At the end of the day, marketing professionals are held accountable for their marketing strategies and tactics. Does the activity mix optimize the marketing budget? Did the projected ROI (return on investment) come to fruition? In the world of traditional marketing, we’ve built a comfort level for monitoring and measuring success. For activities such as tradeshows, or a direct mail piece, we have established parameters and a process in place for measurement. But, what about social media?
As social media tools like blogs, message boards, and video continue to grow in use and popularity across Corporate America, so too will the need to monitor and measure such platforms. Traditional web analytics alone, such as click throughs, page views, etc., will not be sufficient. At this time, no accepted standards on measuring social media exist. So, what, if any, benchmarks can be used to measure the impact of social media programs?
In exploring this topic, I came across an interesting Dow Jones white paper entitled, “Tracking the Influence of Conversations: A Roundtable Discussion on Social Media Metrics and Measurement.” Authors Jermiah Owyang of Podtech.net and Matt Toll of Dow Jones agree that there is “no universally agreed upon measurement metric, but a true need for identifying and defining multiple social media attributes that an organization can examine and consider as part of its strategy.”
Dow Jones conducted a roundtable with several social media thoughtleaders to discuss metrics, measurement and social media attributes. The group identified the following 11 social media attributes or metrics :
- traditional web analytics and activity
- community activation/call to action – meaning is there a response to messages?
- “conversation index” – a simple ratio between blog posts and comments-plus-trackbacks
- demographics – understanding who is responding to messages
- influential ideas – meaning the intensity or velocity of the idea or message over time
- participation and engagement – referring to the stimulation of discussion or responding and acting on a message or idea
- relationships and connections – meaning influence within a specific niche-type community
- sentiment/tone – whether positive, negative or neutral
Of the above attributes, participants in the Dow Jones roundtable placed the highest value on the “participation and engagement” metric. Engagement is seen as a tangible, measurable metric. It occurs when the recipient not only responds to a message, but acts on it as well. There is depth to the participation or conversation as visitors interact with the content. As Owyang and Toll add, “it is not just a question of whether they visited a given Web site or read a blog, but how long did they linger there? What else did they read? What does the clickstream look like?”
The ability to identify key attributes that are important to an organization will serve as the foundation for any social media strategy. To be effective, companies will need to not only identify the key attributes and metrics, but develop and execute a plan to monitor and measure those attributes. As Owyang and Toll write, “for corporations serious about tracking their “return on influence” – that is, not just standard “ROI” but a broader, more long-term, lasting return – in social media and the blogosphere, being able to measure, track and compare results is a requirement of determining next steps and strategy.