Archive | Social Media Tools 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

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

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!

Where is Your Organization on the Social Media Listening Maturity Model?

23 Jul

Quite often I am asked to consult with a company on their social media listening strategy. Their initial question more times than not is about the listening platform they should use. But it is increasingly common for the questions to be more sophisticated and the ambition behind them to be much greater. Companies with experience in social listening know that it is all too easy to focus on rudimentary analysis of brand mentions and topics, Followers and Likes and never get to the truly actionable insights that lead to marketing or business actions. Experience in listening is an important element here but you also need a path to follow. I thought a maturity model approach to social media listening could provide a possible path to consider and would provide a construct that could be used in consulting with a company on their social listening strategy.

Maturity models are sort of hot – there seems to be a proliferation in the last two years or so. One that I find particularly insightful and helpful when thinking about social listening is Forrester’s Social Maturity Model.  Two really important points the folks at Forrester make is that listening is not the goal, social intelligence is, and that social intelligence informs actions taken by marketing or some other area of the business. Action being the operative word here. Social intelligence is a closely related topic to social business, and if social business is more your thing the Dachis Group has an interesting social business maturity model.  Big data more your bag? Check out IBM’s big data governance model. After looking at the models out there, I could not find one specific enough to social media listening so I took a stab at creating one.

Social Media Listening Maturity Model 

There are five stages in the Social Media Listening Maturity Model, beginning with reactive alerts and ending with social intelligence. Let’s take a brief look at each stage and some of the overarching differences or changes one sees with social listening maturity.

Reactive Alerts – Many companies or brands begin by establishing a reactive alert system that notifies them whenever their brand is mentioned or is mentioned with specific keywords. Think Google Alerts. Companies in this stage may only periodically check social media channels to see what may have changed or is new since the last check-in.

Monitoring Social Media – At the next stage, the company has begun active monitoring of all ‘owned’ social embassies. They also are monitoring social media conversations, often focused on trying to detect any ‘bad’ news, mentions or conversations.

Companies in these first two stages generally have a reactive stance toward social media, viewing it as another way to find out about news and circumstances that may harm or otherwise impact the organization. It is common for companies in these stages to use one or more of the various free tools available to gather web and social media data.

Social Listening – The third stage is most likely where the largest percentage of companies reside today. Companies in stage three are listening to social conversations about their company, brands and products. They are tracking mentions of competitors and calculating share of conversation. Many also track issues and topics that are important to their brands/products/company. At this stage many begin to put additional emphasis on ‘who’ is talking (source) not just what is being said (post). Most companies in the social listening phase have transitioned from free tools to paid platforms.

Companies in the first three stages often suffer from having too much data and not enough insights. They are up to their necks in ‘big data’ but lack the experience and expertise to analyze the data and reduce it down to crisp, actionable insights supported by the data. They look for the Insight button on the tools they use but increasingly realize insights are the product of human analysts, not tools or data.

Strategic Listening – The transition to strategic listening brings with it a bias toward ‘listening with a purpose’. I first heard this turn of phrase from my friends at Radian6 and use it often. Listening with a purpose is just that – listening to specific sets of conversations with a specific goal or objective in mind. Often in insight work, the goal or objective may take the form of a hypothesis we are trying to test. Here are a few examples of listening with a purpose:

  • Listening for conversations of consumers in a particular phase of the buying decision process
  • Listening to customers whose subscriptions or policies are about to expire that are expressing thoughts of changing vendors
  • Identifying, tracking and building relationships with key influencers
  • Listening for consumer reactions to new packaging or product features
  • Mining the emotional content of specific stakeholder groups to determine potential risk around a sensitive issue.

During this phase, an Enterprise listening strategy is often developed and implemented. Some also begin to integrate data from sources beyond social media – search, web analytics and customer data for example.

