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more than 80% of the world’s online population uses social media, representing 1.2 billion users around the globe
Today we live in a digital world where we expect, want and digest information 24/7. We have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, the ability to connect with new people and to stay connected with lifelong friends – we get what we want, when we want it.
Businesses “feed” us information, whether it’s an ad, website or Facebook page. They engage, listen and glean insights from our online behavior. We engage with them, we tell them when they are bad, when they are good and what we want from them. We live in an instant gratification world and we have major digital demands. Businesses know this, and are ready to invest in our online behavior.
According to comScore, more than 80% of the world’s online population uses social media, representing 1.2 billion users around the globe. As we’ve evolved into this social media world, it’s not only affected us, but it’s affected businesses as well. For as long as social media has existed, businesses have questioned “How should we utilize it? How can we measure its impact?”
Businesses know having a social media program that engages customers is no longer an option – it’s a requirement – it protects and enhances the company’s reputation and presence. Today, most businesses have social media programs in place, but 75% still lack a measurement strategy. There are many different ways companies can measure social media, and for those measuring the question of how it should be done often arises.
There is no universal standard or guidelines set in stone just yet. But, there is good news – we have a few guidelines we can follow.
The IAB social media council created a social media measurement guide in 2011, Altimeter published “A Framework for Social Analytics: Including Six Use Cases for Social Media Measurement” in 2011 as well and, most recently, the folks who crafted the Barcelona Principle have recently created the Social Media Measurement Standards – #SMMStandards – and published a proposed “Transparency Table”. Because the standards are still in “beta”, the table will be used as an interim standard during the time feedback from agencies, clients, software vendors, etc. gets captured and the feedback will go to the Coalition and Conclave to make final modifications.
As social media matures and evolves, businesses will have to continually change how they prove its impact. For example, according to Facebook’s SEC 10-Q filing, 102 million people accessed Facebook solely from mobile devices in June, a 23% increase over the 83 million mobile only users in March; 18.7% of its 543 million monthly mobile users didn’t even visit its desktop site. We are searching among many screens – how are we to measure online to offline, back to online and then back to offline activity?!
“The primary challenge is that as we switch devices it is increasingly difficult to keep track of the same person as they interface with our digital existence (and are exposed to online and offline marketing and advertising). Actually, I should not say increasingly difficult, I should say almost impossible (cookies, uuids, privacy, government, et al).”
One of the most recent and greatest studies surrounding social media measurement, that I’ve read, is the Altimeter Group’s recently published report called the “The Social Media ROI Cookbook: Six Ingredients Top Brands Use to Measure the Revenue Impact of Social Media”. The study is based on interviews the group conducted with 38 social media vendors, 15 brands, 3 agencies and a quantitative survey of 71 brand and agency side professionals. The top issues presented were:
- Quantifying Revenue Impact – Fifty six percent of brands and agencies that Altimeter Group surveyed reported “the inability to tie social media to business outcomes” as the primary challenge to quantifying the revenue impact of social media.
- Changing Format and Data – Exists online and offline on multiple screens and changes daily. It is hard to measure and track a high volatile channel like social media.
- Ownership – Organizations don’t “own” social media like they own their website, signage, building, and other marketing tools.
- Out with the Old – Social media changes so rapidly that it is hard to apply old measurement rules to the equation. They simply do not apply.
According to the Altimeter Group, 30% of organizations claim to be highly effective at connecting social media to revenue generation. From their study, several best practices emerged – they recommend the “Six Ingredients to Measuring the Revenue Impact of Social Media”:
- Anecdote – Example of relationship where social media was known to influence a sale.
- Correlation – Ability to compare one data set with another to identify patterns.
- Multivariate Testing – Comparing groups exposed to different types of content.
- Links and Tagging – Using code to identify the source of a conversion or sale.
- Integration – Integrated analytics into a social media app, widget, SaaS solution, etc.
- Direct Commerce – Social eCommerce platform – ex. Facebook fcommerce.
Even better, the report helps you choose the right measurement mix for your business based on four factors. Each factor is showcased, with recommended metrics you should use, as well as what the best practices are for each. In the end, they discuss the future of social media measurement and concluded with the trends we should see in the near future.
- Mobile technologies will bridge the online and offline worlds
- Emerging technologies will connect the customer across multiple screens.
- Data will be the true predictor of influence.
- Companies will integrate social, enterprise, and external data for a holistic view.
Basically, we’re still in the discovery phase of how businesses should best measure social media’s impact. At this moment, there is no magic sauce; no one size fits all approach. Each business is different, with different goals and values, so measurement programs need to be fitted and tailored to those needs. While I can’t give you the exact answer, I believe the Social Media Cookbook has great ingredients that can help any business craft the best measurement program for their needs. And, we will wait for the finalized Social Media Measurement Standards to be published and accepted by the industry. We need to consider there will always be “the next big thing” to rock our industry.
Until then, we just need to keep in mind what Avinash Kaushik remembers every day,
“To guarantee success, spend 95% of your time defining the problem and 5% of the time solving it.”