When Measurement Talk Meets Measurement Walk…

Intelligent Performance Architecture

When Measurement Talk Meets Measurement Walk…

Nearly every social media conference has its requisite session on measuring social media, usually featuring the same key points (often from the same key people), 1) it needs to be done, 2) it should be aligned with business objectives, 3) volume-based measurements do not measure impact, and 4) measurements must be interpreted against objectives to yield insight.

These points are often an eye-opener to people just beginning to formalize their social media practices, and a reminder of the ideal practice to those immersed in the daily flow of social media engagement.

For many, it turns out that these key practices are hard to implement when it comes down to it. First, people are still unclear on what business objectives should be around social media – partly because “social media” is such a large and amorphous category. Do we want to build awareness? What business value does that actually provide? Do we want to build brand affinity and equity? Well, how is that measured? Do we want to drive people to purchase and ensure their loyalty? Well, how do we make the link between social media communication and action? (Same question for advocacy or any type of action-oriented objective.) They are all possible to measure, but getting there requires serious thought by people with business and communications experience.

Those are some of the questions just related to social media as a marketing communications channel. What about social media for internal collaboration – can we reduce costs/increase efficiencies/generate knowledge for competitive advantage? What about crowdsourcing for product innovation? What about customer support?

These are a few questions that will arise when the “business objectives for social media” question is seriously considered. The answers to these questions, when they emerge, will be rough goals, rough because there is usually no historical data from which to set realistic objectives. They will be refined with data over time, assuming that effort and outcomes are measured, and useful measurement will have to go beyond simple volume counts (of likes, followers, etc.), proving out the third principle. The challenge with the third principle then becomes determining what DOES measure impact, and meeting the challenges of choosing the right sources of data, and weaving together and correctly weighting disparate data sources (i.e. Facebook, web traffic and twitter data).

Once those business objectives are set (the “R” in ROI) and a customer value analysis (maybe, or some other less strategic budgeting approach) has established the investment (“I” in ROI) that should be made to achieve those objectives, and the sources and methods for measurement have been defined, work begins, and data emerges. Here the fourth principle comes into play – the interpretation of data or metrics for business insight.

This work requires a person or team that 1) understands the competitive landscape and the specific business, 2) can establish useful Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which will be used while we work to determine if we are going to meet our objectives or not, 3) can determine the appropriate data and methods for measuring those KPIs (being able to use data to predict outcomes requires at least a tolerance (if not love) for numbers and a comfort with basic statistical principles like ‘significance’ and ‘R2’), and 4) can translate metrics into a meaningful discussion about benefits, strategies and tactics.

As a data-driven social media strategist, I am always glad to see people get excited about establishing measurement to guide their practice. I hope they remain excited as the recognition emerges that the most valuable insights for a business in guiding its practice are often the hardest to achieve.

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  1. […] May 12, 2011 Leave a comment (0) Go to commentsIn yesterday’s post I wrote about the category of social media measurement most frequently discussed in conference sessions; evaluative measurement, which […]

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