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Social Media: Why Measurement Is Key

  |  December 10, 2008   |  Comments

A look at the free and paid tools to create a baseline to measure and monitor your business on the social Web.

Several e-marketing measurement platforms and methods can help tune your online campaigns. Bryan Eisenberg's "Always Be Testing" offers a comprehensive, practical view of Google Analytics, while TeaLeaf's installed application lets you track customer interaction so you can tune your site and commerce pipeline based on actual use by customers. Connecting these together through the Bazaarvoice platform or JS-Kit's ratings and reviews widgets -- perfect for DIYrs -- provides you with a comprehensive, analytical look at what's driving your online customers at your site.

But what about other sites, especially those including consumer-generated content that influences potential consumers? Let's examine social metrics and platforms that provide visibility into the conversations, snippets, and anecdotes that people add to marketing messages you create.

Your awareness campaigns, enhanced or challenged by social content as potential customers head toward the point of purchase, invariably include some element of social media. While a "more connected" segment of your audience -- think "Generation C" (define) -- may be more likely to create content, a significant portion of all age groups consume social content.

Take a look at Forrester's recently updated "Profiler" tool. While social content consumption is an established behavior for about 80 percent of people ages 18 to 24, nearly 60 percent of those 55 and older also regularly consume social content. Social content is now a large factor in influencing potential purchases, regardless of a consumer's age or gender. As such, measuring and quantifying what is being said about your B2B (define) or B2C (define) brand, product, or service, is an essential marketing discipline.

How do you measure social content? A key point in my book, "Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day" is establishing a baseline. Before you do anything else, measure what's happening right now.

Quantitatively measuring social content is the simplest, easiest, and lowest risk approach to getting comfortable with the social Web. Once you get a solid handle on the current conversation, you can measure the change in this content over time. This is the most important step toward a defensible ROI (define).

On the social content measurement front, you have choices. Nielsen BuzzMetrics, TNS Cymfony, and Umbria provide solutions that include analysis delivered to your inbox. Though they come at a price, these are great platforms. The conversations they track include the vast majority of what's actually out there.

Sampling a few points on the social Web does you no good. Like a lone fighter surrounded by swordsman, you've got to watch them all. You can't do this without a robust dataset. Sooner or later a comment or some other content will catch you off guard.

Think about ExxonMobil and the "Janet at Exxon" brandjacking on Twitter. While ExxonMobil undoubtedly has an extensive intelligence program covering traditional media and corporate communications, they obviously weren't watching the social Web.

At the free end of scale are tools like Google Alerts. Sign up for Google Alerts to track your brand, product, or service. Add alerts for a couple of competitors, see what comes back over the next 30 days, and track the results of interest using a spreadsheet. It's really that easy.

Sure, you'll be doing more work than you would if you were using a turnkey analysis platform. All the same, this simple experiment will quickly show you the kinds of things that are circulating now about you on the social Web. With this information, you can look at the full range of reporting options and decide which offers the best value for your business needs.

What's in between the free services and turnkey platforms? An emerging self-serve solution set gives you the best of both worlds, and often at a substantially reduced (but not free) cost.

Techrigy's SM2, Radian6, and the DIY Dashboard from KD Paine are effective solutions that allow you to tune your intelligence searches over time and largely automate the reporting process. The reports you generate, just as with the turnkey platforms, will provide a substantial basis for understanding and using social media.

Regardless of which method you choose, any of the above offer a viable, secure method of developing a baseline to measure the impact of future social efforts. Note: what you learn on the social Web may not translate directly into a marketing campaign. It may, for example, inform future product revisions or your definition of an emerging service. This again shows the important connection between operations and marketing when engaging customers socially.

Unlike traditional media -- where you set the terms of engagement -- your customers define the interchanges on the social Web. Operations -- including a concerted effort aimed at your own internal behavioral changes, or external (visible) changes to the products and services you offer -- effectively influence conversations on the social Web. It's not what you say (traditional marketing), but rather what you actually do (socially-based marketing) that defines the conversations that enhance or challenge the balance of your promotional and brand-building efforts.

Join ClickZ Expert Dave Evans for Conversational Marketing: How to Develop a Successful Social Media Strategy on December 15 at 3 p.m. EST. This free Webinar will teach you practical steps to developing the social dimensions of your overall marketing program.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dave Evans

Dave is the VP of social strategy at Lithium. Based in Austin, Dave is also the author of best-selling "Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day," as well as "Social Media Marketing: The Next Generation of Business Engagement." Dave is a regular columnist for ClickZ, a frequent keynoter, and leads social technology and measurement workshops with the American Marketing Association as well as Social Media Executive Seminars, a C-level business training provider.

Dave has worked in social technology consulting and development around the world: with India's Publicis|2020media and its clients including the Bengaluru International Airport, Intel, Dell, United Brands, and Pepsico and with Austin's FG SQUARED and GSD&M| IdeaCity and clients including PGi, Southwest Airlines, AARP, Wal-Mart, and the PGA TOUR. Dave serves on the advisory boards for social technology startups including Palo Alto-based Friend2Friend and Mountain View-based Netbase and iGoals.

Prior, Dave was a co-founder of social customer care technology provider Social Dynamx, a product manager with Progressive Insurance, and a systems analyst with NASA| Jet Propulsion Labs. Dave co-founded Digital Voodoo, a web technology consultancy, in 1994. Dave holds a BS in physics and mathematics from the State University of New York/ Brockport and has served on the Advisory Board for ad:tech and the Measurement and Metrics Council with WOMMA.

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