Social Intelligence – Forrester defines social intelligence as the process of turning social media data into actionable marketing and business strategy. Social intelligence therefore is not about the best times to tweet or whether or not a twitter party would be an effective tactic, it is about informing strategic decisions that impact the company’s success. For me, three concepts are crucial:

  1. Action – social intelligence is designed to drive true actions.
  2. Integration – although the definition focuses on social media data and insights, the fact is that true insights often require more than just social data. Integrating data from multiple data sources – consumer survey, behavioral tracking, social posts, search analytics, advertising data, customer records, scan/sales data – allows for greater understanding and richer insights. Integration of multiple data types often requires multiple tools and platforms to aggregate and analyze the data.
  3. Sharing – For social intelligence to truly take root within an organization, the data and insights should involve cross-disciplinary groups that can look at the data from different perspectives and collectively arrive at better insights than any one group could in a vacuum. The insights then need to be systematically shared broadly across the organization so they may be acted upon in a manner that will create the most impact. Social intelligence can be a catalyst to the silos within an organization tumbling down.

Since the social listening and social intelligence ‘markets’ are relatively immature, this model will continue to evolve and be refined.

Where is your company today on the social media listening maturity model?

Three Fundamentals of Great Social Media Measurement

20 Feb

If you want to evaluate the robustness and effectiveness of your approach to social media measurement, ask yourself these three fundamental questions:

  • Does the approach measure the ‘right’ things in order to show the business impact of the programs and initiatives? 
  • Will stakeholders of the report receive the data and actionable insights required to make strategic decisions?
  • Are the data and insights presented in a clear and concise manner that tells a story and makes it easy to understand and act upon?

Measuring the ‘Right’ Things

Social media metrics are derived from three primary sources:

Ideally, a robust social media measurement program will have a rich metrics set that contains metrics from all three areas. Metrics tied to program objectives allow for direct measurement of program success. Fundamentally, measurement is about assessing performance against objectives. It is surprising how often social program objectives are slanted toward channel-specific metrics (e.g. Likes or Followers) and not the specific outcomes desired for the program – what you hope to accomplish by implementing the program. Also, relying too heavily on channel metrics limits you to what you can measure rather than what you should measure. Business outcome metrics are used to connect the dots between social media programs and the business results they are designed to drive. Social programs that cannot answer, or at least address, the management question, “How is this impacting my business”, are more susceptible to resource allocation scrutiny (#pleasecutmybudget). Stated another way, if management asks how we’re doing in social media and we reply, “great, post virality is up 6.1% this month”, we make it difficult for that individual to understand how social media/business initiatives are helping move the business forward.

Getting to Data and Insights that Inform Strategic Decisions

Expectations for social media measurement and analysis have risen. In addition to sound analysis and reporting of performance against key metrics and KPIs, understanding audience dynamics and developing actionable insights are rapidly becoming de rigueur. Insights may be defined as synthesizing and interpreting data to provide actionable information and knowledge that informs strategic decisions. Too many social media measurement programs take a social-centric rather than a business-centric approach to insights. They often feature insights and recommendations that are tactical in nature – the best time of day or how many times to tweet, or what type of content seems to be most successful. Ideally, insights and recommendations in social measurement reports would be operating one level above this, informing strategic decisions about how social programs and conversations are impacting, or could impact, the business. To do this requires an understanding of the business function (e.g. marketing, customer service) impacted by the social program and an ability to ask the right questions prior to starting a social media analysis. 

For example, let’s say Company X plans to introduce a new video game. A social listening program has been implemented to analyze the early consumer reaction to the game. Based on the listening analysis, changes to the packaging, marketing or even the product itself are possible. If you are in charge of the marketing campaign for the game, what are the types of social media insights you need to make decisions about the game and the marketing campaign?

  • What is the level of buzz about the game?  What is the overall sentiment? How does this compare to previous game launches?
  • What are people talking about in social media – availability, cost, specific features of the game, packaging, marketing campaign?
  • What features of the game do consumers seem to like most?  Least? Specifically, what do they like or dislike?
  • What are the most influential gaming enthusiasts saying about the product?
  • Who are the promoters and detractors? What is the ratio of promoters to detractors? How does this compare to promoters and detractors from previous game launches?
  • How much social media conversation contains recommendations or expresses purchase intent?  How does this compare to previous launches?

Answering these types of questions provides actionable insights that provide context and can inform strategic marketing decisions.          

Presenting Results

Dashboards have gotten a bit of a bad rap – not because dashboards are not useful, but because some have used them as THE measurement report rather than just one aspect of a good report. I’m a dashboard proponent for a few reasons:

  • Deciding which metrics to feature on a dashboard is a good strategic exercise requiring you to focus on the very most important and relevant metrics for the intended audience
  • Online, dynamic dashboards are an effective user interface that can be used as a launching- off point for drilling into data to understand the underlying story
  • Good dashboards present a snapshot of overall performance that is easily absorbed and understood.   

