Social Media Measurement: Dashboards vs GPS

Left Image: The dashboard in a car measures key health metrics, but the most important screen is the GPS, it tells me where I’m headed, where I am. and how to get there.

Yesterday, I attended Federated Media’s Conversational Marketing Summit in the gorgeous Presidio (my family has history there, my Grandfather was a First LT in the Airforce in WW2 and spent much time there) and moderated a panel on one of my favorite topics: Social Media Measurement. On the panel I had Rob Crumpler, President and CEO, BuzzLogic, Avinash Kaushik, Author, Blogger, Analytics Evangelist, Google, Shahar Nechmad, Founder and CEO, NuConomy, and David Veneski, representing demand from the brands at Intel. These guys were smart.

Although I wasn’t there, apparently the first panel on this topic broke the rules on panels (pushing their products) and didn’t give the audience what they wanted, and we had a fiery conversation. Essentially, we pushed why measure, starting with questions to the brand side, as you may know Intel, a culture of engineers takes measurement very seriously, then learned about the different types of measurement from NuConomy’s X Engagement measurement, Google’s Web Analytics, and Buzz Logic’s Influence measurement style.

[Although Social Media Dashboards tell us key health readings, to be successful, brands need “GPS” to find out where are you headed, where are you now, and where are you going. Measure against an objective]

I questioned them to prove that their methdology was really going to help brands know if this triggered a true conversion all the way to buying cycle –they group could not prove it except with one off anecdotes. This is not a fault of the panel at all, but a major challenge with social media marketing –it’s generally unproven.

Also, FM (who have fielded some impressive campaigns) launched a brand new metrics dashboard called the Conversational Marketing Toolbox that aggregates data from many conversational sources (including Twitter) and was one of the first aggregated dashboards that I’ve seen out of the box, I certainly will take a closer look. I’ve seen the measurement dashboards of quite a few social media measurement companies, and have also advised large brands on how to configure their own dashboards internally, and I’ve noticed a trend across many of them.

Everyday we prescribe the POST methodology (someone published some slides), essentially, we want brands to have an actual objective before they set off and and experiment with social media tools. The same applies here:

The one piece of insight I provide them, and now you, is that social media measurement is like driving a modern car. You may have a dashboard with all the lights, toggles, gauges, and metrics, but remember, the most important piece of data to have in front of you is the GPS screen. The GPS screen indicates where you want to go (your objective), where are you now, and how to get there.

Update: Susan Etlinger has key quotes from the panel yesterday that she published from the Horn group blog, I enjoy how she stays engaged in the conversation.

John BattellePicture 022Picture 010Picture 008

Thanks to Brett Crosby for taking these pics of the panel yesterday.

  • That sounds like a great session, and it’s good to hear that you pushed the panelists a bit and reiterated that social media is a “generally unproven” space. Unproven…but smart people sense that there is value and are scrambling like crazy to figure out how to drive that value *and* measure it, as opposed to simply sitting back and saying, “it can’t be readily measured, so let’s not go there.”

    I like the GPS analogy, but I also hope like heck that it doesn’t get picked up and run with in an overtly literal fashion, as happened with “corporate dashboards” that manifested themselves as an airplane cockpit (thankfully, we’re slowly working our way out of that data visualization morass). Rule Nos. 1, 2, and 3 of effective dashboards is that they need to be built around “where you want to go (your objective).” “Where you are now” has some nuance, though. Most in-car GPSs obliterate “where you’ve been,” but, in the case of a social media dashboard, part of showing “where you are now” is showing “where you were yesterday / last week / last month.” Obviously, you don’t want your dashboard to be about simply looking at where you’ve already been, but seeing a trend and relative comparisons help define the “now.” Finally, “how to get there” raises a red flag on the analogy front. A GPS figures out the “best route” for you. Your dashboard means you have to “build the GPS” — you have to determine what route *you* are taking, which requires thought, research, investigation, and a willingness to adjust if the dashboard shows that that part of the route doesn’t seem to be doing what you expected.

    Great post!

  • Tim Thanks.

    The panelists were great, all practitioners, all well respected.

    Of course, I don’t intend to make a “GPS” as a very literal display, but the point is: most marketers aren’t measuring based off an objective.

    Or going further, some marketers don’t have an objective when they use social media, so what’s the point?

  • ray

    it’s because brands now have eyes and ears (as well as a mouth)!

