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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

Let’s Play 20 Questions: Social Media Measurement Style

1 Oct

On August 6, I gave a webinar for Carma, co-sponsored by PRNews called, Social Media Measurement at a Crossroads. The webinar focused on the current state of social media measurement with an emphasis on efforts to develop social media metrics standards. You may download the presentation courtesy of Carma here. There were many good questions asked by the webinar participants. I thought it might be fun to capture 20 of the questions and share the answers I gave in response. And it might be cool if you disagree with an answer, to share your different opinion in the comments.

Q1. What level of social media measurement do you think should be taught at Undergraduate level in PR or Communications degree courses?

A1. Most schools only require one research class in undergraduate education. In this class, all forms of research including measurement are covered. I think all schools should have one general research and analytics course and another specifically for measurement. I would cover traditional and digital in both courses with an emphasis on digital techniques.

Q2. What needs to happen for businesses to be able to integrate Communications Performance Management with Business Performance Management?

A2. Did Philip Sheldrake ask you to ask this question? Well, the first thing that would have to happen is for companies to start demanding it. I’ve not seen much demand for this. Once demand builds, smart people will figure out how to make it happen. The AMEC Social Media Measurement Committee is going to take on the challenge of developing a balanced scorecard approach to the social media valid framework to see where that takes us.

Q3. Speaking about social business, are you suggesting social media becomes the strategic imperative with marketing, customer service, PR, employee engagement subordinate?  So these functions will be driven by SM specialists?

A3. No, not at all. I think what we’ll see if that social media permeates all of these functions and creates new capabilities and connections between groups and between customers and companies. It is up to PR or HR people to learn something about social media, SM specialists are not going to take over the world.

Q4. Are the proposed standard social media metrics valid for native ads as well?

A4. I have not thought much about this, but my initial reaction is that the metrics for native ads would be same. A promoted tweet would have the same engagement metrics as any other tweet, although one would certainly hope the performance on some of the metrics would be better.

Q5. What do you mean when you say triage social media content for customer service and support?

A5. This would refer to evaluating and routing social content to different entities or people within an organization (customer care versus technical support versus legal, for example) that are best able to understand and act on the feedback and/or respond to the post.

Q6. Don, what do you put more emphasis on these days, Likes and Follows or Shares and Comments?

A6. I believe the emphasis should be on the stronger indications of engagement, shares and comments, than on simple Likes and Follows.

Q7. How well-known and widely accepted are the Conclave standards in the social space as a whole?

A7. The first complete set of standards were published in early June, 2013. They are known by social media measurement insiders, but I think it is fair to say they are not yet widely known. We need to promote their existence and use.

Q8. How would you measure perception and attitudes through social media?

A8. Generally we would measure consumer conversations about a topic and then do some analysis to see if there are clusters of comments that represent different and distinct viewpoints, attitudes or opinions about the issue or topic. We might also want to do an audience segmentation analysis to see how these attitudes differ by stakeholder group.

Q9. Any specific comments geared towards non-profit organizations?

A9. The basics of measurement – write measurable goals, align goals with organizational KPIs, assess performance against targets –  are the same for for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. How value is created is the primary difference.

Q10. Any suggestions to measure business impact for B2B organizations? Is there a way to understand the impact of social for B2B organizations?  

A10. Most B2B companies have a focus on sales leads. Therefore demonstrating how social is helping create leads or improve lead closure rates is important. There are a lot of uses of social listening in B2B companies as well – how the company is positioned on key issues, who is talking about the company, how products and services are being discussed, etc.

Q11. What are your favorite tools to use in terms of actually measuring your programs/channels/campaigns? Do you identify the tools as you are defining the metrics (do we have the ability to measure X, Y, Z?) or do you select tools after you define your metrics (this is what we need to know, let’s find A, B, C, solutions to measure these things?)?

A11. Generally Google Analytics, a social listening platform (Radian6, Brandwatch, Netbase, Visible, etc.), channel analytics programs like Facebook Insights and also Excel. Ideally you should define metrics first, then the data required for each metric, then look at the tools best able to get the specific data you need.

Q12. What are the most common or most surprising questions you have gotten from CMOs or other key stakeholders regarding social media measurement?

A12. CMOs want to know how social media contributes value to marketing – if they are sales funnel oriented they want to know how social is helping drive the funnel for example. They are also interested if you are helping on front-end or downstream funnel metrics.

Q13. What advice do you have for small businesses for use of and measuring success of social media campaigns effectively (few resources).

