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Measuring success in social media

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment

measuring_success I have been thinking for a while about what constitutes success in social media  and are we still caught up in the old metrics that served display, CPC and before  that, broadcast media? By all accounts (unfortunately I couldn’t make it across  the Atlantic to be there in  person) Katie Paine’s Social Media Measurement:  Establishing ROI (Full  slidedeck is here) was an  excellent presentation and  highlighted how some,  socially optimized,  companies are measuring the hard,    financial metrics that  will directly impact their bottom line. About time too!  She also brings to light  the old metrics which simply won’t (or shouldn’t) cut it  anymore.

Social media measurement has to start web metrics and these non-financial impacts are certainly important. However, as Olivier Blanchard put it, they are like hugs – everyone likes them but they won’t pay the bills! (Olivier also has a pretty awesome slidedeck on social media  ROI here). Impressions, fans, followers, retweets, views etc  don’t, and never will equal success in social media. That only comes with sales, donations, efficiencies, the ability to change sentiment and opinion towards your company. And these can all be measured with a combination of web analytics, social media monitoring, human sweat, corporate financial information…and time.

We, as agencies, consultants, planners or analysts, may have to get ready to be kicked out of a few meetings and turn down the quick money on offer from doing a social media ‘campaign’ or broadcast message. We should focus on the clients who are in it for the long haul, who want social media fully integrated into the marketing strategy, who want their departments (sales, customer service, PR, marketing)  tapping into the same knowledge base and data insights gleaned from social media.

Measurement will always be imperfect when trying tie it squarely back to a purchasing decision but we don’t have to hide behind that and use it as an excuse for not focusing on the difficult problems. Just because the client doesn’t ask for ROI to be measured properly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. We all know if we can show financial and brand building value to an organization then social media will gain a bigger slice of the budgets, which is nice! But, this will also lead to something much more impressive – businesses will become more customer centric.

Let’s face it, no one is curing cancer here, but to think the purpose and value of social media activity is to put the next ‘cool’ video or app in front of as many unsuspecting people as we can is really depressing. If we are in this for one thing that could be considered valuable or ‘game changing’, it has to be the humanizing of business again (Chris Brogan blogs, talks about this all the time). Certainly, that is why I am in this. If we can help businesses care more about their customers and give the consumer a better, more personal, more informative experience with brands then that has to be  a good thing. The only where we are going to get there is if we measure and prove success.