The Truth About Social Media Measurement

I’ve spent over two years developing a social media measurement platform. One of the most important things I’ve learned during that time is that what counts as good and valuable measurement is unique to almost every client.

While there are some commonalities between companies in similar industry verticals, my experience suggests strongly that there simply is no “cookbook” for social media measurement that applies universally.

social media metrics

Image via Shutterstock

What this means is that you can’t simply watch what the gurus are measuring (or the competition, or that guy you met at the conference) and adopt it as your own. 

To make matters even more complicated, there is an enormous amount of data available about social media – and only some of it will be valuable to you. Sorting through all of it to find the bits that will be useful simply isn’t an option.

These challenges often lead to two common disasters: Analysis Paralysis (nothing gets measured and sound bites like “how can I measure the ROI of my mother” are bandied about in meetings) and/or Mindless Reporting (a standard set of useless reports are distributed regularly but no one bothers looking at them).

Both will have serious, long term consequences in the long run, especially in environments where:

1.) Tactical decisions need to be made quickly by people who manage programs

2.) Senior executives demand proof of business value for every dollar spent.

Does anyone in social media operate in an environment where these conditions do not exist?

Below are three steps that will help you avoid this fate and create a measurement approach that is effective, actionable and customized to your unique needs:

Step 1: Document Function, Audience & Business Goals

Social media serves many different functions in an organization. For example, Twitter might be used to conduct product research, to support customers, or to execute a viral marketing campaign designed for lead generation.

In each of these instances, Twitter is serving a decidedly different purpose. It is likely being used by different stakeholders or operational groups (PR, marketing , etc.). Even more importantly, it is being used to target completely different audiences.

Clearly, what should be measured will be different in each instance. In the viral marketing campaign, for example, you may want to collect data on retweets of the campaign by influencers in a particular niche. To find out if the campaign moved the needle among prospects, you’ll need additional data beyond Twitter activity.

In the customer support example, Twitter metrics might include things like inbound customer support tweets and response rate. Again, you will need additional data (beyond Twitter activity) to judge whether the customer support initiative is leading to increased repeat sales or other business benefits.

Create a spreadsheet that documents the various functions being served by social media. Note the audience being targeted (this will help you make metrics more specific). Next, link each entry in your spreadsheet back to the appropriate business goal (this will help to ensure that you include metrics that can be linked back to the big picture concerns of senior executives).

Step 2:  Identify Action Drivers

What you will do with the data you collect? Make a list: which metrics might prompt you to take an action or a series of actions that impact something that is a very high priority?

Here is a simple example: Let’s say you are spending a significant amount of budget on paid Facebook initiatives. Understanding which posts are being shared the most organically can help you quickly decide which ones are worth paying to promote. The ability to quickly identify (or be alerted to) posts that have higher than average sharing could prompt you to take immediate action that could improve your paid results significantly.

At the very least, thinking through the most important actions that will impact things that are very high priority can help you make tough resource decisions by identifying what is absolutely necessary and what would be nice to have, but perhaps not crucial.

Step 3:  Connect Data Sources

The data that is necessary to create useful, actionable metrics, as well as metrics that speak to senior executives, come from many different sources. If you really want to measure what matters, you will have to do some work to connect those sources. (Yes, this involves IT; I’m very sorry.) The only question is how much work will be necessary.

Once you have an understanding of the metrics, you need (Steps 1 and 2), to conduct an audit of the tools and systems you are currently using that hold the necessary data. This will include things like CRM systems, web analytics tools, listening platforms, marketing automation tools, email management systems, and SMMS tools (social media management systems).

Next, look for the low hanging fruit. What sources can be connected with minimal effort? What connections would help you create high-value metrics? Once you understand what needs to be connected and the level of effort required, you can make a long term plan.

The sad reality is that no tool on the market today (including ours) will give you 100% of the data and metrics you need. About the best you can expect is a set of tools that help you advance some distance down the road. The trick is to fully understand your unique needs before you start down that road.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics | Analytics & Marketing Column | Channel: Analytics | Social Media Marketing


About The Author: has over 25 years of communications experience touching almost every aspect of marketing, including conventional advertising, public relations, and digital. Her current company, Social Snap, focuses on social media measurement, providing marketers with a powerful social analytics platform that combines data from social channels, web analytics, and social media monitoring tools.

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  • James Harper

    Great article. I couldn’t agree more. Thank you.

    James Harper

  • Merlin Pestcontrol

    You may find further related content to this discussion on this site :

  • SEO Expert

    thanks nan, your article is very nice and useful

  • icanewfriend

    Nan. Coming to Social Media (several years ago) from a former career in human resources, mostly recruitment, I have found that as apart the two fields may seem to some they are more similar than many might think. The measurement debate has been raging in Human Resources since the days it was called Personnel. Take a look at this slideshare and you will immediately see many commonalities chasing the same goal – ROI. The advice offered is all based on the same understanding – all people put on their pants one leg at a time. To recruit effectively, you must first know your audience and where it “hangs out”. You must also know its (audience and individual) behaviors and learn its/their motivations. I’ve traveled far in my career change and yet, I find myself in the same neighborhood, dealing with the same elusive pursuits and basic challenges.

  • Social Snap

    Loved your slideshow!

  • Tony Obregon

    Thanks for providing such an honest and transparent view into social media measurement. I have to agree that it’s easy to get lost in all the data and not to boil the ocean. It’s important to have numbers, but more important to know the story behind the numbers. Hopefully one day we’ll only need one or two tools to do the job but that’s not going to happen for a few years. Great post, thanks.

  • Social Snap

    Thanks for your thoughts Tony!


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