Questions on Social Media Marketing and Measurement?

I’m working on a series of more practical guides to the basics of Social Media Marketing and beyond, and I’m also aware that the Marketing Measurement page is in need of updating.

So, if you’ve got any questions on Social Media Marketing, post them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to include them in the guide, or to answer them directly.

And if you know of any measurement tools that I’ve missed, please post it on that page and I’ll include it.

Cheers!

The tools to measure social media and community engagement

Tape Measure by redjar on Flickr (CC licence)

Tape Measure by redjar on Flickr (CC licence)

If only it was that simple! But to make it easier, I’ve finally started compiling a list of the tools and resources for the measurement of social media and community marketing and engagement – ranging from free to paid options, and Web Analytics to Buzz Metrics.

It’s in no way a comprehensive list, but as I was compiling material to add in to the MeasurementCamp project, I thought I might as well list it here and get comments and additions from some of the measurement mavens I know lurk in the comments!

I’m also debating whether the list would be improved by my personal opinions about the tools I’ve trialled and used, and those I continue to use – I’d be interested in peoples views for and against – although there is the caveat that I’m nowhere near the expert I’d like to be…

Anyway, comments and additions can be put in the comments on this post, the comments on the Marketing Measurement Tools page, or via email from the About page.

The Measures of Engagement meme (Convincing the disconnected)

Another week, another meme! And it’s another one that not only has some real value, but it also bloody tricky to answer in a way that’s not rehashing the work of other intelligent people looking at social media. Dave Cushman started it off as Measures of Engagement – convincing the disconnected, and I think it’s important to keep the second part of the title in mind. As Cush says, if you’re blogging, tweeting, and building your own widgets already, you get it – but there are millions out there that don’t, and if you want companies etc to get involved in the right way, it’s down to us to show some leadership and go outside the comfort zone of the social media echo chamber.

I disagree slightly with Cush when he says those that get social media don’t require the numbers. Case in point – the Adage Power 150, Google analytics, Feedburner stats, Twitter follower counters and all the other things we adorn blogs with. The lack of yardsticks is one problem that currently affects social media usage within businesses, and it’s one of the reasons why I’m a keen supporter of MeasurementCamp‘s proactive focus on sharing case studies and numbers. It’s fine to quote Zappos and WillItBlend ad infinitum, (and I have), but the more relevant and close to your market you can find examples, the more useful it is in convincing the disconnected. And sometimes that’s the approach you need to take, because not every manager is just waiting for you to persuade them onto Twitter or Facebook.

So measurement is a given:

The next stage is to look at what the end result should be. Is it sales conversions or advertising clickthroughs? Are your conversion mechanisms on your website, or are they affiliated via widgets?

Either way, there are two things that work across traditional and new businesses – conversions and the numbers of them.

This is where the battle begins. Social media is an emerging and labour intensive skill. It’s unlikely to drive the same numbers as an SEO campaign, unless you’re really lucky/gaming the likes of Digg.

So what we need is to start tracing the steps of the engaged and the disengaged, and be able to compare the conversion rates – that’s pretty good evidence of the power of social media (If it works…humans have a horrible habit of doing the exact opposite of what you want, at the worst possible moments!).

And controversially, that begins with the traditional web analytics package, whether that’s Google, or a paid service like Webtrends.

That’s something that’s easy to forget in the rush to start driving traffic to the site, and worrying about sentiment. If you’re already using search traffic for relevant keywords to drive conversions, you’ve already got an effective way of getting large numbers of interested people.

So does social media make your boss money?

So you need to be able to show where social media efforts site between someone accidentally browsing round your site because they’re bored, and those coming because they want to buy something that minute. And where in the process social media can enhance the conversions for people arriving via search – is it product reviews, or a Q and A section, or customer service?

Why do we want users chatting?

And if you’re relying on click-throughs, you’ve got more impetus for social media. After all, if people are arriving for content rather than purchases, then it’s down to the content, and the strength of your brand and values to convince them that clicking on a third party will give them what they’re after. If I see a shoddy site, unrelated adverts, and no community or loyalty, then I’m going to distrust that banner stuck in the right hand column and leave for somewhere else before I can be tempted into clicking on anything. That’s where the ‘onsite engagement’ is important.

Isn’t a Facebook fan page a waste of time?

