Measuring Social Media Success in 2012

Let’s start this month’s column with four statements:

  1. Social media measurement is not very effective. Even though there are many ways to measure, true, concrete success metrics still remain quite elusive.
  2. Fan count is still a top metric. Sixty percent of marketers use friends, followers, or “likes” as a success measure (Chief Marketer, 2011).
  3. The ROI question is unanswered. Return on investment is a top challenge of social media marketing, making budgeting difficult.
  4. We don’t know what tools to use. One tool or several?

This is what marketers are still saying about measuring social media and its effectiveness to contribute to the bottom line of any organization. With so many questions and so much data to look at, marketers are confused, and worried that their efforts, as robust as they are, actually are not very effective at all. Only 13 percent of marketers say they are “very effective” at measuring results.

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That’s not very good.

Nor is the fact that marketers are still taking the easy way out and counting fans, whether they are friends, followers, or “likes.” They are ignoring the more concentrated metrics such as engagements (share, forward, retweet, posting of brand content, etc.). And even more so, you see the other metrics such as visits or time spent with branded content, or even incremental sales attributable to social media, not being accounted for by most marketers.

We all know measuring ROI is a challenge; if it was easy, everyone would do it. But, there are ways to combat the issue; however, marketers still plague themselves with such little ammo going into the effort, they don’t invest properly. In The State of Social Report 2011 by LBI and bigmouthmedia, 35 percent of marketers said they use a free tool and 39 percent of the group surveyed said they didn’t use any at all. That’s 74 percent of marketers doing very little to quantify efforts in the first place.

Three Goals for Increasing Social Measurement in 2012

  1. It’s not the fans, it’s what you do with them. You need to understand who your brand followers are and how influential they can be on your behalf. Engage, excite, and react to their mentions; they are your biggest advocates and often go untouched. Very few marketers track the number of people who contribute to a brand’s social community.
  2. Go beyond brand metrics. The more you can draw in more understanding in how social media impacts actual business, the better. If you sell a product, work with your web analytics or sales data to correlate where the behavior came from; often social media is a big influence there. Leaving this stone unturned can be detrimental.
  3. Integrate social analytics and marketing analytics. Understand how social media can make other media spending more efficient, and how online buzz relates to overall marketing performance.