Measurement, A Priority for Online Communities. Lithium Offers Community Intelligence with ‘Insight’

Left: Lithium’s Insight Report provides brands with key community attributes, and automated recommendations.

Measurement is more important than ever
I was briefed by Lithium, one of the vendors in my Community Platform Wave report, of their Insights listening product, which they announced today. In the Wave report, I heavily emphasized the need for measurement, here’s a few key reasons:

  • First of all, “new” media like social is already under scrutiny, measurement was already important.
  • During a recession, with dollars stretched, marketers are under increased pressure to prove their programs.
  • Social media, being largely experimental for many brands, need to measure to quickly ‘course correct’ programs in real time.
  • During times of cutbacks, marketers must know what to cut, and in order to do so, measurement is key.
  • Go beyond web analytics
    Beyond this need, I quickly noticed there are two types of measurements when it came to communities, the first is server analytics, which we already are aware is web analytics, Google, Omniture, WebTrends provide these services. Secondly, the more advanced measurements are ‘community’ analytics that actually track the healthy, influence, and sentiment of a community.

    Lithium’s entry to this space, is a blast at Telligent’s Harvest measurement product, the current best-in-class, and Lithium’s Insight product offers community health metrics (in the form of a 6 attributed ‘rose’ graphic), baseline reports, and premium reports with additional services from account managers for the brand wanting the white glove service. Read Joe Cothrel’s blog post to learn a bit about the history of the project, and about the product itself. The Lithium product, which is based off the research from a scientist Michael Wu, they hired that’s conducting similar research to HP’s Bernard Huberman, has been able to identify the attributes that will help predict if a community will be successful within the first few hours of launch. Another key feature is that the community health metrics will not only indicate which attributes are strong or weak, but will offer practical recommendations to improve the community.

    Next steps for measurement –and what Lithium must improve
    Despite Lithium’s momentous launch for this measurement tool, there’s still more to be desired: 1) Measurement should be based on business objective, not just attributes on a dashboard, to learn more, understand the difference between dashboards and GPS. 2) Although we’ve yet to see great tools to glean opinions, demonstrating qualitative information such as quotes and even sentiment will be the next step. 3) These reports will need to export and be seamless to other measurement systems and dashboards, although they have a partnership with Omniture, there’s still many other marketing tools used for analytics.

    Lithium isn’t alone, there are a variety of listening platforms in this space that are offering social media measurement tools, you should also expect the other community platforms to launch competitive products.

    Key Takeaways

  • Social Media Measurement is important, and now with the recession, critical.
  • Tremendous amount of customer and prospect data is available in these communities, the savvy vendors are hiring bright minds to analyze what works –and what doesn’t.
  • Measurement must evolve beyond web analytics and now focus on community insights, vendors are now hiring scientists to help decipher the community ‘code’.
  • Analytics tools on their own are worthless, without actionable insights, brands will suffer, vendors must provide recommendations.
  • To be successful, Lithium must continue to partner with the ecosystem around them, customer communities span the enterprise, that’s why I held this roundtable
  • Expect other community platform vendors to launch similiar products, most will come before the end of Q3 to meet the needs of the recession.
  • If you’re a customer of Lithium, leave your opinion, or email me if you want to be off the record. I’m your advocate.

    • Jeremiah,

      Great insights…no pun intended…well, maybe a little. We couldn’t agree more with your points about the importance of measurement and the importance of finding actionable information to deliver a business result. That was definitely the key driver behind our launch.

      I wanted to amplify a couple of important points regarding the launch – one of the things we launched as part of Insights is the Community Health Index. Coming out of the roundtable you hosted, I think there was a general feeling that measurement was really important, but there was no common way for the industry to look at the health of a community…which is a pre-requisite to achieving any business objective. Strategies to encourage participation within communities help to further business objectives such as loyalty, repeat purchase, support cost reduction, and WOM advertising. To use the analogy, you need a GPS to get where you really want to go – but, without a dashboard, you may not be able to get out of the driveway.

      So, based on the analysis, we formulated the Community Health Index as a public metric and published the algorithm in the whitepaper that you link to above. Quite intentionally, the measure is formulated using data that can be found in most community systems – not only Lithium’s. We really want to invite discussion and feedback from other vendors and brands to see if we can help create a “FICO-score” like standard for our industry that benefits all of us.

      The second and related point is our hearty agreement that business objectives and business value are an imperative with measurement. Just like with community health, we’ve worked for many years to help companies quantify the ROI from their communities. As Joe mentioned in his post, will be leveraging all that experience later this year as we expand our Insights product to include measurements focused on business objectives.

      Thanks again for starting the conversation – we are hopeful others will weigh in with their thoughts about a common industry “Health Index” measure and what they like and what they don’t like about this first version. We believe this could benefit all of us in the industry – vendors, practitioners, and brands alike.

      Sanjay Dholakia
      CMO, Lithium Technologies
      @sdholakia

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    • Definitely true Jeremiah. I predicted this last fall in October when I met various white label platform co’s at events.

      It was also because every time I showed our product to a community mgr, they immediately saw the value. It’s important to monitor the internal community, but it’s just as important to grow the community & a social media monitoring tool is essential for that.

      When I saw your focus on metrics in your wave report I was pleased about the importance of measurement.

      But I do have one question – Is the health of the community limited to the brand property? For me it’s a combination of the that along with the community at large on the web.

      Connie
      Community Strategist, Techrigy SM2
      (in disclosure – we offer a sm monitoring tool that’s very versatile & lends itself nicely to comm bldg)

    • Good question Connie, I’m sure they’ll follow up.

    • I think you’re on the right track, Connie. As community efforts on company websites mature, companies are devoting more attention to that the vast, distributed, often invisible community on the larger social web. Although there’s a lot going on in that area today, the efforts are relatively immature – generally no more than 2-3 years in even the most pioneering of companies. As these efforts expand I think you are right — we’ll need to define and measure community health in a broader way.

      The problem today is that aren’t a lot of benchmarks to help us know what a “healthy” community looks like in that larger context – or even how to define community in that context. Over the past 10 years we’ve learned a lot about what a healthy online community on a website looks like. We know 10-20% growth in contributions on a monthly basis is a reasonable expectation for the first year. We know that a communities with certain characteristics — for example, ones in which new contributions get a reply within 1,000 minutes on average — continue to thrive and grow where communities that don’t, don’t. By contrast, we (meaning all of us) have very little of this kind of insight into communities on the larger social web. We haven’t asked those questions, and the questions we have asked haven’t been framed in the same way.

      But will we get there? Absolutely.

      Joe Cothrel
      Chief Community Officer
      Lithium Technologies

    • Of course as all things go weirdly online this is the third or forth time in the past week where I’ve seen this topic brought up. But it’s true.

      Though I can see traditional analytics still providing insights on a process level (e-commerce process, information architecture of a site etc…), it seems people are a lot more comfortable declaring action when reports are more social in nature than technical.

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    • Measurement is indeed key to online success. But I think it is still underutilised particularly among small businesses. I come across businesses every day that have the tools in place and hardly spend any time to look at their stats or take action to refine their strategy based on the results.