And then it’s onto ‘external engagement’. That’s the bit where you make yourselves available where ever an interested person might be, and do the utmost to serve their needs, in the hope they’ll get to know you and your brand and value it over your competitors. And the basis for this comes from the stats showing how social media efforts increase conversions, and clickthroughs from the first two.

So why bother with trying to get numbers?

If SEO is hugely effective for people finding stuff, and when they arrive they’re engaged and converted, then why bother with the outreach?

Firstly, depending on traffic levels, and the advertising model you use, a traffic boost from a social network (the second biggest source of traffic after search engines) can really drive a particular promotion or great piece of content. And if you can show engagement delivers a high percentage of conversions and a big traffic boost, then you’re really set.

Secondly, not everyone is using search any more. I can’t remember the last time I actively searched for a product review before making a purchase. I still read reviews, but I start by asking my network for people with relevant knowledge that I trust, and then follow their recommendations to extra content.

If you’re not getting recommended, you’re going to be paying more to get search traffic, and you’re not getting the recommendation traffic. Effectively you’re trying to run a marathon with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears. It’s still possible to win, but it’s going to get pretty tough!

This is the bit where the new tools come in.

You can start monitoring terms via Google news alerts (And almost every social media person has a personal vanity search set-up I’ll wager!). That can get pretty time consuming pretty quickly, which is where buzz monitoring comes in, e.g. Radian6, Brandwatch, Onalytica, Nielsen etc (apologies for anyone I’ve missed). These tools provide various ways for aggregating and managing all the mentions of your brand across the internet. The one downside of having a variety of useful tools is that it prevents some of the useful comparisons – e.g. sentiment between brands using different programmes – but I’d expect the market to slowly coalesce as social media matures…

This is also where you hook into available APIs, and allow people to promote your content on the social aggregators.

And that’s about where I’ve got to!

(I should say in my defence, this has been a bit of a stream of conscious post due to upset babies, meowing cats and other distractions, so I’m really interested in as many comments as possible to help distill the right parts out of this..)

Now the more fun bit…tagging some people who will probably struggle less with this than I did at the start of my social media journey within a large media company.

If it’s measurement, then I have to tag Katie Paine, without any implied buzz monitoring favouritism I haven’t chatted to Giles for a while. I’ll also tag Ste Davies, Luke for a personal brand approach,  and Chris because he normally likes to get all argumentative.

Edit: I was going to tag benrmatthews but there was some blog address confusion, which has now been resolved…So he’s back on the list!

My dog ate my blog post….

Well, it seemed as good an excuse as any. Aside from the fact we don’t own a dog. Instead, we have a slightly camp cat, and a slightly psychotic rabbit.

Anyway, I’ve just gone past the time I originally scheduled to give myself a good night’s rest, so if you want lots of content from me, here’s my Google sharred items. Included today is the new blog by Google’s Sergey Brin and other assorted joy. Sadly, I’m so busy, I can’t even point to my normally numerous and notable Twitter updates (@badgergravling).

But do be patient with me as I’ll be back on form tomorrow (even if it’s the evening, or technically into Saturday morning!). I’ve started working on meme response on measuring social media for Dave Cushman…

All I’m saying at this stage is that I’ve been thinking a lot about the analogy between ‘solving’ a murder, and ‘solving’ a conversion. And what I mean by ‘solving’ a conversion is following the criminal procedure, and starting from the thing we can prove, and then working backwards…rather than the normal method of social media measurement (And the one I generally use), of trying to judge what to measure in preparation.

After all. How often do we really, truly and honestly need all our metrics and measurements in real time, when we’re feeding back on a project days, weeks, months or years later?

Consumers and bosses…

Apologies for the slightly cryptic and unexplored post yesterday – a reminder that sometimes an idea needs a bit more fleshing out before clicking the Publish button!

What was foremost in my mind is something that is vitally important to my current role, and social media/community as a whole. And that’s the fact that, despite the growth in Web 2.0 technology, and adoption of community techniques – it isn’t half as widespread as you might assume from within the tech/blogging bubble. Plenty of people, even within the digital world, find it hard to see the reason for investing time in social networking and how it applies to them – and outside that area or department, it’s even more of a leap.

