A while back, I remember someone posting a question to a Linked-In discussion group along the lines of, ‘I just got my client a hit in USA Today. How much is that worth?’. More recently, ADWEEK ran an article entitled, Value of a Fan on Facebook: $3.60, citing an attempt by Vitrue to essentially assign a media value to a Facebook Fan. (Sidebar: Is a Liker worth as much as a Fan?). Setting aside an argument of the value attribution methodology used by Vitrue (I’m not a fan, or a liker), the fundamental issue I have with each example is the same, they are trying to measure the pieces and not the puzzle.
A media hit, a tweet, gaining a Fan/Liker, or obtaining a Follower are all pieces to a larger puzzle called a social media/business campaign, initiative, effort or program. For simplicity, let’s refer to them as programs henceforth. Programs have, or should have, objectives. Done correctly, these objectives are measurable. Good measurement practice suggests you assess performance against stated objectives. Sure, it is also important to assess performance of program strategies and tactics – primarily as a diagnostic – but ultimately we must measure performance against objectives. This is a base condition for accountability.
Gaining media coverage, sending tweets or getting others to tweet about you, creating Likers or gaining Followers should be thought of as strategies or perhaps tactics. Objectives are what you want to happen as a result of the combination of strategies and tactics. Programs are not made of single media hits, tweets, Likers or Followers. They are longitudinal, holistic and integrated. Successful programs might generate hundreds of media hits, scores of blog posts, and thousands of Likers or Followers. Orchestrated correctly, all these strategies and tactics should help us achieve our overall program objectives. The reality of the situation is any one discrete result of a campaign – a hit, Liker or Follower for example – usually has a very small overall impact. The impact most likely would not be measurable, and if it was, it would not likely be meaningful. They are just pieces of the overall program puzzle.
Let’s conclude with a simplistic Facebook program example. Your tactic is to gain more Likers that meet a certain demographic profile. Your strategies are to create an engaged brand community in Facebook, and to encourage online and offline WOM about the brand. Your objective is to increase brand preference from 17% to 21% in the next 12 months. Measure this objective, and if you want to do value attribution and calculate ROI, figure out how much each 1% increase in brand preference is worth in incremental sales. That’s a puzzle worth solving.