Archive | Return on Investment) ROI RSS feed for this section

Five Social Media Measurement Questions I Hope (NOT) To See in 2014

2 Jan

I get asked lots of great questions about social media measurement. Following are five not so great ones I hope not to hear in 2014. 

How do you measure social media?

I get this question quite often and I enjoy it each time because if provides me the opportunity to make an important point about measurement and be a little snarky at the same time. Good stuff! When I get this question, my answer is always the same; “I don’t measure ‘social media’, I measure what you are trying to accomplish with social media.” This may seem like I’m playing semantic games, but the distinction is very important. Measurement is fundamentally about performance against objectives. So, we measure our performance against the objectives established in the social media plan. A lot of what passes for measurement in social media is really data collection – tracking Followers or Likes, blog traffic or consumer engagement on Facebook. Unless you have measurable objectives and targets in each of these areas, you are collecting data not measuring. What do you want to happen as a result of your social media campaign or initiative? Measure that.

QMarksHow much is a Like worth?

This question doesn’t come up quite as often as in 2012, but it is still asked and, unfortunately, answered largely based on flawed logic and/or research design. You may recall the first two ‘research’ studies attempting to answer this question came up with widely disparate values – somewhere around $3.14 in one case and over 100 dollars in the other. This alone should raise major red flags. Setting the flawed research aside, trying to assign a value to a Like happens because people are desperate to assign financial value to social media and determine ROI. Those are noble things to do, but we need to focus on the other end of the customer journey – have we created engagement, has the engagement changed opinions, attitudes, beliefs or behavior, and how those changes translate to Impact. Unless you understand the Impact created by your social media program you really can’t attribute value properly. I would argue that Likes, which can be bought or gamified, really have no inherent value.

Can I use a banner ad cost to calculate social media AVE?

This question is somewhat related to the ‘Like worth’ question in that it reflects a desire to quickly and easily assign financial value, when in fact assigning financial value is often hard and expensive. In this case, the questioner is attempting to take the highly flawed and discredited concept of Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) and apply it to social media. Where this question typically comes up is in blogger relations where a company/brand/organization has worked with a blogger to earn ‘coverage’ on the blog and wants to assign a financial value to the post. They would like to say that the post is worth X, with X being the cost of a banner ad on the blog (setting aside, of course, that many blogs do not accept advertising). Equating cost with value is comparing apples to oranges. First, a better practice is not to assign value to each post, but to all the posts together in a campaign. Then instead of trying to say the campaign is worth say 14.35 ads, try to explain the actual impact the campaign has created on the target audience – e.g. increase in awareness, increase in purchase intent or, higher propensity to purchase more often. Once you understand the impact, decide if you have the data, time, expertise and budget to assign financial impact to the impact created.

Which social media listening tool do you recommend?

The correct answer to this question is, “it depends.” This is a bad question simply because there is no one ‘best’ social media listening tool for all circumstances and use cases. I believe you should always develop a set of platform requirements driven by the social listening stakeholders in your organization. Once these needs and requirements are understood, develop a custom RFI designed around the specific requirements you have identified. Have each of your potential platform partners respond to the RFI. Have the best respondents given you a platform demonstration according to a custom demonstration script you have developed. Pick the listening tool that best meets your unique requirements. The last three evaluations I have conducted for clients resulted in three different ‘winners’. There is no ‘best social listening tool, so find the tool that meets your requirements the best.

How many Impressions did we get with our latest social media campaign?

This is not a terrible question at all unless it is the only question asked or is perceived to be the key metric for measuring social media campaign performance. Too often, organizations use Impressions as their primary social media metric instead of engagement, influence or action-oriented metrics. Also, keep in mind Impressions represent an opportunity to see content, they are not the actual number of people who saw the content, that number is MUCH lower. Impressions always overstate the actual number of people who were exposed to your content and message.

If you plan to report on campaign impressions, please seriously consider only taking credit for those impressions that are directly against your target audience. If your target is 25 – 34 year old Males, you should only report on the impressions against this target group. Why take credit for 45 – 60 year old Female impressions when the product is not at all relevant to this audience?  Target audience impressions are really what you should be concerned about and what you should be reporting. Many people know and understand this but still persist in reporting all impressions because the number is usually much larger – meaningless but larger.

If you do report on Impressions, please consider using the emerging industry standard definitions developed by The Coalition. This will help ensure we define Impressions consistently and don’t confuse Reach with Impressions.

See things differently? Have your own pet peeve social media measurement questions to share? As always, thanks for reading. All the best in 2014!

@Donbart

Image credit: amasterpics123 / 123RF Stock Photo

Social Media Measurement at a Crossroads

21 Aug

We are at a crossroads in social media measurement. Expectations for rigorous and relevant measurement have risen more quickly than delivery. Too many are fixated on quantitative outputs – speeds and feeds – at the expense of understanding the outcomes achieved by social media marketing and social business. There is still too much emphasis on vanity metrics and not enough on business results. And, if you take a step back, there is simply too much talk about all this and not enough action. At the risk of exacerbating the last point, let me explain.