A dashboard-driven social media measurement report is versatile and effective in many situations. A typical report might consist of one of more dashboards and then a deeper dive on each of the key metrics featured on the dashboards, along with audience insights, strategic insights and recommendations. This format provides a quick snapshot (dashboard) of results, ideal for those stakeholders interested only in topline data, and provides sufficient depth to satisfy those more interested in the underlying drivers of the metric  

Social media measurement programs that are built around metrics tied to business outcomes and show how programs are performing against objectives are important. Reports that deliver clear insights that inform strategic decisions are important. And delivering those reports in a compelling format that enhances usability and effectiveness is important. How do your programs stack up?

Bringing Some Clarity to Social Media Influence

10 Dec

The emphasis on influencer marketing in social media has reached a fever pitch in 2011 and with it a flood of tools and opinions on how to navigate the influence waters. This is interesting in that one of the most powerful aspects of social media marketing is the ability to establish connections and relationships directly with prospects and customers and not have to go through an intermediary to communicate. But we’ll leave that to the social strategists to reconcile and justify. Influencer marketing is hardly a new strategy. Through the years, much work in traditional public relations utilized influencer targeting (e.g. market analysts, financial analysts, KOLs, other customers) to help amplify and endorse a brand or a company’s products and services. So why is there so much discussion and confusion about influence in social media? Let’s explore.       

Influence Basics

A definition I like for influence is: effecting change in another person’s attitudes, opinions, beliefs and/or behavior. I believe the most overlooked word in this definition is change.  Without change influence has not truly occurred. One challenge here is influence can happen without any resulting short-term observable action. Influence takes hold primarily between the ears, not necessarily with hand on mouse or wallet. This creates fundamental challenges when trying to measure the degree to which influence has occurred.

Another challenge we face is that influence is contextual not absolute. People who influence others do so primarily in areas where they have specific expertise or authority. It is common to be influential in one area but have little or no influence in others. One of the main issues with current influence tools are they do a relatively poor job of establishing contextual relevance.

The distinction between creating influence within a target audience and who/what has influence over the target has a tendency to get muddled. To clarify, determining who has the potential to influence the target audience, (the influencers), is a targeting question. Have we created influence, (changed attitudes, opinions, beliefs and/or behavior) is a measurement question.   

Influence is purposeful. In real life or digital life, when we set out to change the opinion, attitude, beliefs or behavior of another person or group, we do so with a downstream motivation – for them to take a specific action. The list of possible actions is lengthy – buy a product, visit a website, tell a friend, vote, wave a sign and donate to name a few. Of course, not all desired actions are equal in terms of amount of influence required for change. Opinions might be easier to change than an attitude. An attitude is easier to change than a belief. Behavioral change can range from relatively easy to nearly impossible depending on the specific behavior. In marketing, the ultimate behavior or action we try to influence is purchase behavior. It is important to think through the specific actions you hope the target will take as a result of being influenced. This is also the sweet spot for influence measurement.

While creating an action/behavior change is the ultimate reason for influencing someone, it is helpful to think of the process of influence as two stages – opinion, attitude or belief change – and then, because of this change, did an action occur or was a behavior changed. Stated another way, the opinion change is an intermediate or micro outcome and the desired action is a final or macro outcome. Depending on the type of purchase decision there may be a time lag between the micro and macro outcomes that make it difficult to connect the dots. In his book The Business of Influence, Philip Sheldrake presents a concept called the “Maturity of Influence Approach”. Basically it melds two important concepts to use when thinking about influence measurement – focus on the influence, not the influencer (Philip refers to this as “influence-centric), and to start at the macro outcome/action and trace the path of influence back to the source(s) of influence. One simple example of this in a B2B context would be to ask the prospect at the time they are ready to make a purchase, “what sources of information or opinion were most valuable to you in making your decision to buy our product?” A similar question or two can be asked using a pop-up survey in an ecommerce situation. 

