! My responses:

    > Can we push this a bit further to measure sales resulting from social media, or improvements in customer satisfaction or loyalty?

    My thinking was that we start with what you might call “gross” measures–more or less separating out the wheat from the chaff. Then, I think we’d be in a position to drill down to deeper levels to analyze these factors. Since social media is new, I stuck to what I saw as first-line effects to consider. Maybe I’m limiting things too much though?

    > Another measure that could be really important is the life time value of a member of a social community and their network – ie. if they recommend or refer.

    Again, I agree completely that this is a critical metric. I believe that the early measurements I’ve proposed here lay the groundwork for such a measure. But again, I think measuring lifetime value would come later.

    Very thought-provoking points, regardless. If you disagree with me in these responses, meanwhile, please feel free to shoot me down. 🙂

  3. Great post – I’m a subscriber now! The metrics you list are about as good as it gets as most of the impact of social media marketing isn’t in clear numbers.

    Thanks! Look forward to your next post.

    cherylharrison.wordpress.com

  4. Nice suggestions – i like length of stay. I’ve got one to add to the mix – why not just be old school and ask users for the source of their impression at the point of transaction? I’ve yet to see “blog post” or “twitted” as an option for the ubiquitous “how did you hear about us” question. This works nicely for most orgs – just put of on the salesforce form!

  5. Kurt:

    Thanks for your input! I agree, adding social media to referral sources that would be a very helpful adjunct to researching social media influence.

    Interestingly (to me!), I saw someone list “Twitter” and a few other social media options as potential referral sources for the first time tonight (at http://www.pimpmynews.com).

    By the way, do you think Salesforce is ready to track social media? In theory, a click is a click and a source is a source, so the current version is OK, but is it possible sales tracking systems like SF will need to evolve to address the role of social media in the sales process?

    It’s possible the whole notion of sales lead tracking may change significantly as social media channels become more important.

    – Anne

  6. By the way, Cheryl, thanks for your kind words. If you have further thoughts on this subject–or other emerging social media topics–I’d welcome your input.

    -Ane

  7. I really like Length of Stay, but take also into account the Conversion Rate, what I see in a large % of the time, is that Conversion Rate from Social Media efforts is higher than Search Engines.

  8. I’d also like to add Share of Wallet. This is somewhat more difficult to find out, but it can indicate brand favorability created by Social Media efforts.

  9. Gianluigi:

    Many thanks for your comments on social media measurement! Both suggestions sound like good additions to the list.

    I can imagine how to calculate conversion rate–making specialized landing pages for various social media environments isn’t too hard–but how might you begin to get your arms around Share of Wallet? Can you give me a sense of how you’d approach taking this measure?

    -Anne

  10. It seems to me that the key element of The Society for New Communications Research’s article was the statement that twenty-seven percent of the respondents find social media to be a CORE part of their communciations strategy – that’s almost a third of the respondents and it’s a great place to start.

    While it is interesting that the major types of online presence and networking media don’t really differ in their effectiveness – they are almost equally as effective – I think it is important to take away the overall idea that if almost one-third of respondents find that using these tools are key to their success, it is vital to not only find parameters to track effectiveness and additional methods to increase effectiveness but also to ensure that other businesses realize the incredible power of leveraging these tools for their success. I think that even in a digital age, we are still only starting to see the potential for effectiveness in harnessing the power of the Internet to impact our economy and to build relationships world-wide.

    While I am not personally overly familiar with social networking sites except a few hobby-related ones, I can say that those sites seem to use discussion threads as well as links to blogs quite effectively and as previously mentioned, having a comments section is always a good idea although it can be distracting to see spam posts in some of them.

  11. Good point. Developing social media measurements is only going to become more important. Social media is quickly becoming an inherent part of American society (and certain parts of the global society). Soon enough, it won’t be “as American as apple pie,” but “as American as checking MySpace (or Facebook, or Twitter etc…) four times a day.”
    Your standards are sharp and well put.

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