Colleague Steve Rubel and I were recently invited to participate in a very cool initiative coordinated by Eloqua‘s Joe Chernov and Jess3 – a social media playbook for industry professionals dubbed the “Social Media ProBook.” In it, you’ll find valuable perspectives from a variety of practitioners ranging from Ford’s Scott Monty, to Citi’s Frank Eliason, and HP’s Liz Philips among many others (disclaimer, HP is an Edelman client). My contribution was on a topic I feel will be of increasing importance to those of us deep in the trenches of social business integration and measuring results. Below is the full contribution, and I highly recommend that you browse through the ProBook and share it with others. It’s got some great, timely information on how to take social business to the next level within your organization.
Do You Believe In Life After Likes? Measuring Social Business.
Anyone telling you that they have the measurement and ROI (Return On Investment) issue solved in regards to social media is exaggerating at best. While I don’t have enough space here to dive as deeply into this topic as I could, there are a few specific points I would like to emphasize. But first, let’s do some level-setting — conversations around measuring results must move beyond fixating on single metrics such as “likes” fueled by the Facebook ecosystem. While they may be a desirable indicator of success, “likes” are one of many metrics, and social business leaders must take a step back to look at the big picture before putting all your social eggs into one big integrated basket. A great starting point when digging into measurement is to organize your efforts into one of the following outcomes: behavioral change and economic impact.
Behavior change can be looked at from multiple perspectives. For example, if a large enterprise has determined that X amount of dollars can be saved annually if employees shift their behavior from A to B, then success can be measured by the percentage of shifts in the behavior from undesirable to desirable (over time). Likewise, on the public front, if a business finds itself in a crisis scenario and needs to “stop the bleeding,” it needs to trigger a shift in actions (such as fewer negative postings in public and more neutral or positive expressions, often referred to as “sentiment”) to help reverse opinions. From a marketing perspective, prompting desirable behaviors is also linked to influencing thought and opinion. Ratings, reviews and recommendations of products / services all serve as significant purchase indicators. Apply a social lens to these behavioral indicators (for example, sharing an opinion via a social network) and you can begin to frame up outcomes, which involve thought and action.
Economic impact attaches a value — revenue generated or money saved — on a business initiative. It should not be confused with metrics. Returning to the crisis scenario, a business that has successfully averted or subdued a crisis (leveraging social media) can reference benchmarks from similar situations faced by other companies or their own estimations to evaluate how much money the business saved through taking appropriate action. Sales is of course the obvious financial outcome, however even if tracking sales via social activities is elevated to a science, companies must also consider how much more or less it might have taken to achieve similar results using other methods (such as traditional media purchasing). In areas such as human resources, economic impact can be measured in quality and efficiencies (such as recruiting better candidates in less time leveraging social networks). In customer service, it could spending less on call centers because customer advocates are helping others before they ever have a chance to pick up the phone. Simply put, economic impact is money the organization saves or makes integrating social initiatives into the business.
Construct A Measurement Framework
Measuring social business success begins with constructing a measurement framework, which maps to your objectives to the appropriate strategy. A measurement framework aligns KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) with criteria to measure against. For example, if your KPI is “visibility,” your framework should be structured around relevant, measurable metrics, such as page rank in search engines or designated networks. “Acquisition” could also be another KPI, which can be measured by fans and followers. A desired outcome can be ownership of a conversation or subject matter. In this case measuring against a KPI such as “authority” could include metrics like shares, media mentions, links, likes, embeds, traffic, and comments. Some of these metrics can be aggregated into things such as “share of voice” or the approximation of how relevant you may be to conversations. A measurement framework based on applicable KPI’s can be applied to different facets of social business — for example separate ones can be developed for customer service, marketing, sales, R&D, etc. There are metrics which can be shared across all of these functions, but a framework should go deep in identifying what needs to be measured and where (what social properties). The framework also should be flexible enough to change as new data is introduced.
Analyze For Meaning
The less frequently discussed aspect of social measurement is effort, or the time it takes to derive meaning from numbers, data and fluctuations in metrics. A “measurement dashboard” satisfies the need for program architects to view all types of information at a glance, but while it offers up valuable information on that “what,” a dashboard seldom tells us “why.” Human intervention is needed to determine why there might be an increase in re-tweets around one form of communication vs. another. Dashboards can tell us what times of the day users may be more and less active, but the insights we derive from them requires processing that transcends the display of information
Measure What Matters
Measurement initiatives must begin with serious consideration of the desired outcomes. On the behavioral front, raising awareness on an issue or a successful adoption rate of a platform can be sought after outcomes. Advocacy can be another powerful outcome for any organization. On the economic impact front the outcomes should be focused on determining if money was actually made or saved. The metrics you then choose to analyze and report against align against these outcomes from the beginning. Tracking irrelevant metrics is like playing a game with numbers instead of meeting your business objectives. Start your measurement initiatives with your goals, objectives and outcomes and work your way backwards toward what should be measured. Take a holistic approach and avoid the temptation to focus solely on metrics that demonstrate only short-term gain. Be prepared to update your approach and framework as your social business objectives evolve. And, most importantly, get ready for life after likes —because it’s coming soon to a business near you.