 

Social Media Measurement Started with the Wrong Orientation

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, digital measurement focused on website analytics. The orientation was heavily quantitative. How many unique visitors? How many page views? How long did people remain on site? By 2007, with Facebook now three years old and Twitter completing it’s inaugural year, social media measurement was becoming a hot topic.

Crossroads1Early social media measurement practitioners generally came from the web analytics world. Early social media measurement efforts focused on quantifying outputs and not addressing the outcome of the program. The orientation was on ‘How Many?’ and not ‘What Happened?’ The quantitative orientation also came at the expense of qualitative assessment. The emphasis was on getting easily accessible statistics and not on content analysis to understand meaning and implications. These issues remain today, although we have made significant progress toward shifting the orientation to outcomes and business results.

In the early adopter phase of social media, social media measurement was under little pressure to go beyond quantitative output analysis. Many brands, companies and organizations viewed social media participation as a bit of an experiment to see how it best could be used within their organizations. But this was soon to change.

Struggle Between Easy/Superficial and Hard/Meaningful

It is difficult to pinpoint when social media crossed the chasm into a mainstream business activity. An IDC study in the Fall of 2009 suggested the state of social media still best fit the early adopter and not mainstream use pattern at that point in time. 2011 felt like the year the leap happened to me. With it came a new and emerging set of expectations around social media measurement.

Crossroads2In measurement, it is a truism that the metrics that are easiest to measure are seldom the ones that are most meaningful. It may be easy to measure outputs, but it is often much more difficult and expensive to measure outcomes. It is much easier to determine brand mentions in social media than it is to assess whether or not social programming has changed opinions and attitudes of the target.  It is infinitely easier to measure unique visitors per month than it is to determine the return on investment of a social media initiative.

Now that social media clearly is a mainstream business activity, the pressure to demonstrate the impact and value of social media has greatly increased. As the resources and investment against social media and social business become meaningful line items in the budget, the game changes. Demonstrating business impact and value requires an understanding of the business model of the company or organization and how social media/business creates impact (e.g. change in awareness, increase in purchase consideration, increase in active advocates around an issue) in that environment. Measuring impact is more difficult than measuring audience or engagement. It often involves primary audience research so the price tag is higher.

This is a key struggle we face – will we continue to take the easy, less expensive, minimal-value-of-the-findings approach or we will take social media measurement to another level, focusing on outcomes, investing in audience research and applying rigorous analytics to get at meaning and insight? The imperative is clear, how we respond will be telling. 

A Final Turn to the Right

One of the key themes at this year’s AMEC measurement conference in Madrid was creating a bias toward action. The time to (just) talk about measurement is in the past, the time for action is now. I might suggest this goes double for social media measurement. Here are three areas we can address that will help make the leap from talk to action.Crossroads3

  1. Every social media initiative has a measurement plan. Let’s make this happen. Literally any social media initiative, program or activity should have a measurement plan defined before implementation begins. Start with writing social media objectives that are measurable. Align social media metrics with business KPIs. Select metrics across multiple dimensions – programmatic, channel-specific and business-level metrics, for example. Or perhaps paid, owned, earned and shared metrics if your program is integrated across these dimensions. Collect data. Assess performance against objectives. Rinse and repeat
  2. Take a stand on standards. An exciting cross-industry effort has produced a set of proposed standards for social media metrics. Adopting standard definitions and metrics for social media is an important stage of measurement maturity that other marketing disciplines like advertising and direct marketing have already reached.
  3. Understand, articulate & demonstrate business impact.  The heat is on to demonstrate how social media is helping drive the business or organization forward. We must do a better job of connecting the dots between business KPIs, social media objectives and social media metrics and measurement. In some cases, we want to go beyond understanding attitudinal and behavioral changes to understand the financial value of the impact created. Capturing the financial value of social media requires expertise, data, time and money. We would always like to measure impact, and when it makes sense, we may push further to attribute financial value.

It will be interesting to see what the next year in social media measurement brings. The move toward standardization alone should be fascinating to watch. I have tried to make the argument we are at a crossroads or inflection point in social media measurement maturity. What ‘worked’ for us in the past will not work in the future. We know the expectations. The great unknown is how we respond.

Note: This post was inspired by a Carma webinar,co-sponsored by PRNews, I gave recently. You may download slides from that webinar here.

Social Media Measurement at a Crossroads

25 Jul

Please join me on August 6, from 2:00 – 3:00pm EDT for CARMA’s fourth quarterly webinar, co-sponsored by PRNews, titled “Social Media Measurement at a Crossroads.” Here is a little more information on the webinar:

With social media clearly entrenched as a mainstream business activity, the need to measure the impact on the organization has never been greater. While social media practitioners talk about Like or Follower growth, organizations want to understand how social media is helping drive the business or cause forward. 

Another challenge in social media measurement is the lack of standard definitions, approaches and metrics. In response, a cross-industry push to define social media standards was initiated and initial standards recently published. Social media measurement is clearly at a crossroads where new thinking and approaches are emerging.