And what has come out of my work, attending valuable gatherings like Measurementcamp, and reading great blogs such as Web Strategy by Forrester Senior Analyst Jeremiah Owyang, or KD Paine’s PR Measurement blog, is that it’s the reporting, measurement, and justification of any community work is as vitally important as doing it in the first place.

And being able to show the measurable aspects of community/social media work, and explaining the direct and indirect effects on the bottom line is absolutely essential in changing the way companies think – particularly the larger, more institutional companies.

If you need a refreshing reminder about making things clearer for the rest of your company, and particularly more senior management, bosses, and CEOs, Avinash Kaushik has some good posts on Occam’s Razor which can feel like they pour a bit of cold water on the evangelical aspects of community and social media – but actually really help clarify the most useful methods of making things simple and effective – rather than relying on enthusiasm, buzzwords, and what it’s easy to assume is the inescapable logic of enagaging communities. Particularly this one, and this one!

I certainly don’t have all the answers – although the benefit of facing these challenges to varying extents in my day job means I’m slowly understanding more of the solutions – but what really interests me is how other people are tackling the challenges, what case studies people are willing to share, where people have found value, and what levels of commitment companies, particularly larger institutions, are actually committing to community engagement – is anyone finding the returns and solutions that make community pervasive through their company – or are large companies forever destined to limit it to experimenting via the fringes of what they do? And how much real effect does that have? And is technology – targeting adverts, engaging via Twitter etc, actually moving further ahead of where the biggest value is?

Personally, I think there’s a balance between using the tool of community marketing, and traditional digital and offline marketing. And that the trick is to be ahead of the mainstream by a small amount in order to establish and experiment in a space to ensure you’re on the right track before the crowds turn up – but what views have you got?

So are you in a large or small company? Or working as an individual?

Are you attempting to convince others – particularly management of the value of community and social media?

And are you targeting the early adopter communities right now? (e.g. Twitter, Plurk, Seesmic etc), or are you going with more mainstream efforts? (Facebook, Myspace, Digg, Stumbleupon).

The cost of social media

When you’re looking at why companies might be reluctant to use social media and blogs properly, and why measurement is so important, it’s important to remember there’s a very real cost involved to them.

It’s something I’m acutely aware of, both in my professional role, and particularly in my personal life at the moment. My blogging and use of social networks has definitely been affected by my other commitments, whether it’s doing work on our house, sorting the bills, fixing the cars, or taking care of our pets. And the biggest commitment is to our baby son,  which has had a big effect on how I can justify spending time online.

And in my professional role, I’m very aware that although implementing social media work has no direct financial cost, it has a real cost in terms of allocating time and resource.

Just as I wouldn’t expect to pay for something I didn’t receive, it’s unreasonable to expect a company to pay for for staff, and all the additional costs (office space, broadband, etc, etc,) to pursue social media engagement without them receiving a return which exceeds that value (increase in sales, website traffic etc). That’s where planning, measurement, and being realistic all come into play…

(And even this post has taken twice as long as it used to, due to my son needing attention!)

Measuring marriage – and social media

I’ve been involved in a lot of discussion about measuring social media and social networks, particularly around readership, influence, and social media and community marketing. And I quite often hear the quote that such measurement is like ‘figuring out if you have a good marriage’, which comes from Ian Schafer of Deep Focus. The Adweek article in which is appears goes on to say: “Quantitative measurements will only get you so far. “You can’t assign a number to that,” he said.”

I’m no analytics or statistics expert, but when I thought about, it occurred to me that there’s actually quite a lot of quantitative measurement of marriages that does go on. And judging whether you’re in a good marriage certainly requires benchmarking in some quantitative or qualitative way. Just the same as social media measurement can go pretty far in indicating whether your audience sees you as their one true love:

Anniversaries: Wedding anniversaries have rules (Paper for the 1st year? Gold for 50) to indicate the length of time to all interested parties – because a general trend would be that longevity equals a good marriage. By the same token, longterm, loyal, returning readers indicate you’re doing something right!

Divorce rates: By the same token, you can watch trends on divorces to see if a group is happy in marriage. And you can watch single visit users, and definitely unsubscribers and users deleting their accounts to gauge the same thing for your site. And unlike general figures for splitting up, you’re able to easily isolate individuals to explore the reasons in more detail.