Influence and Engagement Confusion

A primary source of influence confusion is failing to distinguish between a simple act of engagement and the process of being influenced. If someone in my Twitter stream sends out a tweet and I retweet it, have they influenced me to retweet or have I simply engaged with that individual’s content? Many who have written about social media influence have suggested that in RTing the tweet, I have been influenced to do so. I do not believe that is the case. I have engaged with the content, but have there been any true changes in my attitudes, opinions, beliefs or behavior? Again, the operative word here is change. Does the act of RTing constitute a behavioral change? Probably not. Engagement – yes, influence - no.

Engagement is a necessary pre-condition to Influence. (This social media measurement model addresses the distinction) Without engagement you don’t have the opportunity to influence. Influence, however, only occurs if that engagement leads to a change in attitudes, opinions, beliefs and behavior.   

Influence, Popularity and Celebrity Confusion

There also seems to be some confusion about the difference between influence, popularity and celebrity. Although related, and in some cases overlapping, they are three distinct concepts. In my opinion, at least some of the confusion stems from Klout and other influencer tools that seem to measure popularity but call it influence. So what is the difference?

Popularity is the state of being popular – widely admired, accepted or sought after.

Celebrity is a famous person, renown and fame. 

If popularity is about being well-liked and celebrity is about being well-known, influence is more about being well-respected, with associations like knowledge, persuasion and trust. Some of the confusion lies in the fact that some celebrities do have influence over the types of behaviors that make the cash register ring. Oprah comes to mind. Other celebrities, while very popular, don’t really have the ability to create meaningful influence. They can get content re-tweeted (WINNING!) but do they have any influence over the types of actions brands really value?

Keeping Online Influence in Perspective  

As we discuss the intricacies of digital influence we should also keep in mind the majority of influence occurs in the analog world. I’ve seen estimates ranging from 70 – 90% of influence occurring by offline WOM. It’s personal. It’s about real family and friends and not Twitter friends. Influence is about a relatively small number of people (Dunbar’s Number suggests humans have a finite cognitive capacity to have around 150 social relationships with other humans), and not mass influence. The fact that most influence happens offline presents another significant measurement challenge.

In summary, I’ll leave you with a few sound bites on social media influence:

  • Influence is about change
  • Engagement leads to influence
  • One can be popular but not influential
  • Measure the influence not the influencer
  • Don’t forget offline when measuring online influence.

Thanks for reading.  See it a different way?

Selecting the Right Social Media Listening Platform is a Process Not an Event

17 Sep

It is not difficult to find a social media listening platform – there are over 100 to choose from.  What is difficult is to find the right tool.  It takes a keen understanding of scope and requirements.  It takes an evaluation and selection process that will surface the best platform to fully meet your  requirements.  And it takes a well thought-out process for deploying the platform across the organization in an effective and efficient manner.   There are many questions to be asked and answers to be given.  Asking the right questions at the right time is crucial.

It is helpful to think of the overall listening platform selection process in three phases:

  1. Plan – Define requirements, stakeholders, scope
  2. Select – Create a platform evaluation process tailored to your unique requirements
  3. Deploy – The selected platform across the organization with training, workflow and other important issues addressed.
To read the rest of this post and to download the free eBook, Social Media Listening Platforms: How to select and deploy the right social media listening tools for your company, please click here.

Social Media Listening Platforms – Plan, Select, Deploy (Part Three – Deploy)

17 Jun

In Part Two of this series on social media listening platforms we offered a process for selecting a social media listening platform vendor.  Now it’s time to deploy the tool across your organization effectively and with minimal disruption.  And put the tool to work.

Configuration – We talked about value-added services in the first post in this series.  One of the services offered by many listening platform vendors is configuration.  You’ll have to decide if you want to have the vendor perform system configuration or do it yourself.  In some cases you have no choice – you submit keywords, topics and themes to the vendor and the system is programmed for you.  In other cases some basic configuration must be done by the platform vendor but the bulk of the configuration can be a DIY project.

Keywords and Topics – In part one of this series, we discussed the need to think through the keywords required to bring all relevant content into your platform.  The keywords might be company name, product/brand names, competitors, issues, segment names, executives and spokespersons and key messages.  During deployment you will need to build taxonomy around many of the keywords that represent concepts rather than singular ideas or names.  For example, if you have a message that centers on being an innovative company, you will have to decide what expressions in addition to the keyword ‘innovative’ may be classified as innovation -  leading-edge, technology leader, R&D leadership, breakthrough products, etc.  You will also have to decide words and terms to exclude from your analysis.  Both of these processes are iterative – make a change, check content relevancy, adjust, repeat.

