Measuring social media is parallel to measuring marketing – something that has been debated for as long as I can remember. The CEO asks, “If I allocate headcount and budget for social media, am I going to see more sales?” Digital native in company replies, “Absolutely.” CEO snaps back, “Okay, quantify the ROI.”
Be careful what you promise … marketing is not sales. It does not result in sales, but rather 1) increases the number of potential clients (qualified leads) and 2) increases the probability of sales closure, while reducing sales cycle time. Quantifying the value of marketing efforts must be specified in these functional areas, not in sales numbers. Yes, one can say that sales increased after a marketing campaign, but you can not attribute it 100% to the marketing campaign. There are other attributes that have likely changed prior to the start of the campaign such as new product release, new features, new channels, new sales team members, just to name a few, that worked in an integrated manner to increase sales. In my experience, claiming “sales” numbers as a result of “marketing” just leads to endless debate.
In a traditional sense, marketing influences sales and generates leads. Prior to social media we would measure results such as the number of hits on a website; number of call-ins; and response to specific calls to action. In a social media context, we want to move potential customers along the “A path”:
1) We want to get their ATTENTION
2) We want to ATTRACT them
3) We want them to gain AFFINITY for us
4) We want them to be our AUDIENCE, regularly engaging with us
5) We want them to be our ADVOCATES – the greatest level to reach where our customers provide positive referrals for us to their friends, colleagues, and family
So in a social media context here are just some parameters that will indicate how well you are moving customers along the A-path:
- Amount of friends or followers a social media account has
- Using trackable URL’s when posting information/links to these social media accounts
- Amount of discussions generated within social media account pages
- Amount of video comments
- Amount of photo comments
- Amount of comments on profile page
- Amount of retweets a tweet gets
- Amount of downloads or installs an application or attachment has
- Amount of questions asked or answered on a site
- Size of your network
- Amount of fans your page has
These are a realistic set of attributes to quantify results of social media marketing. Others have defined social media measurement from other perspectives. I give two examples:
1) Dave Evans writes an article “Making Quantitative Sense of the Social Web” (http://www.clickz.com/3634024) where he talks about quantifying the social media conversations that occur. He names a number of tools available to assist in this exercise. I see this as too subjective, but you and your organization may like this approach.
2) Dragon Search has recently released what they term a “Social Networking Media ROI Calculator” (http://www.dragonsearchmarketing.com/social-media-roi-calculator.htm). I like the intent and approach here, but there are a couple of parameters that, again, are too subjective. Part of the model includes users specifying a monetary value for “posts” and “stories”. The model is on the right track, but I question the use of these two parameters. Nonetheless, it is worth checking this out.
If you are a marketing professional you know the power of positive socialization of your product/service, and the catastrophic nature of negative socialization. This speaks directly to the value of social media marketing, but this may not be enough to see your company grow social media initiatives. You will likely need quantifiable ROI objectives and results. Test what will and will not work in your company. Work to evolve the perception and growth of social media at your company … set objective, realistic measurable goals … track and record the results … it will be rewarding for your company and they will show greater commitment to winning social media initiatives.