Measuring up to Expectations

As alluded to in my earlier post on Social Media Week, one of the hot-button topics that ensconced a number of presentations and discussions throughout the week was measurement and metrics. It seems that there is a fair bit of uncertainty, and correspondingly a lot of debate, on how to correlate social media activities with bottom line business results – and provide informed, proper analysis to senior management.

It’s no secret that there is a lot of gray area when it comes to measurement. Historically, for traditional marketing, marketers have focused on metrics such as brand awareness, brand perception and brand loyalty. While important, the accuracy and value of some of these metrics may not be as high as some perceive – particularly in the digital age, when start-ups can rise from relative obscurity rather quickly.

Engaged consumers now, more than ever, hold the true key to brand success. A company can benefit by building genuine relationships, leveraging social media, with key, well-connected consumers – brand advocates. As a result, traditional measures are evolving, and a variety of new tools and metrics – measuring, amongst other things, influence and sentiment – have been introduced.

Digital and social media are very measurable, perhaps more so than traditional media. But how meaningful are the measures for senior business managers who might still be entrenched in old paradigms? What can marketing and communications professionals do to effectively communicate the results of social media activities?

Here are a few key points that come to mind:

  1. Educate. As the social media champion in an organization, be proactive and take the initiative to educate peers on emerging measurement methodologies and metrics – particularly with regards to influence and sentiment.
  2. Set specific and realistic targets for social media activities. Where possible, quantify and correlate them to key business objectives. Emphasize the importance of the results (again, educate!).
  3. Speak the language of business. Over the last year or so, some social media pundits have re-defined ROI as “Return on Influence”. While influence is important to evaluate, remember that business parlance for ROI is “Return on Investment”.

Having some sort of gauge for success is critical, enabling refinement of efforts based on key learning. Equally as critical, it’s important for company peers and cohorts to learn and understand the business value of social media activities.