Integration – There are a few different types of integration you may want to tackle during platform configuration and deployment.  Each of the possible forms of integration will take a little time to accomplish and may require some back and forth between you and the platform vendor and/or vendor to vendor.  I am a big fan of web analytics and social media integration.  With many listening platforms this is relatively straight forward to accomplish.  You may also want to integrate third-party data sources like Factiva, LexisNexis, VMS or Critical Mention.  Assuming the listening platform vendor you selected supports this type of integration, it also is relatively straight forward.  To address latency issues, make sure you specify load times for the content.

Reports and Workflow – Previously, we addressed many of the basic questions around reports and reporting.  In the deployment phase it’s time to make it real.  Design specific templates for each report you need.  Create a mock-up and share with your stakeholders to make sure everyone is on board with the look, feel and utility of the report.   You will want to test the various delivery mechanisms to be employed including all email clients and mobile platforms you believe may be used.  Generally speaking, assume a significant percentage of the audience may look at the report on a mobile device, making this an especially important dynamic to test.  Once you have the report format established, define your workflow process – who pulls data and when, who creates visuals and by when, who compiles and edits the report and by when, and who is responsible for distribution and against what schedule.

Training – The first decision to make with training is if you want to tackle it yourself or rely on the listening platform vendor to perform the training.  Some vendors have very strong training programs and others not so much.  Some vendors charge for training and some do the bulk of it for free.  You most likely will want to take a train-the-trainer hybrid approach to training – have a core one/two/three people trained by the platform vendor, and then charge this team with training within your company or organization.  With respect to training timing, make sure to begin training only after everyone has a log-in to the system so they can actually use the system during the training.  I usually refer to this as training with live ammo.  If you don’t do this you’ll find the half-life of training is pretty short – folks forget most of what they have learned very rapidly.  I also find a tell-show-do teaching methodology works very well (my friends at Radian6 approach training this way).  Show some slides that cover the basics, show a video or canned demo that brings it to life and then have everyone do some hands-on exercises using the platform.  Remember you will need to address initial training needs as well as ongoing needs as new users are brought on the platform.

Event-specific and Programmatic Planning – Related to keyword analysis and taxonomy build-out, it may be wise to create keyword groups for programs you know you will be asked to listen to and measure, and for any potential events, like a crisis, that you can anticipate or imagine.  With respect to programmatic listening and measurement, generally a combination of the right keywords and date-ranging will allow you to pull in program-specific content.  If programs are known at the time of configuration and deployment, get ahead of the curve and set-up the keyword groups or source filters you may need.

If a company, brand or organization has a social listening program, you are remiss if you don’t include specific keywords that may serve as an early-detection system for potential crisis.  For example, depending on the type of organization and industry, it may be advisable to set up a keyword search like this: Company Name AND fire OR explosion OR shooting OR recall OR kidnapping OR crash.

In today’s real-time world, in my opinion, it is no longer optional to have social media listening capabilities.  As a result of this three-part series on listening platforms, I hope you are better equipped to plan, select and deploy your platform effectively.

Thanks for reading.

Social Media Listening Platforms – Plan, Select, Deploy (Part Two – Select)

2 Jun

In Part One, we discussed a range of topics designed to help you plan and define the scope and requirements for selecting and deploying a social media listening platform across your company or organization.  In Part Two, we will use the knowledge and perspective we gained in planning to orchestrate a thorough and effective platform selection process.

Here is a scalable selection process that will help you surface and select the social media listening platform that best meets your unique situation and requirements.

1. Define the individuals who will be involved in the selection process – Inclusion is a powerful card to play here.  Inclusion brings different perspectives together.  Inclusion greatly improves chances for success when it is time to authorize purchase of a platform and get it deployed properly across the organization or company.  Inclusion will increase the likelihood of acceptance and use of the platform across the organization.  Include representatives from the major stakeholder groups identified during the planning process.  You might include someone from your IT department.  You might also include the individuals who must authorize the purchase.  A group of up to ten is most workable.  After ten or so, I believe you will most likely experience diminishing returns on the incremental people added to the process.

