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Plurkshops started as spontaneous discussions on various topics over on the social networking site Plurk. They've evolved into regular discussions, scheduled specifically around certain topics, and open to the entire community. Fun, fast, and furious, they're chock full of great information. (If you'd like to get news of future plurkshops, follow @Plurkshop on Plurk).
Talking Social Media Measurement
Marketing, PR and Social Media types are abuzz with the importance of finding ways to measure the impact of companies’ engagement with social media. We discussed some of the key questions on everyone’s minds:
What makes social media efforts so difficult to justify?
The term “social media” has gained acceptance, but it can be misleading in literal translation. The “social” aspect of SM can create an informal (and incorrect) impression that these tools are only for casual personal relationships vs. building brands and value for companies. And the “media” aspect is often seen as just another broadcast vehicle, held to traditional marketing and media metrics that may not accurately reflect social media’s holistic community impact.
Many companies are wary of trying social media until and unless they see concrete and tangible results, and success from competitors can be a might fine motivator. A collection of viable case studies from established companies using these tools to their benefit will help blaze a trail for others to follow.
Perhaps a different question: is there a cost to not being involved? What are you missing if you’re unplugged from the Groundswell? The more examples like Dell, Zappos, Fiskars and GM we uncover across different industries, the more readily we’ll be able to get companies on the train before it leaves the station.
Companies using or considering social media as part of their communication strategy want to establish the true ROI of these online networks. And for marketers, accurate measurement of the impact is important to establishing credibility and long-term viability for these new tools in a business setting.
We’re able to point to positive effects that we think are being generated by participation in social media – increased customer satisfaction, sales numbers – but the hard line from social media to sales has yet to be drawn clearly. If we can create a direct connection between a company’s engagement with their community and their growth, we’ll have something powerful indeed.
What are we measuring, really?
David asked at one point “do you want to measure the ‘social’ or the ‘media’?” which sparked some interesting answers.
Focus on the word “media” seems to drive people to measure social media effectiveness in the same way we’ve evaluated traditional direct marketing or public relations efforts (impressions, response rates, website visits, sales figures). But the word “social” means we ought to be measuring the quality and depth of the relationships with people that are fostered within communities. That will require discovering metrics that are reciprocal, not just one way.
Is Return on Investment really the right term, then? Perhaps we need to consider a new “I” when it comes to social media. How about these:
- Return on Initiative. What are we reaping from the effort when we look at it holistically?
- Return on Interaction. Are you having better conversations with your customers and do they feel more connected to you?
- Return on Involvement. Does this change how involved your customers want to be with your business?
What makes measurement difficult?
Social media is a long-term strategy that takes time to show quantifiable results, and the agility and patience to make adjustments along the way. The nature of relationship building means that the impact may not be immediately visible, but will grow and strengthen over time. But because relationships and other “soft metrics” like community building are hard to quantify, it can be even harder to tie social media to the ever-present bottom line.
Monetization is key for most marketers in order to establish the direct line from marketing time and dollars spent to revenue earned. But revenue developed through social media is often indirect, and follows a winding (and hard to track) path from company to community and back again. That lack of clarity is what often causes a company to dismiss social media as unproven, risky, inefficient, or not valuable.
Is there anything we can measure?
From David's arsenal:
- Mapping out the top influencers on a topic/brand and whether they are advocates (percentage of supporters amongst top influencers)
- Amount of “long tail” coverage (posts/commenting activity for or against your brand
- Tracking effectiveness of an outreach campaign/product launch over time (based on tracking WOM)
- Share of brand buzz vs. competitors online
- Engagement on website/forums/company blogs
- On topic inbound linking
- Total views/comments/unique commenters
- Level of engagement in commenting activity
- Speed of spread (how fast and idea is adopted and carried across all forms of social media)
- Social media to mainstream media hops (story growth beyond where it started) and vice versa
- Reaction time to engagement (most commenting activity happens in first 48 hours on a post)
- Comment acceleration (how fast a discussion on a topic is taking off/slowing down)
- Post sampling/collection (tweets, posts, comments are the new client testimonials)
- Favorites/diggs/vote counts
- Customer satisfaction (including tools like the Net Promoter Score)
Social media is long term, and has to be viewed as an investment.
Social Media can support and strengthen other traditional marketing and public relations efforts by adding a listening channel.
Social Media is about building relationships, trust and community, not merely marketing.
If used properly, social media leads to more and better connections with customers.
Making a strong case for using social media in business seems to still be an uphill battle for many. From companies who seem downright afraid to talk to their customers to those who view these efforts as nothing more than productivity killers, social media advocates clearly have their work cut out for them.
Showing the true value of social media means collecting and sharing crucial case studies outlining companies’ success. Do you have great examples to share of companies who have successfully used social media to build their business and bring value to their customers? Please share them with us!
Special thanks to David Alston for hanging out with us and giving of his time and expertise. For more information on Radian6 and the great stuff they're doing, please check out their website.
Update: Check out Connie Reece's great post on the Plurkshop, too, along with a rundown of the participants!