A13. Start with the free tools (Hootsuite, Excel, Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, Google Analytics) and then work your way up to some of the paid social listening platforms. There is no ‘best’ platform to start with – it really depends on your needs and what you intend to do with the platform. Many companies start with measuring their own channels and evolve to listening to earned/ shared social conversations.

Q14. Which social media analytics do the C-suite find most valuable?

A14. The C-suite don’t really care about social media analytics so much, They care about how social media is helping drive the business metrics forward. That said, C-level folks are usually interesting in competitive benchmarking in social and positioning on key issues and topics that are important to the business. Anything pertaining to online reputation is also an area of interest for many.

Q15. How do you determine what are the correct things to measure?

A15. Measure what matters to the organization. Measurement is about performance against objectives so make sure your measurement program is aligned with business objectives. Don’t measurement ‘social media’, measure what you are trying to accomplish with social media.

Q16. How can someone who is interested in the movement toward standard metrics get involved helping to move the PR industry forward? In other words, how can someone get involved in the debate?

A16. I would suggest interacting directly on the smmstandards.org website. Volunteer to help. Leave suggestions. You could also get involved through one of the PR associations – IPR, PRSA or CoPRF.

Q17. What software would you recommend be used by PR firms to most cost effectively measure social media efforts for clients?

A17. A good social listening platform, Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and the other packages offered by the channels, and good old Excel. Beyond that it really depends on the nature of the social media effort.

Q18. I think a lot of the issue with measurement is confidence in the measurer (i.e., your source). Whenever you cross-reference measurements (e.g. what Google analytics says vs. what your web marketing automation says like HubSpot), you can get wildly different answers. That has stopped me from putting too much faith in my metrics process. Thoughts?

A18. I might separate the issue of the measurer from the sources of data – really two different issues. Regarding sources of data, this is a true issue in that different databases yield different estimates for things like audience size. Compete versus ComScore is a notorious example. However, I don’t think this is a reason to not measure. It simply means we must state assumptions and sources and be consistent over time in using comparable sources. I believe that standard metrics will eventually lead to sanctioned sources for audience data like Arbitron (now Nielsen Audio) for radio or Nielsen for TV.

Q19. Let’s say a social media post leads someone to a landing page, but they do not take immediate action. But they come back the next week and complete the conversion funnel. How do you credit the original social media post…is this a matter of tracking cookies for x number of days? What is practical?

A19. Yep, most people count the first click and then track for a period of time depending on the type of product. It gets even more complicated if you try to suggest there should also be credit given to what happened before the first social media click – for example, money invested in building the brand. Value attribution is an inexact science for sure, with lots of assumptions and compromises.

Q20. What are best ways to measure target audience reach and engagement rather than wide general reach?

A20. Thanks for asking this. The best way to measure is to clearly define your target. If the target is Females 18 – 34, then you should only take credit for reach and engagement of this specific audience only. Given that most tools rely on voluntary bio data, the information is inconsistent and difficult to come by.

Thanks for reading. @Donbart

Digital Analytics – From Back Office to Front Page

21 Mar

Analytics have exploded into prominence in the past 15 months. What was once a mysterious statistical discipline understood by few has been elevated as the enabling technology that allows companies to unlock the potential of Big Data. Big Data was everywhereBlackboard in 2012. There was a track devoted to it at the World Economic Forum in January, 2012. In October, the Harvard Business Review had a cover section on Big Data which characterized analytics as sexy and dubbed its leading practitioners Data Scientists. And at Ketchum, we made analytics training mandatory for ALL employees in 2012, a first for our industry.

The digitization of all forms of analog data is at the heart of the Big Data explosion.  From our click behavior online to purchases we make with a loyalty card to places we go in our vehicles, everything is captured as digital data potentially available for analysis. And with the accelerating use of cameras and sensors, the volume of data promises to keep rising for years to come.

For all the talk about Big Data, no one really wants Big Data. They want the insights hidden within the data that only digital analytics can unlock. Probably the hottest area within digital analytics is predictive analytics. Predictive analytics essentially predict how consumers will behave given certain conditions, assumptions and stimuli. This has powerful and tangible benefits to marketing. An Aberdeen Group study published in December 2011 found marketing organizations that applied data mining and statistical modeling to optimize marketing efforts saw as much as a 2X lift from marketing campaigns, a 76% higher click-through-rate and a 73% higher sales lift.

Marketing organizations are seeing the tremendous power and potential of predictive analytics across a broad spectrum of marketing activities. For example:

  • Proactively optimizing marketing campaigns to improve engagement and conversions
  • Identifying customers most likely to switch companies and targeting offers to them designed to keep them as customers
  • Delivering customized offers designed to appeal to a prospect’s specific interests or life situation
  • Predicting which ‘first visit’ customers are most likely to return or not return, and sending offers targeting the ‘not likely to return’ group while avoiding the costs of making offers to those likely to return anyway.