In this session you will learn:

  • How to align KPIs and metrics to demonstrate organizational impact and value. 
  • What industry efforts are being made toward standardization and the implications for how you approach social media measurement
  • New models, metrics and frameworks you can use today to develop more effective social media measurement programs.

I will be joined by PRNews Group Editor Matthew Schwartz, who will moderate the discussion and lead a Q&A session.

Here is a link to register for the session. Feel free to leave a comment with any questions you would like answered during the webinar and I will do my best to address them. Hope you can join!

Measurement 2020 and Other Fantasies

23 Sep

At the 3rd European Summit on Measurement held in Lisbon in June 2011, standardization, education, ROI and measurement ubiquity emerged as the key themes in response to a call to set the Measurement Agenda 2020.  Delegates to the conference voted on 12 priorities they thought were most important to focus on in the period leading up to 2020.  The top four vote-getters became the Measurement Agenda 2020:

  1. How to measure the return on investment of public relations (89%)
  2. Create and adopt global standards for social media measurement (83%)
  3. Measurement of PR campaigns and programs needs to become an intrinsic part of the PR toolkit (73%)
  4. Institute a client education program such that clients insist on measurement of outputs, outcomes and business results from PR programs (61%)

For a very nice overview of the Lisbon session and the Barcelona Principles that came before, read this post from Dr. David Rockland of Ketchum who chaired the Barcelona and Lisbon sessions.  David pretty much said it all on these sessions, so I’ll just add a couple of comments and share a few thoughts on what I believe the future of measurement 2020 could be.

The rallying cry coming out of Barcelona has been focused and loud – death to AVEs!  Will there be a similar thematic coming out of Lisbon and what might it be?  My money is on standardization, borne out of cross-industry cooperation.  As David points out in his post, and in the words of AMEC Chairman Mike Daniels, “The Summit identified some significant challenges for the PR profession to address by 2020.  However, what we also accomplished in Lisbon beyond setting the priorities was to harness the commitment and energy of the industry to agree what we need to do together.”  The current cooperation and collaboration between industry groups – AMEC, Institute for Public Relations, PRSA and the Council of PR Firms is unprecedented in my time in this industry and is focused on tangible outcomes.  Cross-organization committees are already at work developing standard metrics for social media measurement for example.  The spirit of cooperation is uplifting.  While the outward thematic appears to be standardization, cooperation is the enabling force.  

I was also struck by the symmetry of the call to end AVEs in Barcelona and the call to codify ways to measure ROI in Lisbon.  One follows the other.  In my opinion the primary reason AVEs exist is because PR practitioners feel pressure to prove the value of what they do, and quite often they are asked to describe the impact in financial terms.  AVEs are perceived as a path of least resistance way to express financial value.  Except, as we all know, AVEs don’t really have anything to do with the impact public relations creates.  They are a misguided proxy for financial value.  Hence the need for research-based methods to determine true return on investment.

All of the priorities coming out of Lisbon are excellent goals for the industry.  And like David Rockland, I believe they will be achieved, and be achieved before 2020.  Here are three other items on my wish list for Measurement 2020:

Word of Mouth/Word of Mouse Integration: For those of us focused in social media and other digital technologies, we can’t allow our digital lens to color what is fundamentally an analog world.  Research studies suggest the majority of word of mouth happens in real life.  From an influence perspective, I don’t think too many would argue that word of mouth from a trusted friend or family member is more powerful than word of mouse from someone you follow on Twitter.  Digital cross-platform research is difficult enough, but when one huge platform is ‘real life’, we have significant challenges in measurement.  WOMMA and others have made early attempts to define measurement approaches for offline WOM, but much work remains.  We need ways to assess its impact and then we need to think about ways to attribute value to that impact.  Mobile is a wild card here as it becomes the preferred platform for online activity.  The need to triangulate online, mobile and ‘real life’ measurement presents significant challenges today, and may still by 2020.

Cookie Wars: We all know the measurement versus privacy showdown is coming, right?  The first shots have already been fired.  The collection of source-level personal data, enabled by cookies, is crucial to measurement and insights but has the potential for misuse or unintended disclosure.  Some sophisticated consumers have had their fill of cookies.  Although the broader issue might be framed as social sharing versus privacy control, how it plays out will have a direct impact on digital analytics and measurement.

Integrated Measurement across the Paid Earned Shared Owned (PESO) Spectrum: Measurement has increasingly become integrated.  It began with integrated traditional (Earned) and social media (Shared) measurement and then progressed rapidly to Earned, Owned and Shared, which is where most integrated measurement programs are today.  Many leading-edge integrated programs today also include advertising or Paid media.  By 2020, integrated measurement across the PESO spectrum will most likely be the norm and not the exception.  A key enabling element here in my view is some base level of agreement on how each area should be measured and standard metrics for each.  It will take significant cooperation between industry groups, vendors, agencies and major customers/clients for cross-discipline standardization to move forward effectively.  We are at the beginning of this movement in 2011.  By 2020, it will be fascinating to look back and see how all this plays out.

