Very interesting week! I had the pleasure of moderating the Social Media Measurement and Monetization discussions at Econsultancy’s Digital Peer Summit this week in NY. I talked with three different round-table groups and each provided some great perspectives on the state of social media at various companies. My key takeaway … there is a considerable amount of gap that exists between social media staff and the C-Suite executives with regards to what social media success looks like.
The Social Gap
The reason why a gap exists between social media practioners and executives of companies is that we are looking at the wrong parameters for success. Social media should be looked at as a new business model. Yes, we can say social has been around for decades and word-of-mouth has always been important, but the reality is that digital social is different. How consumers use digital social is the reason why we need a new business model – not because it is the new hyped shiny object.
We’ve seen poor business adoption of media channels throughout history. Look at the evolution from print to radio, radio to TV, TV to the web, and now the web to a social and mobile digital environment. EVERY time a new media technology has come to fruition, the masses have taken the same marketing methodology from the predecessor and brought it to the new environment. Isn’t that why we have banners, click-throughs and video pre-roll as the advertising models today?
Social demands a different model and a different set of parameters to measure and determine success. And this in a nut shell is the gap problem. For the most part, the C-Suite executives are looking for one set of parameters and real social value is determined by another set. What to do? What to do?
First off golden rule – you must always give your client (even internal executive client) what they want. BUT that should also be augmented with more telling data. Here is the example. I have created a reporting dashboard that actually looks at three groupings of metrics:
Grouping these categories allows executives to move from web business models (what they are comfortable with) to social business models. The online traditional measurements still command the digital world – just look at how many reference Comscore parameters. When it comes to social, executives are transfixed on things like how many fans do we have. But the real value of social is audience engagement. Yes, you need many fans to have sizeable audience engagement, but you can not just run a sweepstake to drive Facebook likes and declare success. So providing all these parameters satisfies all constituents and starts to move the business measurements to where they need to be.
Presentation of the metrics is also very important. For example, if you present the data and show the number of Facebook fans over a 12 month period, I would also add “Interactions per Fan” into the chart. You want to demonstrate that while you are achieving fan growth, you continue to maintain, or more importantly increase the degree to which fans are engaging.
Much of this gets to the issue of the highly debated social media ROI. Recently, I was interviewed by DigiDay.com on this topic and my exact quote is here as I had captured what we really need to think about. …
DigiDay asked me, “How do we truly measure social media ROI?“
And my response was …
I do not think it is appropriate to look at social media ROI, but rather look at social media KPIs (key performance indicators). Social media is about building relationships. There are different stages to relationships. From a brand perspective, I see five stages that I term the A-Path; attention, attraction, affinity, audience, advocates. These stages are sequential and thus measurement should be made at each stage. What you measure is different at each stage. Measurement of each of these stages are the KPIs. You perform different social activities for each stage, and thus you should measure the success, or lack of success, of each. Each successful stage contributes to potential sale, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to categorically attribute to a specific sale. By definition, ROI equals sales minus investment. Social media is not good at selling, it is good at building relationships. I don’t say, “Hi, I am Steve Goldner and I want to buy X,” rather, I build a relationship and when contextually relevant, make an offer. Social media is a longer-term pipeline builder. Now I am not saying just do it and expect results to come later. What I am saying is set a strategy and plan, then execute and measure. Measure the KPIs for the various stages of the relationship. And how can you tell that revenue will increase? Two proven reasons: people like to buy from people they feel comfortable with, and having consumer advocates is far more powerful than any marketing effort the company can do themselves.
(Note – If you want more information on measuring social media at various stages, see “Measuring the Stages of the Cyclic Social Media Marketing Funnel.”)
There is no doubt that social media requires maturing. But business models, metrics, and recognition by executives of what really matters require substantial evolution and growth as well. Real social leaders need to drive the evolution. In the words of Tim Berners-Lee (credited for his invention of the World Wide Web (not the Internet), “The web as I envisaged it, we have not seen it yet. The future is still so much bigger than the past.”
Make It happen,