Measuring Social Media Efforts

map For any of us interested in making social media and social networks a viable part of an organization’s communications and engagement strategy, the question of measurement comes up quickly. It makes sense. In an empirical world, where we want to know about Return on Investment, it’s important to know how spending money on a podcast or paying someone to maintain a Facebook group is actually worth anything to a company. Even as organizations become aware that they “should” take advantage of social media, the question that rushes in behind that awareness is, “How will I know anything is happening?”

There are some really interesting articles and posts coming out about this. For example, paying attention to Jeremiah Owyang on any given day will find you some data on measuring a social media campaign. There’s also the Association for Downloadable Media to consider, as they’re seeking ways to make this all mean more for us. Plenty of people are coming up with their take on how to provide useful measurements on the effects of social media for an organization. My question: are we measuring, or are we mapping?

Measuring vs. Mapping

First off, yes, I recognize that mapping is very empirical in nature, and that geolocative data is a wealth of measurements. But I also know that long before cartography became a far more instrumented science, maps could also mean simply a drawing of the rough way to get from here to there. So, in my explanation, I’m saying that measuring is far more detailed, and that mapping is a little more holistic. Go with me on this, will you?

How Many Whats Equals a Wow?

If I got you 300,000 listeners to your audio podcast, would that be a wow? It would be a wow to most podcasters. But what if you are L.L. Bean? Is that a lot of listeners? And even if it is, so what? What does 300K listeners do to change a metric at the company?

The best example of picking the right measure continues to be Christopher S. Penn and his Financial Aid Podcast. Chris loves every listener he gets, but he MEASURES how many completed loan applications his show drives. Why? Because he works for The Student Loan Network. He’s paid to make his show drive applications and granted loans. If I sent another 300,000 listeners to him, Chris would probably say, “so what?” until he saw how that changed his specific metric of interest.

If you’re working with an organization on a social media strategy, consider what metric might be truly useful. Is awareness enough? Is completed downloads the right measure of awareness? What does a blog do to drive that number? There are tons of ways to consider this. A partial list:

  • Actions taken (like Penn’s loan apps completed).
  • Links to posts from other blogs.
  • Products sold.
  • Satisfaction Index raised.
  • Customer Service calls lowered (what if you produced screencasts or YouTube videos? to lower this?)
  • Mainstream media coverage (conversions from social media to larger media outlets).
  • Subscribers / users increased.

Mapping the Territory

I still feel a map is very important. What would the map show? It would show all the various aspects of your social media efforts, your strategy, and it would give the organization you’re working with the larger picture understanding of all the various components of your efforts and how your efforts would reach some desired goals.

Said a different way, it’s great to measure results like mentioned above, but it might also be useful to discuss the larger map of what could/should be accomplished by a social media strategy. For a map, I might create something like this:

  • List of the most likely places a human will encounter the media I produce.
  • Methods for listening to conversations off-blog and outside my media.
  • Touchpoints along the value chain and how my media reaches each one.
  • Path back to a central data capture for reporting and strategy monitoring.
  • Pinpoints to corrective measures taken from initial strategy path to current efforts.

The more I consider what I’ve written, the more I can see the value in offering both the measurements and the map. The map might not be enough to convince an organization of the value of your efforts, and yet, the measurements won’t truly be valuable without the map of your larger intentions and the strategy you’ve considered.

What’s Your Take?

How have you worked with your clients? Are you a media maker? How do you use your media? To what effect? Is there a value in better understanding the different touchpoints of your strategy, and/or in understanding which numbers matter in what way for your efforts?

Even if you make media strictly for yourself, how does the above change how you look at your efforts?

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Photo credits young einstein and libby

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