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Five Best Practices for Social Media Measurement

How to link social media metrics to business results

More than 80 percent of Americans use social media in some fashion each month. Some of those people just might be talking about your brand – and your competition. Some may be ambassadors and advocates, or they may just as easily be detractors and malcontents – but all their voices are in the mix, shaping customers’ buying decisions. Who would want to ignore it?

However, in this age of accountability, can you be sure that investments in social media are worth it?

In the recent webinar, Less Talk + More Action = Better Results, Katie Delahaye Paine, CEO of KDPaine & Partners and John Bastone, Global Customer and Media Intelligence Manager at SAS shared their five top tips for getting the most from social media measurement:

1.     Consider all the ways social media can drive profits.
“Social media as a channel tends to be most strongly aligned with marketing or marketing communications,” said Bastone, “but its impact is reverberating across the enterprise. Many different groups have a vested interest.”

The most obvious business functions that can benefit from social media tracking include:

  • Online media analysis. Where are consumers talking about you? How is volume trending? Who are the most influential sources. Which sites are more positive? Negative?
  • Brand and market tracking. What do consumers say about your brand, your products and your competition? What is the impact of these discussions? Who are the influencers?
  • Public relations and reputation tracking. What are online journalists and bloggers saying about your organization? What is the threat to your reputation? Where are the opportunities to build advocacy?
  • Customer feedback management. How do perceptions voiced on social media compare to direct customer feedback from other sources? Are there issues that require response or resolution?

The key is to create business processes whereby information from social media is translated into action. Customer complaints should be funneled to a customer care center. An identified need can be routed to a sales contact. An influential blogger can be referred to the public relations department as a potential new media contact.

“Some online conversations are relevant to marketing, public relations and sales, but just as many are relevant to customer service, competitive intelligence, human resources, investor relations, product development – or anywhere else in the organization where it’s meaningful to listen to customers.”
Katie Delahaye Paine, CEO of KDPaine & Partners

2.     Know what you want out of social media.
Define the R in your ROI. To be able to prove the ROI, you have to have a tangible business goal to begin with, said Katie Delahaye Paine, CEO of KDPaine & Partners. What is the return that you’re hoping to deliver? Why are you doing this? What is the problem you are trying to solve?

Define the audience. Who are you really trying to reach? It’s one thing to go out there and reach 57 million people, but that’s not very meaningful if those 57 million people are not really your target market. Home Depot may reach the world with their social media presence, but if the closest Home Depot store is 70 miles away, you’ve got to have a lot of loyalty and engagement to win that part of the audience as customers. “You need to be brutally honest about your target audience and whether you are in fact reaching them,” said Paine.

Establish benchmarks. “Everyone tears their hair out and says, ‘There are no benchmarks in social media.’ But that’s not really true. There are. There’s always your competition – your peers – that you can benchmark against,” said Paine. Instead of asking how much positive sentiment you have, you’d want to know your share of positive sentiment amid all positive sentiment in the marketplace. Conversely, if your business operates in a controversial area, you could gauge your relative share of negative sentiment. Relative rather than absolute.

Define your Kick Butt Index. “What do your bosses define as ‘kicking butt?’” asked Paine. Find out what causes them to say “Congratulations, you are really kicking butt out there,” or “Hey, we’re really getting our butt kicked.” What are those metrics? If executives agree to this up front, you have a tangible way of proving the value later, said Paine: “You can say, ‘We agreed the metric we were going to be judged on was cost per new customer acquired. That number was $67 a year ago; it is $37 today, so I am in fact kicking butt.’”

3.     Make it a two-way conversation.
“Marketers are having to make an adjustment to account for the fact that the ‘social’ part of social media demands a give and take,” said Bastone. “As online conversations about your business are happening, you need to not just talk about yourself, but engage people in a two-way conversation.”

Paine agreed: “The first thing you have got to understand is, it’s not about you. Too many marketers think social media is basically just another way to get the word out, when in fact it’s a very different entity. The entity is the conversation.”

