When you ask social marketers to tell you about the most frustrating part of their job, social measurement always, always makes the top 3 on peoples' lists.
There are so many layers to that topic, and so many misconceptions about it - the easiest thing might be to ignore the whole debate about the right and wrong KPIs, vanity metrics or how to prove social ROI, and instead just play the Tetris theme song in your head.
But sadly, that's not good enough - social measurement is a topic that won't be going away anytime soon, not until we've gotten more businesses and marketers where they need to be. So settle in and prepare to hear things you don't want to hear - but also what you can do to fix it.
The seven tips below will help you get the right ideas about crunching the numbers, no matter what industry you're in.
1. Measurement has to be USEFUL
This is the one thing you have to keep in mind above all else: a sense of purpose.
Jonny Bentwood, Chief Innovation Officer at Edelman Intelligence, puts it this way, and I think it neatly sums up the approach to any successful measurement strategy:
Stop wasting your time with useless or self-serving metrics. The most successful marketers know not to look for the numbers that make them look good, but for those that give them a chance to improve.
2. If you're not focused on the right goal, you're wasting your time
Structuring your measurement approach will help you throw out what you don't need in order to make the most of your strategy.
For this, look at different goals:
- Measure for content impact, to really see what resonates with your audience
- Measure for marketing impact, to improve marketing strategy and brand health
- Measure for business impact, to prove what effect your programs have on the bottom-line
This helps you see what's important, and when. If you want to gauge the impact of your content, for example, focus on metrics like engagement, follower growth, or post times.
At the strategic level, you need to measure against brand health outcomes, like brand awareness or purchase intent, in order to show marketing impact - and at the very top level you need to measure to show business impact.
3. Measuring shouldn't justify a job already done
Bad measurement starts at the end of a campaign and looks at how it performed.
Many marketers are making the mistake, only looking back instead of measuring things right from the beginning to improve an ongoing campaign.
When you're planning a campaign, it's vital to think of objectives before, and measure them throughout the duration of the campaign. That's the only way you'll be able to step in and adjust to generate a higher return on invest for your social programs.
An example of this is Barclay's - in a recent campaign, Barclay's wanted to know the ROI of a campaign intended to raise brand awareness. The successful strategy involved overlaying social data with numerous external data points to show all facets of the campaign impact. This included looking at mentions, share price, Google search volume figures, downloads of white papers and many more.
Measurement probes at the beginning, and throughout the campaign, enabled them to find valuable information and adjust accordingly. You have to have a plan (with objectives) in place before a campaign even starts - this'll stop you from just "doing stuff".
4. Sound competitive intel is harder than it looks
When it comes to checking out what your competitors are doing, the bad news is this: many marketers are comparing apples to oranges.
Focusing on follower count, post times or engagement may make it look like you know what's going on, but in reality it doesn't tell you much at all. You don't know what your competitors are spending on social, so use these metrics only to see how their content performs.
It's more important to move past the easy figures and concentrate instead on how you're both coming up in a specific life cycle stage of your customers' buying journeys. And here's the good news: if you take some time to do it right, the payoff will be so much higher. You'll uncover opportunities to improve your overall marketing strategy, and help to make a real difference to the bottom line.
Always keep in mind that it's far more important to be better than last month, and not just better than your competitor.
5. When things go wrong, you have to be prepared
If the last decade of businesses conquering social media has taught us anything, it's this: at some point, something will go terribly wrong for your brand - probably when it's really inconvenient, too.
Think about what your CEO would pay to avoid a full-blown crisis, and think about how your social measurement strategy can help with this. Once an issue becomes well known to the point that critical influencers or other connectors are picking it up, your brand has to have been aware of it for some time, and have already put messaging in place to defuse the situation.
For brands it's critically important to set up alerts in order to be properly notified, so that something can be done to avoid the worst of it.
6. Influencers only count if they're the right ones
Not all mentions are equal. If your goal is to generate revenue and you want to grow your business, it's essential for you to find out if the right people are talking about you, not just how extensive the discussion around your brand is.
In a time where people are overwhelmed by content and opinions, quality is key. Focus on the people that enable your brand to enter into the right discussion, instead of merely counting all mentions equally.
For example, if you overlay social mentions with Google Search trends, you can zero in on the right influencers and find the channels where those people are talking about you. Another good way to keep track of how well this is working overall is benchmarking your campaigns against previous ones to dig deeper into what resonated with influencers and moved them to speak up in your favor.
7. Many people are lost before they're even starting
Social measurement is a beast, and many people are scared when they're just starting out - scared not just about the process of getting a strategy in place, but also scared to talk about it, as they're unsure whether they're doing the right thing.
But here's a simple tip: if you approach the topic head on, you'll soon find that people exactly know how you feel and are willing to share their ideas on how to improve. Get a discussion going on LinkedIn, get involved in the comments and don't be afraid to admit if you don't know something.