When looking ahead to 2020, I am reminded of a measurement discussion pulled together by PRWeek a couple of years ago.  Many of the Measurati attended.  In response to a question of where measurement will be in five years, David Rockland replied (paraphrasing here), ‘Who knows?  Five years ago who would have guessed we would all be focused on how to measure social media?’  So, there is a certain fantasy element to discussing 2020 challenges in measurement.  What are your measurement fantasies?

AVEs Don’t Describe the Value of Media Coverage, They Sensationalize It.

26 Jun

Saturday, Wall Street Journal columnist Carl Bialik, The Numbers Guy, addressed the subject of advertising value equivalency (AVE).  This is perhaps the first example of a mainstream media publication shining a light of the controversial practice of AVEs.  (You can read the story here.)

The primary reason advertising value equivalents exist are because they are perceived to be a way to attribute value to programs that would otherwise be difficult to value directly.  They are a path of least resistance approach to return on investment calculations, but not a valid one.  Let’s take a deeper dive into the three specific examples in the WSJ story, ask the tough questions and discuss more valid ways to think about value attribution and ROI.

American Airlines  

You can enjoy both questionable valuation techniques and hyperbole in this article.  American Airlines stands to “make boatloads of cash” and “the airline company could gain as much as $95.9 million of exposure”.  Of really, let’s take a closer look.

The most incredible part of this financial calculation is the financial calculation itself.  The calculation is apparently based on sign placement within the arena and presumably the ‘impressions’ the brand will receive when people attending the venue see the signage and when TV cameras catch the signs when showing the scoreboard or during the action.  This is a very passive form of advertising that should have as its objective either creating top of mind awareness or perhaps creating more brand affinity.  Rather than using an advertising equivalency model that has no validity, a true measurement of the value created by naming rights would ask a series of questions designed to determine the actual, tangible (or even intangible) impact on the business:

  • Revenue: Can incremental revenue generation in the form of higher passenger miles be directly attributed to the exposure created by the naming rights?  Is it possible that incremental revenue would actually be realized on a game by game basis, or would any positive impact be realized over a longer time horizon?  Have new customers been created as a direct result of the exposure generated by the naming rights?
  • Brand: Can the increased exposure lead to people perceiving the brand differently and can the difference translate into higher transactional revenues generated or increased brand loyalty?

So where exactly are the ‘boatloads of cash’ American Airlines made?  Are they hitting the income statement in the form of incremental revenue or enhanced brand loyalty (repeat business)?  Are they residing on the balance sheet in terms of brand goodwill?  Given that American’s parent company AMR lost $11.5B dollars in the first decade of the 21st century, its last profitable year was 2007 and they are projected to lose money in 2011 and 2012, they could use the cash.  Perhaps they could use it to fund a ’bags fly free’ program or for enhancing their Advantage program to create more brand loyalty.  I would strongly suspect American’s shareholders would prefer a do-over on the investments made on naming rights to the ‘boatloads of cash’ they are now enjoying from the investment.

Couple Won’t Cash In on Kiss

15 minutes of fame is rarely worth $10 million.  In this case, the celebrity agent is suggesting the news value of the coverage generated by the kiss is somehow equivalent to advertising value and assigns what appears to be an arbitrary and ridiculously high value to it.  (He later admits he just made the number up.)  Just how was the couple going to monetize their 15 minutes of fame?   Yes, they turned down a few talk show opportunities and perhaps the National Enquirer would have thrown a few dollars their way for an exclusive, but the assertion that any major brand would have paid them to endorse their product is wildly speculative.  I would guess that if you did a survey after the event, a small number of people would remember seeing the coverage, and a very small percentage of the people who did see it would have recalled Scott Jones’ name.  So perhaps Mr. Jones walked away from tens of thousands of potential dollars in the short-term, but nowhere near the sensationalized estimate of $10 million.  15 minutes of fame might be worth 10 thousand dollars, but certainly not $10 million.

Obama Enjoys a Guinness

So Guinness is a winner and received $20 million worth of “free publicity”?  What was the outcome of the publicity?  Again, in order to determine the value of the “free publicity” (this term is despised in the PR industry by the way), Guinness would have to be able to measure incremental revenues directly attributable to the publicity generated.  Did sales of Guinness increase as a result?  Were new customers created?  Did existing customers feel compelled to drink even more?  What was the value of the incremental sales?  These are much more difficult questions to answer but are the correct ones to ask in order to measure the publicity.  Not by focusing on the mythical value of the coverage as measured by flawed advertising equivalency, but measuring the outcome or what happened as a result of the publicity.  The assertion that President’s Obama’s image was softened and will help keep him in the public’s favor is highly dubious thinking.  Perhaps it helps him in Boston, but in the grand scheme of things, this is a Presidential image non-event.

Beginning last Summer in Barcelona,  the public relations industry has come together to publicly state advertising value equivalency is not a valid measure of public relations.  The so-called Barcelona Principles are explicit against AVEs and also call for a focus on measuring outcomes and not (just) outputs.  While it will take some time for the PR industry to totally leave AVEs behind, there is a lot of momentum right now to make this happen sooner rather than later.  No serious measurement effort can use advertising value equivalency to attribute value and be credible.  

