Friday, March 20, 2009

Still Thinking About Social Media Metrics

This spring I’m having the fascinating experience of watching a classroom full of young marketers try to wrap their arms around the world of social media. Some work with mass media, some also work with Internet advertising and promotion. A very few are involved in social media programs in their firm. For all of them, narrowing their focus to a single social media program, especially to how to measure it, has been a challenge.

If you start from the perspective that social media is going to be part of an integrated marketing communications mix (can it work otherwise???), the need to focus one program at a time becomes clear. By that, I don’t mean that only one social media program is being executed at once. There could be a program aimed at acquisition and another aimed at retention being executed simultaneously, for example. My point is that you have to plan and evaluate those programs separately. It also helps to focus attention when you point out that it’s necessary to have measures of success for your boss!

I recognize the value of social media in creating brand awareness. However, I argue against awareness as a measure of success for any single program in any medium. We learned the reasons why in Advertising 101; there’s a lot going on, and it’s hard to isolate the effects of a single program on a broad attitudinal measure. It can be done, but it takes marketing research and that takes time and costs money. Consequently, I argue for specific social media behaviors as objectives for and measures of the effectiveness of social media programs.

Up to this point, I think I got it right. I laid out the argument in a two part post on Identifying and Measuring Social Media Behaviors (Part 1, Part 2). Soon after, I read an article by Shane Atchison in ClickZ that made me realize that I didn’t go far enough. Shane is trying to get marketers to dig deeper to really understand how they are (or are not) creating value for users. He says:

value happens not when people buy your product but when they use it and love it. Not when they upload a video, but when someone else watches it. . . don't stop at measuring your marketing efforts' success, or even the sentiment expressed in the broader online conversation about your brand. It's great to monitor online activity, better to develop reporting around online activity, and better yet to engage customers in their native online habitats.

Different behaviors do have different value as far as marketers are concerned, and we should concentrate on encourage the behaviors that are more valuable. “Friending” is more valuable than simply viewing, for example. With that in mind, I revised my list from the original post. I put “attention” and “engagement” in quotes because I’m still not sure they are the right terms. However, they are clearly not the same, so it’s a start.

Behaviors in the Social Ecosphere

“Attention” Metrics
Number of visits, impressions (eyeball measures)
Pages: how much time spent, “heat maps” for content, etc.
Video: watched, partly/completely
Number of incoming links
"Engagement" Metrics
Friends, fans, favs (followers of all kinds)
Install apps (widgets, etc.) offered
Share content
Promote content (Digg, Reddit, etc.)
Ultimate Social Media Metric
Click through to website

Behaviors on the Website

Traffic Metric
Number of referrals from social media sites
“Engagement” Metrics
Register for site services
Download—white papers, videos, podcasts, etc.
Rate products
Other content cocreation (photos, videos, written content, etc.)
Ultimate Website Metric
Transaction (sale, download, join, etc.)

Notice that we now have a funnel that resembles the traditional conversion funnel. In effect, it gives us a hierarchy of objectives/ metrics from which we can choose in moving toward our “ultimate” objective.

I feel a graphic coming on! Anyone want to make additions, clarifications, changes before I do it?


Anonymous said...

Yes the ultimate is..clickthru to the website...I am still raking my head to find a solution..but i feel it will come out after the whole social media plan is in place...

MaryLou Roberts said...

Thanks for the comment, and I agree, except that I think the whole thing is a continuous process. Therefore, I think it may be awhile before we have definitive answers on metrics.

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


MaryLou Roberts said...

Thanks for your nice comment! And good luck with your own blog!!