In 2013, we have seen analytics continue to be a mainstream news subject. Analytics is only in the early migration phase from early adopters to mainstream use. Expect this trend to continue and accelerate in the coming years as more marketers discover analytics are a clear path to improving marketing effectiveness, efficiency, and ultimately, the bottom line.

Three Keys to Insight Discovery in Social Listening

13 Dec

True social insights, as opposed to social findings or social observations, have the potential to inform, shape or drive marketing and even business strategy decisions, not just social strategy decisions. Discovering that tweeting with a link on Tuesday between 10:00 – 11:00 AM drives higher levels of engagement is a social finding, not an insight.

Social media is a microcosm of the larger Big Data problem/opportunity – too much data, not enough insights. Or if you prefer, too much noise, not enough signal. If you want to improve your ability to discover insights, here are three simple approaches you can take to improve your insight hunting.

First, start all analysis with a hypothesis or series of questions the analysis is designed to answer. It is much easier to prove or disprove a hypothesis, or answer specific questions, than it is to “find out what people are saying about us in social media”. The more specific the request, the better the answer is going to be. The hypothesis may be one you develop based on preliminary analysis or it may come from the ‘customer’ for the insight. Here are two examples of hypothesis:

  • “Conversation about us in social media is quite negative. My boss believes ‘everyone’ is aligned against us. I disagree. My hypothesis is that there is a very vocal and active minority of consumers who are posting large volumes of negative content about us. And I believe this group is a small fraction of the total number of people who post. The majority of consumers are actually neutral toward us.”
  • “When we look at Twitter, Facebook and Blogs we see pretty low levels of conversation about our product and the medical condition it treats. We believe there is actually a fair amount of conversation, but the conversations are occurring in Forums which may not be crawled by most social listening tools.”

While the hypothesis is a great way to begin to focus on what is important in the data, a further focusing mechanism is the second insight discovery key – the concept of targeted listening. With targeted listening we are not trying to capture all conversations that mention the brand or product. That is a ‘boil the ocean’ approach. Instead, we listen for very specific types of conversations or conversations by very specific groups of individuals within social conversations. The trick is to have the discipline to only listen to your focus areas and not be tempted to boil the ocean in hopes of finding a few pearls. Here are three examples of targeted listening strategies:

  • An insurance company resists the temptation to try to capture ‘all’ mentions of the brand and decides to focus only on conversations where customers are thinking about non-renewal or switching companies.
  • A gaming company launches a new product and listens to understand what features are being discussed, what people like most/least about the new game and to gauge their specific reactions to the cover art.
  • A consumer products company listens only for consumers who are actively in the purchasing process for the type of products they offer.

The third key to discovering insights is to provide context for decision-making. Remember with insights we are trying to inform, shape and guide decision-making. Context is incredibly important to making better decisions faster. Good social analysts understand how marketing and business work and how strategic alternatives might impact results. Understanding this helps you put your insights in the proper context for decision-making.

Here is an example of how context can lead to better decisions. Company X has a crisis. You are asked to do real-time listening of the crisis and help the PR team decide when and how to engage in the conversation. You come back the next day with a line chart showing a large spike in content mentioning the crisis – thousands of mentions. You know the sentiment in negative to neutral and on which channels the content appears. Unfortunately you have not given the people deciding Trend.BlogPost

whether or not to engage enough information to make a decision. What information would provide the necessary context for decision-making? What questions do we need to try to answer? Here are a few:

  • How much above ‘normal levels’ is the spike in content? (Normative data)
  • How does this event compare to that event we had last year? Or, how does the event compare to competitor X who had their own crisis last year? (Comparative data) Comparisons help decision makers determine ‘how bad is bad’.
  • How long do we anticipate seeing negative content at relatively high levels? (Comparative data) This might be the most important question to answer to provide context and guidance for the engagement decision. If we anticipate volume will drop back to normal in a reasonable period of time, then not engaging may be a viable and effective strategy depending on the brand involved and the nature of the crisis.
  • Which stakeholder groups are active in the conversations?  With robust social analysis we always want to look at both the post – what is being said, and the source – who is saying it. In a crisis, who is talking is particularly important.

Normative data, comparative data and examining both post and source data are all effective techniques to provide context for decision-making. InsightButton

The tough part about discovering insights is there are no shortcuts and it is a human activity. No social media analysis platform that I have found has an insight button. The key barrier is lack of people who understand how to search for and discover insights. Hope these tips make you a more effective explorer.

Happy Holidays!

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