AVEs are a Disease – Here’s a Little Vaccine

16 Apr

One of the truly insidious aspects of public relations measurement is the use of advertising value equivalency (AVEs) or media value to assign financial value to public relations outputs.  It is a highly flawed, path-of-least-resistance attempt to calculate return on investment (ROI) for public relations.   To make matters worse, the practice has clearly moved into social media measurement as well.  For example, research studies that attempt to monetize the value of a Facebook Fan/Liker by attributing a CPM value from the advertising world.  Online media impact rankings also utilize equivalent paid advertising costs to assign monetary value to online news and social media.  AVE is like a disease that has infected and spread throughout the public relations industry.

In June of 2010, the PR industry came together in Barcelona to draft the Barcelona Principles, a set of seven principles of good measurement intended to provide guideposts for the industry.  The principle that has generated the most conversation is this one:

Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) is Not the Value of Public Relations

 While many of the Measurati have been preaching against AVEs for years, there now appears to be a critical mass of outrage that may kill the practice in the coming years.  Here are four compelling reasons why I believe we must make this happen – the sooner the better.

1. AVEs Do Not  Measure Outcomes

AVEs equate an article with the appearance cost of an advertisement.  It does not speak at all to the results or impact that the article may have on a reader.  Advertisers do not judge the success of advertising on how much the insertions cost.  Imagine an advertising manager being asked by his or her boss, “How are we doing in advertising this year?”, and them replying, “Great!  We have spent $500,000 so far!  The true value of public relations or social media is not the appearance cost, but what happened as a result of the PR or social media effort – the impact it has on brand, reputation and marketing.  You will note the Barcelona Principles also call for a focus on measuring outcomes and not (just) outputs.  What happened as a result of media coverage is inherently more interesting and valuable than how much coverage was obtained.

2. AVEs Reduce Public Relations to Media Relations

You are, or become, what you measure.  AVEs do not address the impact or value of several important aspects of public relations including strategic counsel, crisis communications, grassroots efforts, viral campaigns or public affairs.  In other words, AVEs reduce PR to just the media dimension by only assigning a value in this area.  If only AVEs are used to assess PR value, the results will understate the totality of value delivered by PR.  AVEs also cannot measure the value of keeping a client with potentially negative news out of the media, yet that may be the primary objective of the PR practitioner.

3. AVEs Fly in the Face of Integrated Measurement                

Good marketing, branding and reputation campaigns have always been integrated to varying degrees.  The digitization of our lives has accelerated integration.

Advertising and PR actually work together synergistically, yet AVEs treat them as cost alternatives.  Studies have shown ads that run in a climate of positive publicity actually receive lift from the PR.  Conversely, ads run in an environment of negative publicity will likely not be successful and/or may be perceived negatively by consumers.  We have seen exposure to brand advertising increases conversion rates in social channels. Integrated campaigns and programs require integrated measurement.  AVEs don’t play well in this world.  They are analog and segregated in a digital and integrated world.

4. AVEs Provide No Diagnostic Value

Too much measurement energy is focused on score-keeping and not diagnostics.  This is one reason why single-number metrics like the Klout score and others have great appeal to many.  However, measurement is fundamentally about assessing performance against objectives with sufficient detail and granularity to determine what is working and what is not.  AVEs fail miserably in this regard.  AVE results can actually be misleading and result in false positives.  AVEs may be trending up while important metrics like message communication, share of favorable positioning and share of voice are falling.  Unfortunately, AVEs provide neither a valid single-number score nor any diagnostic value.

Some have said the Barcelona Principles are the ‘end of AVEs’.  I would agree directionally with that statement with one minor addition, Barcelona was the ‘beginning of the end of AVEs’.  Awareness of the practice and recognition of its flaws are at an all-time high in our industry.  More education and evangelism are required.  Understanding concepts like impact, tangible value, intangible value and (true) return on investment help foster much more sophisticated conversation about the total value delivered by public relations and social media.  AVEs are a disease, education and knowledge are the vaccine.  AVEs won’t die easily.  The momentum generated by the Barcelona event has provided focus and intent.  It is up to all of us to make AVEs a thing of the past.

Social Media Measurement 2011: Five Things to Forget and Five Things to Learn

30 Dec

It has been said that social media came of age in 2010.  Not so for social media measurement.  But the mainstreaming of social media marketing brings with it a heightened call for accountability.  The need to prove the value of social media initiatives has never been greater.  So, perhaps 2011 will be the year that social media measurement matures and comes of age.

As we look to the next year, here are five things to forget and five things to learn about social media measurement in 2011.

Things to Forget in 2011

1. Impressions

The public relations industry has historically measured and reported success through the lens of quantity not quality.  The most common PR metric today is Impressions.  While it is a somewhat dubious metric for traditional media, it really loses meaning in social media where engagement not eyeballs is what we seek.  Impressions also (greatly) overstate actual relevant audience.   Impressions merely represent an opportunity to see, they do not attempt to estimate the (small) percentage of the potential audience that actually saw your content.