There are lots of ways to use social media not just as a way to get the word out there, but to touch customers and interact in ways that you couldn’t do before, said Paine. Savvy marketers will use social media to engage customers with the brand on a personal level, conduct customer meetings, gather feedback through surveys and focus groups, and identify opportunities for business development.

When Paine posted on Facebook that she was planning to build a brick walkway that weekend, she received a comment from Home Depot with a link to an instructional video about how to build brick walkways. By offering to help as a trusted advisor – rather than making an overt sales pitch – Home Depot ended up scoring the bricks-and-mortar sale… literally.

“The first thing you have got to understand is this: it’s not about you. Too many marketers think social media is basically just another way to get the word out, when in fact it’s a very different entity. The entity is the conversation.”
Katie Delahaye Paine, CEO of KDPaine & Partners

4.     Forget about impressions and hits.“For too long, we have been focused on counting eyeballs, and there is no way to count eyeballs effectively, consistently, or accurately in social media,” said Paine. “So just give it up.”

Half of your Twitter followers are robo-followers; they’re not real anyway. You may know how many people “Like” your Facebook page, but how many are paying any attention to what you post there? Even the sites/services that track hits, visitors and impressions are doing it inconsistently.

“I say ‘hits’ stands for ‘How Idiots Track Success,’” said Paine. “If all you’re doing is counting hits, you’re not tracking anything that is meaningful in today’s marketplace.”

Paine defined a five-level hierarchy of measurements, with each tier offering progressively more engagement – a more meaningful measure of how well you’re doing with social media.

At the lowest level are the simple, descriptive facts comparable to “impressions” in traditional media: how many followers, friends, likes, visitors, hits, comments, etc. “Impressions are a zero level of engagement,” said Paine. “You don’t care how many eyeballs you reach; you care what those eyeballs have done,” which brings us to the next level.

“Did they go to your site? Did they click through from the link you gave them? I classify ‘Likes’ as a Level 1, because it’s so easy to hit that ‘Like’ button,” said Paine. “My metric is not how many ‘Likes’ there are, but how many ‘Likes’ there are relative to how many people actually engaged in conversations on the site. Maybe 98,000 are ‘Likes,’ but if only 20 or 30 people are actually engaging in conversations, that’s not exactly a high level of engagement.”

Most organizations are measuring at the more participatory Level 2 or 3, said Paine. “If you are really good at getting engagement levels up there, you’ll get people who retweet, repeat comments and share posts. That’s a very high level of engagement. Ultimately (Level 4) you want their identity; you want them to register in some form, say nice things about your brand, and (Level 5) make a purchase and recommend you to others.”

As you move up the levels, the numbers will likely be small for now. It’s important to set management expectations appropriately. The absolute numbers – how many click-throughs or visitors – are not nearly as important as what percentage of people are moving up the levels. From month to month, as social media followers and friends move from Level 1 to Level 2 and up, you’ll know how well you are doing in getting people to engage with the brand.

5.     Blend social media data with internal data.
“Social media is a hot channel for understanding and interpreting online conversations, but it isn’t the only source of conversations,” Bastone noted. “If you really want to evaluate sentiment, conversations, topics, what people care about or don’t care about, it doesn’t make sense to analyze social conversations in one silo and other customer communications in a completely different silo.

“It gets really interesting when you start to blend social media data with internal data, such as the sentiment captured from call centers, surveys, customer service records, behavioral data, online chat and customer emails.” Supplement with external customer research, brand research and Web analytics to create an even richer view of the customer.

“Bringing this all together gives you a common lens to understand customer conversations and sentiment – and a much better handle on leading indicators,” said Bastone. “If an uptick happens across channels, that is a more reliable insight” to use as the basis for forecasting and other business decisions.

This is an excerpt from the white paper Five Best Practices for Social Media Measurement – read the full paper for more detail.

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