Holidays and presents: Whether it’s a dowry, or the amount your partner spent on the wedding/honeymoon/Valentine’s Day/Birthday presents etc, at some point even the most romantic soul has probably looked at how much is being spent as a guide to how much their partner cares. That’s why engagement rings are supposed to cost 3 month’s wages, for example. And a key metric in the website/user relationship is definitely click-throughs and sales conversions.

Romantic dinners: One of the big tips about marriages is to make time to go out and spend quality time romancing each other. You could see that couples in a good marriage enjoy this time, chat all night, gaze longingly at each other across the table, etc. By the same token, you can monitor the bounce rate and time on site of your visitors to see if they’re visiting several pages and enjoying your company – or splitting at the earliest opportunity.

Doing the housework: Does your partner invest time and effort in doing their share around the house? Do they help to make it a home? And do your users invest time and effort in submitting User Generated Content? Do they customise their profiles? Do they comment on stories and forums?

Are they faithful?: In the modern digital world, it’s highly unlikely a visitor will use just one site in any area of interest. But rather than sulking about their polygamous ways, it’s about following them and looking at who their affair is with. Figure out what is so attractive about the other websites they visit, and look at whether you can beat it, or use it in some way. Rather than seeing them continue to stray, inject some romance by dressing up your website in the RSS feeds of the other destinations, for example.

Talking about your partner: One of the big qualitative and quantitative benchmarks is seeing how often your friends talk about their partners, and whether it’s normally in a good or bad way. That can be with friends over a coffee or a beer – or in a survey by a magazine. Whatever the source, it’s what prompts you to go home and ask why your partner doesn’t treat you as well, or tell them how badly someone else is doing. And it’s the big one for social media measurement, because it’s all about the referrals and the recommendations. Recommendations and links are the equivalent of public displays of affection.

Now, if you combine all that information about two individuals in a relationship, you start seeing that actually, there’s quite a lot of ways you could build up a reasonable idea of whether a relationship is being enjoyed by the people within it, and then be able to compare it to other marriages. It’s not 100% accurate, and maybe they’re staying together for the children, but metrics never cover ever 100%

And by the same token, there’s a huge wealth of information already available on social media marketing, especially if you’re already tracking the normal metrics via a standard analytics package.

The trick is working out what to add to what is already available (influence of prominent couples/recommendations for example), and how to bring it all together into something that is understandable. That’s the alchemy.

Solve one problem to justify social media marketing to any boss

There’s just one problem which requires solving to finally put social media/buzz/community marketing people in a position to easily justify investment and resource.

Image by uBookworm under Creative Commons

We can all measure the splash of a promotion dropping into our worlds.

But what we need to do is be able to measure the quality and quantity of every ripple it makes, and everything else it disturbs, and combine all those measurements into one, simple, and hopefully big, number.

Until digital and social media advocates are in positions of responsibility in large companies around the globe – that’s what it takes. And to get to that position, you have to either accommodate the measures of the old school, or start a new firm and grow to the size of a global megacorp. In the meantime, we need to be famous to 15 people for quality,

and still show we can also reach 15,000 with anything down to the merest 5th hand whisper.

The problem is, measuring every single effect of even a single conversation is near impossible. But the closer we strive to it, the more influence and reach we can report back.

Measuring social media and buzz marketing

It’s a great time to be interested in measuring the output of social media marketing (buzz marketing, community marketing, WOM – call it what you will!).

Because so much of it is so new and evolving, and because it’s as much about quality as quantity, essentially it’s like trying to measure magic or trying to turn common metals into gold.

And being part of evolving social alchemy is pretty exciting. Most online measures of success are still evolving – but the basics are well established. Unique Users, Hits, Page Impressions etc are universal enough that everyone understands them. And terms like Bounce Rates are following close behind.

But measuring the value of a company CEO spending time chatting on Twitter, and what benefits that gives the company?

You could measure followers.

You could measure referral clicks to the company website.

You could even measure @replies as a metric for engagement.

And it’s the fact no-one has worked out the right answer (or combination of answers), that makes it so exciting. For the first time since choosing my A-levels, I’m actually using and enjoying maths to uncover the solutions – and working out how to best serve communities that seem determined to surprise and confuse me on a daily basis.

Just wish I’d done a maths/statistics A-level rather than Biology now!