For Twitter, many folks use the sum of all first generation followers as ‘impressions’ for a particular tweet.  The obvious problem here is that the probability that any one follower sees any one tweet is quite small.  I don’t have good data on this (please share if you do), but an educated guess might put the percentage at less than 5%.  Similarly for Facebook, use of impressions as a metric is also problematic.  Facebook impressions do not indicate unique reach and you don’t have any idea who, if anyone, actually viewed the content.

Number of Impressions is a flawed, unwashed masses metric for social media measurement.  Any time you are tempted to use the word ‘impressions’ in social media, think about ‘potential reach’ or ‘opportunities to see’ instead.  Or better yet, concentrate on Engagement and Influence.

____________________________________________________________

2. Vanity Metrics – Fans and Followers

Most social media measurement efforts place far too much emphasis on Fans/Likers and Followers.  For Twitter, the number of Followers is seen as a key metric, thought by many to relate to potential influence.  For Facebook it is the number of Fans/Likers many companies/brands attempt to maximize.  While these may be the vanity metrics of choice, they fall far short of being adequate for rigorous measurement.  The largest disconnect of course is these numbers really don’t describe potential audience size very well and they have nothing to do with interactions/engagement.

For Twitter, there is a growing amount of evidence (read the Million Follower Fallacy paper) that number of Followers really has little to do with Influence.  Number of Followers may be an indication of popularity but not influence.  Influence talks more to one’s ability to start conversations and spread ideas.  For Facebook, number of Fans bears little semblance to average daily audience size and tells you nothing about engagement of the community.  All Fans are not created equally.  Some are engaged, some never return.  Some are your best customers, others are there only to trash you.

Number of Fans and Followers are metrics you probably should include in your overall metrics set, but should be de-emphasized and not be a primary area of focus.

________________________________________________________

3. Standardization

Measurement standardization is always an interesting topic to debate.  On one side you have the folks who believe standards are absolutely necessary for measurement to proliferate, and on the other side you have the snowflake measurement disciples who believe each program is unique and therefore requires unique objectives/metrics.  I fall somewhere between the two extremes.

In June 2010 IPR, AMEC, PRSA, ICCO and The Global Alliance got together in Barcelona for a conference intended to create an atmosphere for measurement consistency/standardization around a codified set of principles of good measurement.  The Barcelona Principles as they have come to be called are basic statements of good measurement practice – focus on outcomes not outputs, don’t use AVEs, etc.  Absolutely nothing to disagree with in the Principles.  However, the heavy lifting of standardization comes at the metrics-level.  Subcommittees have been formed that are taking the Principles all the way down to the metrics level.  I have reviewed the work of the social media committee and believe there is a lot of good work being done.

But in 2011, I expect a lot of debate but not a lot of progress in creating social media measurement standardization.   One to watch is the Klout score for online influencers which is being integrated as metadata in social media listening and engagement platforms.  There are issues with the Klout score (read this post), and I question the type of ‘influence’ it is measuring – there is a big difference between motivating someone to action (e.g. retweeting your content) and motivating someone to purchase which is ultimately the type of influence many companies and brands are most interested in effecting.

__________________________________________________________

4. Ad or Media Equivalency

One of the truly insidious aspects of public relations measurement is the use of advertising or media equivalency (AVEs – advertising value equivalency) to assign financial value to public relations outputs.  It is a highly flawed, path of least resistance attempt to calculate return on investment (ROI) for public relations.  There are many reasons why using ad equivalency as a proxy for PR value is not advisable.

To make matters worse, the practice has clearly moved into social media measurement as well.  For example, research studies that monetize the value of a Facebook Fan/Liker by attributing an arbitrary $5 CPM value from the advertising world.  Online media impact rankings also utilize equivalent paid advertising value to assign monetary value to online news and social media.  The true value of social media is not how much an equivalent ad would have cost but in the impact it has on brand, reputation and marketing.

__________________________________________________________

5. Return on Engagement/Influence/etc.

Not a day goes by without someone declaring a new and improved metric for the acronym ROI, or stating that ROI does not apply in social networks.  A recent Google search for “Return on Engagement” returned 192,000 results.  “Return on Influence” returned 68,300.

Most of the folks who use these terms either don’t understand ROI or don’t know how to obtain the data necessary to calculate it.  Many confuse the notion of impact with ROI (addressed in Things to Learn).  Engagement creates impact for a brand or organization, but may or may not generate ROI in the short-term.  Creating influence – effecting someone’s attitudes, opinions and/or actions – creates impact but may or may not create ROI in the short-term.  It often is better to think about measuring impact first and then deciding whether or not you have the means and data necessary to attribute financial value.

__________________________________________________________

Things to Learn in 2011

1. Measurable Objectives

There are many issues and challenges in the field of social media measurement.  The easiest one to fix is for everybody to learn how to write measurable objectives.  Most objectives today are either not measurable as written or are strategies masquerading as objectives.  (For example, any sentence starting with an action buzzword like leverage is a strategy.)

