Monday, July 19, 2010

Measuring Social Media

Social media metrics are all the rage, but I still think people are asking the wrong questions. More often than not, I get asked how to measure the effectiveness of a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, or even a blog. The problem is not in measuring those tools, but in what to measure. Most of the time, we focus on the tool, and not the strategy or the thing that we're trying to effect.

For instance, the other day I was asked by one of our departments if our health plan could use Facebook. My response was "Sure, but why?" There is this overwhelming sense that we need to be using social media, but no real reason why. Without fully understanding the why a tool gets used, the measure of effectiveness is always going to fall short of usability.

I had the privilege of interviewing Jim Sterne, an international and seasoned veteran in the relationship between marketing and customer interactions. For 25 years he's been working with companies, helping them measure the value of the Internet as a medium for creating and strengthening customer relationships. He's written six books, the latest being
Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment. You can listen to my podcast interview here.

Sterne reinforces the need for having solid business objectives. If a marketer fails to start with a clearly defined problem they're trying to solve, or a quantifiable gain/achievement they're trying to make, then measuring social media tools as a means to achieve those objectives is going to be difficult at best, and likely less actionable than you want.

All that said, I did ask Sterne what he thought was the single most important thing to look at when evaluating social media as a tool. He offers three things: 1) Did the tool help you to earn more? 2) Did the tool help you to spend less? 3) Did the tool make your customers happier? Though this sounds pretty basic, I have to agree that this approach is fundamentally the best. Social media doesn't have to be complicated, and it can be measured -- we just need to start with clearer objectives so we know what we're trying to measure.

Lastly, I asked Sterne who should own social media in the organization. You'll appreciate his answer
in the podcast. But I'll hint at his response..."who owns the telephone?"

-- David Kinard, PCM

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