  • Great post – I absolutely agree! I think it’s important to have a mix of both dashboard with the GPS overlay.

    Ultimately, I believe that’s really the nirvana of SMM, IMHO – first, get down your monitoring, then your measurement, mix in a little engagement and, finally, you have to have reputation/recommendation work to help steer your customers based on the behavioral history you have been tracking.

    And, perhaps at some point in the future you can aggregate all of your customers’ basic stats in the cloud to give an aggregated metric to help measure and watch your score versus the community at large.

  • Jeremiah,
    Tools that just vomit metrics back at you via dashboard do no good unless they’re accurate and customizable (as you said – like a GPS system). That’s the biggest problem I see with current metrics measurement tools. There is too much useless information, and marketers don’t know what they’re supposed to be looking for.

    Nice job yesterday. It was definitely a highlight.

    Thanks for the link back!

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  • Jeremiah,

    This was a really good post. I’ve been on so many panels lately talking about social media with practitioners. The metrics are emerging from the various platforms, but knowing how to bring them together to build the “where are we going” part is difficult. It is more than measurement, it is leadership and strategy – or “reading the tea leaves” as we say in Web Analytics.

    I like the analogy of GPS. How would you tactically translate that back to the organization? What should a marketing organization be doing to put the GPS in place on top of the social media metrics that they are gathering today?

    Jodi

  • Thanks, Jeremiah – very, very useful for those of us who weren’t able to attend. I think there’s a lot of great work going on but we have few opportunities to benchmark ourselves against peers.

    One theme missing here is the importance of integrating not just data from different social media sources, but integrating social media data with other web and commerce data. Our integrations with Omniture and RNT are two great examples, but I’m sure there are others – I’d love to see more.

    Joe Cothrel
    Lithium Technologies

  • Thanks for sharing… the beauty of social media.

    Speaking of goals and direction, we actually use in our practice the term of Social Media “Destination” when it comes to define where we’re taking a client from A to Z. A good analogy I use is via the ‘tag cloud’, we help structure RSS connectivity and content creation to match what we want the tag cloud to look like down the road. Every social media marketing & PR 2.0 activity is geared toward that ‘destination’ or tag cloud.

    The social media content and engagement should be –above the purpose the company– this is where the GPS is guiding us. This is where the consumers and buyer will want to connect with the brand.

    Thank you,
    Yann Ropars
    http://extanz.com

  • Thanks for this post. I fully agree.

    The first reflexe companies seem to have with social media is : monitoring and more specifically monitoring their brand name …

    As if they have ommited the “social” in social media. Would you go to a party and keep looking for what’s said about you ?, you would qualify for paranoia as a minimum.

    Actually there is much more value in blogs and social networks than counting beans for a specific brand name.

    There are insights & influence.

    But both, insights and influence require a strategy ( what to look for, which target communities to listen to, who to influence, for what, what value do we really add) measurable objectives and tactic on how to get there.

    And as we’re talking about enterprises, means to federate teams towards the stated objective and reach goal as a group.

    It’s not a one click or one keyword affair !

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  • Great information on this … love the GPS analogy.

    one question … how do you help people figure out what their objective is?

    ok, one more question … what are some of the most common objectives you see working?


    http://twitter.com/franswaa

  • Frank

    Forrester’s methodology has 5 major objectives: Learn about Listening, Talking, Energizing, Supporting, and Embracing

    http://blogs.forrester.com/groundswell/2007/04/the_five_reason.html

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  • Hi Jeremiah,

    Great post!

    To further the analogy…Surely any GPS system takes its information from:
    -Preloaded data (map)

    -Current data/location (GPS signal that system gives off)

    -Current speed

    So any social media measurement should have:

    -Preset data – Do the results/conversations align with your corporate/marketing strategy (is the chattershpere talking about your new product launch the way you planned both online and offline)?

    -Current data – To what extent are both negative and positive social media mentions affecting your short term and long term goals. Are those conversations taking your product to its planned destination e.g. maximum profit.

    Current speed – Who is talking about your brand/where and why. Can/should you affect this to manipulate the direction of conversations and thus your arrival at maximum profit?

    thanks keep up the good

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  • jrhgh5hi6hy9iouim
  • I prefer GPS, to be honest I am a GPS tech fan.

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  • Brands that just wake up in the morning and drive till night as taxis do without a desirable end, use dashboards as a GPS !