‘Increase awareness of product X’ is not a measurable objective.  In order to be measurable, objectives must contain two essential elements:

  • Must indicate change in metric of interest – from X to Y
  • Must indicate a timeframe for the desired change – weeks, months, quarter, year, specific dates tied to a campaign (pre/post)

Therefore, properly stated, measurable objectives should look more like these:

  • Increase awareness of product X from 23% to 50% by year-end 2011
  • Increase RTs per 1000 Followers from 0.5% in Q1’11 to 10% by the end of Q2’11.

__________________________________________________________

2. Impact versus ROI

ROI is one of the most overused and misused term in social media measurement.  Many people say ‘ROI’ what they really just mean results or impact.  ROI is a financial metric – percentage of dollars returned for a given investment/cost.  The dollars may be revenue generated, dollars saved or spending avoided.  ROI is transactional.

ROI is a form of impact, but not all impact takes the form of ROI.  Impact is created when people become aware of us, engage with our content or brand ambassadors, are influenced by engagement with content or other people, or take some action like recommending to a friend, writing a review or buying a product.  Impact ultimately creates value for an organization, but the value creation occurs over time, not at a point in time.  Value creation is process-oriented.  It has both tangible and intangible elements.

Your investments in social media or public relations remain an investment, creating additional value if done correctly, until which time they can be linked to a business outcome transaction that results in ROI.

Most social media initiatives today do not (or should not) have ROI as a primary objective.  Most social programs are designed to create impact, not ROI, in the short-term.  There is also the notion that many social media initiatives are in an investment phase, not a return phase of maturity.

__________________________________________________________

3. Hypothetical ROI Models

One important step in determining how a social media initiative creates ROI for an organization is to create a hypothetical model that articulates the cascading logic steps in the process, as well as the data needed and assumptions used.  The model is most useful in the planning stages of a program.  It helps address the proverbial question, “If I approve this budget, what is a reasonable expectation for the results we will achieve?”  Let’s take a look at a simple Twitter example:

Program: Five promoted tweets are sent with a special offer to purchase a product on an e-commerce site.

Hypothetical ROI Model:

  • (Data)                   Total potential unduplicated reach of the five tweets is 1,000,000 people
  • (Assume)            10% of the potential audience will actually see the tweet = 100,000 people
  • (Assume)            20% of the individuals who see the tweet find it relevant to them = 20,000 people
  • (Assume)            10% of those finding it relevant will visit the site = 2,000 people
  • (Assume)            10% of those visiting the site will convert and buy the product = 200 people
  • (Data)                   Incremental profit margin on each sale is $50
  • (Data)                   Total cost of the social media initiative is $2,400

ROI Calculation: (200 x $50) = $10,000 – $2,400 = $7,600/$2,400 = 3.17 x 100 = 317% ROI

Our model suggests this program will be successful and generate substantial ROI.  If in reviewing a model with someone who needs to approve a program, they conceptually buy into the model but challenge the assumptions, that is a positive step.  Negotiate different assumptions and rerun the numbers.  Hypothetical models help you think through the data requirements your research approach must address in order to actually measure the ROI of the program after implementation.

__________________________________________________________

4. Integrated Digital Measurement

The definition of public relations is fluid, and rapidly evolving to encompass a much broader and more integrated view of communications and how we connect, engage and build relationships with consumers and other stakeholders.  Digitization in all its forms has driven and accelerated this important change.  Communicators should now take a more content and consumer-centric view of the world, orchestrating all the consumer touch points available in our increasingly digital world.  At Fleishman Hillard, we capture this expanded scope and integration in a model we refer to as PESO – Paid/Earned/Shared/Owned.  Here is how we define the elements of our model:

Paid – refers to all forms of paid content that exists on third-party channels or venues.  This includes banner or display advertisements, pay-per-click programs, sponsorships and advertorials.

Earned – includes traditional media outreach as well as blogger relations/outreach where we attempt to influence and encourage third-party content providers to write about our clients and their products and services.

Shared – refers to social networks and technologies controlled by consumers along with online and offline WOM

Owned – includes all websites and web properties controlled by a company or brand including company or product websites, micro-sites, blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter channels.

The social media measurement Holy Grail in many ways is to be able to track behavior of individuals across platforms, online and offline, tethered and mobile, understanding how online behavior impacts offline behavior and vice-versa.  We also seek to understand how the PESO elements work together synergistically.  For example, how exposure to online advertising impacts conversions within social channels.  To address this, your measurement strategy should be to take a holistic, integrated approach using a variety of methodologies, tools and data.

_________________________________________________________

5. Attribution

If you are not already familiar with value attribution models, prepare to hear much more about them in 2011.  Value attribution models attempt to assign a financial value to specific campaigns and/or channels (e.g. advertising, search, direct, social) that are part of a larger marketing effort.  So rather than giving all the conversion credit to the last click in a chain or even the first click, the model attributes portions of the overall value across the relevant campaigns and/or channels.