2. Develop a list of selection criteria organized by major category – Based on the planning process we undertook in Part One, develop a list of categories that are most important to learn more about.  Here are ten categories you might consider including:

  • Content Sources/Types & Aggregation Strategy – What types of social content are brought into the system?  How is the content aggregated (e.g. RSS, crawling, third-party aggregators)?  How often is each type of content aggregated?  
  • Data and Search Considerations – How long is content archived, and is back data available?  What data cleansing strategies are in place to address spam, splogs and duplicate content?  Is full Boolean logic available for constructing searches?
  • Metrics and Analytics – What specific metrics are ‘standard’ in the system?  Is automated sentiment analysis offered at the brand or post level?  What audience-level data is available?
  • Data Presentation  – What dashboard features and functionality are offered?  Can dashboards be customized by user or group?  Are drill-down capabilities available for all analytics on the dashboard?    
  • Engagement and Workflow Functionality – Does the platform offer the ability to engage directly with content owners?  Can ‘owned’ content be managed on-platform?  What workflow management and reporting capabilities are offered?
  • Integration – What additional types of data may be integrated in the system – traditional media, web analytics, email, call center, CRM, etc?
  • Reporting Capability – Does the platform have a report function?  Can reports be customized?  Automated?
  • Geographic Scope – What countries and languages are addressed by the system?  Are two-byte languages supported?
  • Cost Structure – What is the cost basis – seat charge, subscription, content volume and/or number of searches?  How does pricing vary with increases in the cost basis?
  • Value-added Services – Does the listening platform vendor offer system configuration services?  Do they perform analysis and reporting?

Within each major category, list the specific criteria most relevant and important to your requirements.  For example, within the Data and Search Considerations category, you might list ten specific criteria that you want to assess for each vendor:

  • How often is Twitter data refreshed?  Can refresh timing be specified?
  • How often is new content from other sources crawled/brought into the system?
  • How long can each content type be archived?
  • Is back data available?  How far back and at what cost?
  • What data cleansing strategies are in place?
  • Can data be easily exported in CSV/Excel format and is bulk data extraction supported?
  • Can users build and customize topics and searches?
  • What types of Boolean operators are supported?
  • Is proximity search supported?
  • Do users have the ability to date-range data for analysis?

3. Develop a scorecard to use in evaluating the potential listening platform vendors/partners – Using the major categories and specific criteria you have defined, develop an overall scorecard to be used in the evaluation process.  Think about creating a weighting system at the category level to help prioritize the importance of each category.  Assign a number of points to each criteria within a given category.  A scorecard might contain ten categories each containing ten criteria.  Begin by assigning a one-point value to each criteria (100 points total) and then apply weighting at the category level.

4. Develop the initial vendor consideration set – List all the social media platform vendors you wish to consider.  Pick ones you are familiar with and have positive experiences with as a starting point.  Talk to colleagues within, and experts outside, the organization to gain their perspective on the platforms that should be considered.  Read blog posts and reviews of the platforms to gain additional outside perspective.  Visit vendor websites and watch demo videos.  Pull it all together and gain consensus amongst your team on the platforms that will be considered.

5. Do some homework and narrow the list to a manageable number (perhaps five to ten)- If your initial vendor consideration set is too large (if it has more than ten vendors it is too large), do some additional homework and narrow your list to a more manageable number.

6. Develop and distribute an RFI based on evaluation criteria – Using the categories and criteria you developed, create a request for proposal, asking the listening platform vendors the questions that are most critical to meeting your requirements.  Specify the format (e.g. PowerPoint, Word) you would like responses to take.  Give the vendors about two weeks to respond.

7. Evaluate and score vendor responses – Once the RFI documents are received, each should be reviewed carefully and scored according to the criteria and weighting decided previously.  Depending on the number of vendors being evaluated and ease of getting the entire evaluation team together, there may be merit in blocking out an afternoon to gather as a group, read through the responses, and decide how each will be scored.  This is a bit of a ‘pulling off the band-aid’  approach that will save time and allow for spirited discussion and consensus scoring.  If this is impractical for whatever reason in your company or organization, assign one of more RFIs to individuals who will then develop the scorecards.  The scorecards may then be reviewed together in a meeting or conference call, and consensus reached on scoring.  Obviously the potential issue with multiple people independently creating scorecards is consistency.  You want the evaluation to be as fair and consistent as possible given whatever constraints you are working under.

