Why Measuring Social Media Buzz Is Not Enough

In China today, social media has become the main ingredient of an advertising plan. However, the buzz generated in social media is rarely authentic and an astonishing few advertisers could justify the key performance indicators (KPIs), making us love and hate social marketing at the same time.

Have you ever seen a social media plan in China? Well, it quantifies buzz like an advertising inventory and prices a fan at per-unit cost. The practice of so-called E-PR in China has derailed the value of going social. But most importantly, you hardly see an analytics solution for a social media plan. Everything is made for the sake of feeling good. Sad but true.

Social marketing campaign is very difficult to measure in China because most social media platforms are closed system. Third-party tools cannot do tracking properly. Most content on the social networking sites are not feed-enabled, so it’s impossible to aggregate content for analytics. Although you might be able to get a tool that helps you crawl the data from some of the BBS (bulletin board systems), certainly not all of them, there is no solution to automate the measurement for sentiment.

In this column, I want to share one of my approaches for doing social marketing in China and the steps to scientifically measure it. We can do it without using tools and automation.

First of all, social media is a broad term. It covers a social networking site, blog, micro-blog, BBS, forum, community, and more. So before we start planning or figuring out how to measure the plan, we must understand the nature of each social media platform. Some social media are designed to recruit advocates and retain fans, some for amplifying the message, and others for inducing the conversations.

There is no single metric for social marketing. Conventional click stream metrics won’t apply to a social marketing strategy because a typical social advertising plan could include a mini-site for user engagement, a community to recruit and convert advocates, and a micro-blog to amplify the message. For measuring performance, we need combined metrics.

Combined Metrics for Measuring Performance
Advertising Media Campaign Site Community Site Social
Official Site (Blog)
Traffic CPM
Page views
Unique visitors
Click of the outbound link Click of the outbound link Page views
Unique visitors
Experience Time spent
Bounce rate
Time spent
Bounce rate
Sentiment Downloads Fanning rate
Conversation ratio
Amplication ratio
Conversation ratio
Internal conversation
Source: Eddie Choi

You can set up most of the tracking mechanisms, above, using your analytics tool. And you can manually calculate the fanning rate – basically the number of fans over the total visitors to the fan page, as well as to calculate the growth rate of fans per day. The conversation ratio is the total replies of each post over the total number of posts. By combining these simple equations, you will get the media plan performance from traffic, user experience to sentiment.

Developing a combined metrics methodology when planning a social media campaign is very important. It is nice to have tools and automation to facilitate the analytics, but even manual calculations like the one, above, will help measure the campaign in a very scientific way.

Media cost in China is expensive; you definitely wouldn’t want to make your marketing investment without measurement. So, don’t let yourself just feel good – but also accomplished about your next social marketing campaign by planning it and measuring it better.

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