A simple model might look at the following metrics for each channel:

  • Frequency – the number of exposures to a specific marketing channel or campaign
  • Duration – time on site for exposures referring to the conversion site
  • Recency – credit for exposures ranging from first click to last click, with last click typically receiving more credit.

Value attribution models require human analysis and expertise.  This factor is often cited in studies as the reason more companies do not pursue attribution modeling.

_________________________________________________________

Here’s wishing you and yours an exciting and prosperous 2011!

How Much Does a House Cost?

8 Nov

I don’t come from the “there are no dumb questions” school.  For example, in an academic environment, I would define a ‘dumb question’ as one in which the answer should be easily known had the student read the assignment or attended the previous class.  There are a lot of dumb questions asked all the time and social media gets more than its share of these.  Many of them are specific to social media measurement/ROI.  For example:

  • Which has higher ROI, Twitter or Facebook?
  • What ROI should I expect from Twitter?
  • How do I measure the ROI of social media?

The flip answer to all these questions is, it depends.  All results are contextual.  Results are also specific.  While industry averages may be interesting, averages mask any real meaning for an individual brand or company.  They result in ‘one size fits none’ thinking.  Let’s go back to our house analogy and bring this to life.  The cost of a house depends on several factors:

  • Where is the house located?  You’ll need to know the city and the specific neighborhood.  You may also want to know which block the house is on within a given neighborhood.
  • How large is the house in terms of square feet?
  • How large is the lot?
  • Is the house new or previously owned?
  • In what condition is the house?
  • What is the level of finish-out?  For example, granite versus tile countertops.  High-end appliances or mid-range?
  • What are the desirable or unique features of the house?

In social media measurement we have our own list of questions to ask before attempting to answer generally stated questions about measurement and ROI:

  • What brand/company are we speaking about?  The answers for a well-established cult brand will be very different from those of a less well-established brand.  Answers for eCommerce companies will vary from those of B2B companies.  Answers will also vary by industry segment.
  • How long has the brand/company been participating in social networks?
  • How much investment in social media marketing – time and money – has the brand/company made?  What has been the level of effort?
  • What other communications channels (e.g. advertising, direct, search, public relations) are being utilized in parallel with social marketing?
  • What is our point of view on the role of social media in the marketing mix?  For example, is the role of social media primarily to drive exposure to content or is the program or initiative designed to drive conversion events through social channels?
  • What were/are the specific objectives of the program or initiative?

This last question is especially important because measurement is fundamentally about assessing performance against stated objectives.  When someone asks you how to measure something in social media your first response should always be this question – What were the specific objectives of the program or initiative?

The question of when to expect a return on social media efforts is also an interesting one.  Brands often expect an immediate ROI on social media efforts.  Social media marketing is a process not an event.  Too often people forget about the ‘I’ aspect of ROI – you usually have to make an investment in resources and time before you can drive a return.  It is wise to listen to social conversations before engaging, and build your presence and trust before trying to drive conversion events.  Listen and learn and then convert.  I would argue the majority of social media efforts today are likely in the investment phase and not the return phase.  It is somewhat unfair in these cases for the social media effort to be held to an ROI standard in the short-term.  Measuring impact rather than ROI is advised.  Perhaps we can add another question to our list of dumb social media ROI questions – ‘What ROI should we expect in the first year of our social media initiative?’

If you are one of the prescient humans who has a crystal ball that enables you to answer the ‘how much does a house cost’ question, I have another question for you, ‘how long is a string?’

You Coming to BlogWorld? Let’s Talk Social Media ROI.

13 Oct

I hope to see many of you at BlogWorld later this week.  It will be great to finally meet the many online friends I have who will be speaking or attending.  Please make a point to DM me (@Donbart) or email me (don.bartholomew@fleishman.com) if you have a few minutes to meet and talk at the show.

On Friday October 15, as part of the Social Media Business Summit, I will be on a panel speaking about social media ROI with David Alston of Radian6, Connie Bensen of Alterian and Ken Burbary of Ernst & Young.  Ken has the formidable task of being our moderator.  Here are the specifics:

Panel: Social Media & ROI

Date: Friday October 15

Time: 2:45 – 3:45

Room: Islander V3

If you cannot attend the show, you can follow along with the hashtag #BWE10.  There will probably be a few hundred folks live-tweeting the event, including me.

Safe travels.  -Don B

Social Media ROI Twitterchat

1 Sep

Yesterday I was the guest on Shonali Burke’s #measurepr twitterchat.  The subject was Social Media ROI.  The conversation was lively and engaging.  I found it exciting and stimulating, and appreciate Shonali letting me share with all of you.  Shonali did a great wrap-up of the session on her Waxing Unlyrical blog.  You can read it here. You can also download a transcript of the chat here:  #measurepr transcript 8.31

Shonali was kind enough to invite me back for another round.  So please join us for Social Media ROI Round II.  The date is September 14.  The time is 12:00 – 1:00PM (Eastern).  DM Shonali (@Shonali) or shoot her an email if you have a question you would like us to address.  You can sign-up for the chat here, or just join us on the 14th. using #measurepr.  Hope you can join us!  – @Donbart

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 159 other followers