Web Strategy: How to Measure your Social Media Program

I’ve been meeting and interviewing some of the top thought and practice leaders in the Web Metrics and Social Media space. I’m seeing a trend, and want to document it in order to help others. I’ve also had to measure a blog program at my previous job, so I know the challenges


Situation:

You run a social media program at a corporation, and you need to measure to improve your program, but more importantly to show to your bosses that this ‘new media’ program is worth it’s weight.

Challenges:
You see the immediate value of a community program but your management is unconvinced. Furthermore, the brand police and the traditional hard-liners don’t like your ‘open-thinking’ type of revolt. There may be other challenges too: lots of activity but few people, or you simply don’t know where to start.

Goals

Deliver a report that demonstrates the value of a social media program as well as helps you improve the program over time.

Key Concepts:

Define goals of program
Why are you doing this community program? Why did you launch your blog? That needs to be determined ahead of time, or there’s simply nothing to measure against. Was it to: reach customers, drive awareness, listen, be human, respond to crisis, or build better products?

Social Media Measurement from the start
Measurement should be baked into your program before you launch it. It’s not an afterthought, it’s part of the process.

Measuring all of it may be inefficient and avoid paralysis

I’ve had some discussions with some of the leaders in this industry, and we don’t want you to be stuck in “Paralysis Analysis”. Shel Israel suggests that we don’t measure the value of a phone anymore –we know the value. At some point, business blogging will be like email –everywhere.

Start with the low hanging fruit
There’s quite a bit of free tools to initially measure, you should consider these right off the bat: Web Analytics, RSS Analytics, Technorati ranking. You should also be monitoring who’s linking to you (Technorati) and setup Google Alerts with keywords of company, products, and key employees.

Reporting vs Alerting
Reports is different from alerts, you’ll need to monitor too, marketing is in real-time now. A negative meme, a exploding battery could shatter your brand, are you watching in real time?

Attributes to measure
There are many attributes to measure, which will be determined based upon your goals, here’s a partial list (learn more from this roundtable):

-Activity (Web Analytics of blog or site)
-Tone (Sentiment)
-Velocity (Spread over time, URLs, Trackbacks)
-Attention (Duration on site)
-Participation (comments, trackbacks)
-Many qualitative attributes (comments, what did they say, what did they mean)

Measurement processes will always differ, depending on goals
You may never measure the same way for each program, the goals of each program will change the method in which you measure. the attributes will stay the same, but you’ll just use them in different ways to create a new report.

Learn to tell a story

I hear that CEOs are rarely satisfied with reports from Marketing as they don’t tell a story, the same applies to telling a story with your social media program. A bunch of facts and figures are not good enough to tell the story. What happened, where are we now, and where are we going. Did more folks come into the forum? how? and why? What are they doing now?

Qualitative is just as important as numbers

What really matters are the opinions, voices, and experiences that people are sharing. The written anecdote that persuades prospects to customers (or the other way around) is very important. Be sure to monitor and use these in your reports.

Case Studies:
I used to provide reports to stakeholders for my business blogging program. It would include blog site metrics (visitors, page views, top views, top commented posts, IP locations, etc) It would also have lists of qualiatitatve comments and discussions that needed to be answered out on the blogosphere, I’d also send alerts to teams when users were talking about products.

Additional Resources

  • We recorded our panel on Social Media Measurement at the New Media Summit, (Video)
  • Web marketing has spread off the corporate domain
  • Social Media Measurement Roundtable with Factiva
  • Forrester’s analysis on Blog ROI: GM Blogs
  • List of companies that measure social media (It’s growing fast)
  • Practical measurement and ROI attributes and concepts from Sean
  • I will add additional concepts or ideas over time, feel free to add a comment or start a meme from your own blog, if it adds to the conversation I’ll add it to this list and link to you.