8. Develop a short list of vendors – If your number of vendors under consideration is over five, use the scorecards to reduce the list to three to five platforms that will undergo further evaluation.  These are your finalists.  You should always promptly notify vendors not moving forward in the process, and offer to provide feedback via phone or email on why they were not selected to move forward.  This professionalism will be much appreciated by the vendors, and represents a good learning opportunity for all involved if done well.

9. Deploy test scenarios – At this point we have narrowed the list of contenders and are ready to proceed with some specific tests designed to illuminate the real-world capabilities of the platforms.  Here are three possible test scenarios.  You can use all three for a very rigorous evaluation, or just one or two if that fits your needs better.

  • Test scenario 1: Give each vendor a defined list of search terms (brands, competitors, issues) and the languages/countries you want to evaluate.   You should use search terms that are directly relevant to your company or organization.  Explain what type of analysis you would like performed and ask each to address insight generation.  Platform vendors are given one week to prepare an analysis.  If practical, you could ask each vendor to give a presentation of the results in person.  Alternatively, use a web conference to review the results.
  • Test scenario 2: This is a real-time exercise designed to assess vendor data volume by country/language and signal-to-noise ratio of relevant content.  Get on a web conference with each social media listening platform vendor.  Give them a new list of three search terms and ask that they go into their platform, configure the system for the three search terms and then pull in relevant content for the past 30 days.  Once that is accomplished, ask them to export the data as an CSV or Excel file and email you the results while everyone is still on the line.  A more detailed off-line review of the results should be undertaken, including translation of languages, to assess relevancy of the results.
  • Test scenario 3: This has been referred to by a colleague as the Dr. Evil test…In conjunction with test scenario two, it may be interesting to ‘plant’ known content that matches the search terms on different Twitter channels, Facebook pages and Forums in each country that is of interest to you.  When you receive your data export, examine to determine if the known content was found.

10. Pick a winner – At this point you have the RFIs, scorecards and test results.  You are ready to make your decision.  Convene the evaluation team, discuss the results and make a decision.  With luck, a clear winner will have emerged from the process.  Contact the winner and negotiate terms of a contract.  Don’t notify the non-winners until after a contract is in place, just in case you need to move to your second choice for whatever reason.

In Part Three, we will discuss how to maximize your potential for success when actually deploying the social media listening platform across your organization.

Social Media Listening Platforms – Plan, Select, Deploy (Part One – Plan)

19 May

It is not difficult to find a social media listening platform/tool – there are over 100 to choose from.  What is difficult is to find the right tool.  It takes a keen understanding of your scope and requirements.  It takes an evaluation and selection process that will surface the best platform to fully meet your requirements.  And it takes a well thought-out process for deploying the platform across the organization in an effective and efficient manner.   There are many questions to be asked and answers to be given.  Asking the right questions at the right time is crucial.

It is helpful to think of the overall process in three phases:

Plan – Define requirements, stakeholders, scope

Select – Create a platform evaluation process tailored to your unique requirements

Deploy – The selected platform across the organization with training, workflow and other important issues addressed.

This three-part series will tackle each phase one at a time.  First up – Plan.

In many ways, the planning phase is the most important.  Overlook an important detail here and you may or may not be able to overcome it later.  Here are ten topic areas to discuss within your organization to make sure you are setting yourself up for success.

  1. Stakeholders – What are the primary stakeholder groups within my company or organization?  Possible stakeholder groups might include marketing, corporate communications and customer service/care at the macro level.  Depending on the size of your organization, various regions, divisions, groups or product lines may also be distinct stakeholder groups.  Once you have identified the primary stakeholders, set up time to meet with each group.  Understand how they currently use social listening tools and what, from their perspective, are ‘must have’ capabilities versus ‘nice to have’ capabilities in a social listening platform.  Ask each stakeholder group the applicable questions from the list below.
  2. Geographic Scope – What languages and countries are stakeholders interested in including in the platform?  Try to understand the relative priority of each country and language.  Also be sure to comprehend future requirements.  For example, if Chinese is not a priority today but will be within two years, you may want to only consider listening platforms that support two-byte languages.  Also probe to assess if social media content will need to be translated into other languages.  This may be primarily an internal workflow issue or outsourcing issue, but might also be a platform consideration.
  3. Value-added Services – It is very important to develop a point of view on how monitoring, analysis and reporting will be done within your organization.  Will each stakeholder group be responsible for doing this themselves or will a centralized analytics and insights group be responsible?  In addition to the self-serve approach, you could consider outsourcing this work to your social listening platform vendor or to one of your agencies – PR, digital or advertising.  In my experience, it is easy for a company or organization to underestimate both the skill and time commitment necessary to make the self-serve approach effective.
  4. Content/Data Types – Social media listening platform vendors generally include content from the primary social media properties -  Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Forums, YouTube and MySpace (being generous here).  Flickr is also included in many.  Currently on vendor roadmaps are properties like Linked-In and perhaps customer review sites.  Make sure the content types the platform supports meets your stakeholder requirements.  It is also very important to understand how the social content is being aggregated and how frequently (see Reporting for more on latency issues).  The fundamental ways in which content is aggregated in social listening platforms are crawling the web, RSS feeds and third-party content aggregators (e.g. Boardreader for Forums).  Many platform vendors employ a hybrid approach.
  5. Metrics and Analytics – Most social listening platforms either have a set group of analytics that deliver specific metrics or they offer configurable analytic ‘widgets’ that may be used to create metrics like share of conversation or volume and tone trend.  Some platforms offer a combination of these two approaches.  Based on your needs and measurement strategy/approach, define the analytics and metrics you would ideally like to see (e.g. volume, sentiment, messages, share-of-conversation, association with key topics).  In the vendor selection phase, this list will be useful to compare and contrast vendors.
  6. Keywords and Topics – During the planning phase, it is wise to develop a list of the major keywords and topics you believe will be necessary for the listening platform.  These keywords might include the company name, key competitors, industry issues, market segment names,  brand names, product names, key spokespersons, executives and competitor and industry spokespersons.  Social media listening platforms have varying degrees of sophistication with respect to their search capability.  Some have full Boolean logic, others offer very simple AND/OR logic.  The importance of this difference depends to some degree on you company/brand name as well as the sophistication of the people who will be configuring and maintaining your system.  If, for example, your company name is a common word (e.g. Apple, Visa), you will need stronger logic capabilities that include proximity search.
  7. Integration – Integration of varying data types – search, web, social, advertising, customer opinion and others – is the present and future of online measurement.  It is therefore important to understand what capabilities, if any, the social listening platform vendor has to integrate with other data types/streams.  Do they offer the ability to connect with web analytics packages via API for example?  The web/social integration is becoming increasingly common.  If you need to integrate traditional media with social, it might be a nice feature if the social listening platform allows third-party content aggregators like Factiva, Lexis Nexis, VMS or Critical Mention.
  8. Reporting – During the planning phase it is helpful to think through a series of questions about reports and reporting.  What type of reports are necessary?  Who will be responsible for their creation?  How often will reports be issued?  Does the system need the capability to automatically generate and deliver reports?  What about automated alerts?  There are quite a wide range of report capabilities represented by the various vendors in the listening space.  One potentially critical area to explore during the vendor evaluation phase is related to report frequency and perhaps to report type (think crisis).  That is how often new content is brought into the system.  Content latency issues may cause real problems during a fast-moving crisis.  Generally, the content latency differs by media type.  Best for Twitter and worst (perhaps) for forums, some of which restrict crawling to no more than once per day.  Within Twitter, the type of relationship the vendor has with Twitter should also be explored.  Not all Firehose arrangements are the same.  While most social media listening platforms claim to be ‘real time’, it is interesting to ask the vendors to define what they mean by ‘real time’.  The answers may surprise you.
  9. Access – Discuss who needs access to the listening platform and what they want to see and be able to do once they are in the system.  Do your different stakeholder groups (Divisions, product lines, brands, corporate, marketing, etc.) want or need a customized view of the data perhaps presented on a separate dashboard within the system?  It is also a good idea to have a perspective on who your power users will be versus the casual users.  This distinction applies not only to system access, but also in areas like training.
  10. Engagement – Some social media listening platforms support engagement with content owners directly from the platform, others do not.  Some engagement capabilities are elegant, others are rudimentary.  Make sure to explore the engagement needs of your stakeholders and understand how important this capability is to them in the short and long-term.  If engagement capabilities are important, you will also want to explore if the system allows users to tag content, assign content, manage assignments and track workflow.

In Part Two, we’ll examine a rigorous process for social media listening platform vendor evaluation and selection.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 160 other followers