Are Social Media Metrics Hurting Your Company? - by Ben Foster

Are Social Media Metrics Hurting Your Company?

Metrics play an important role in modern organizations because they provide an efficient way to determine process effectiveness.

Are Metrics the Problem? - Photo by batega via Flickr

Are Metrics the Problem? - Photo by batega via Flickr

Metrics function as heuristics, or “rules of thumb”, for managers outside of a function to gain insight into other functions without having to absorb specific detail.

While we all have an understanding of ROI, a manager can justify a lack of Social Media understanding by simply insisting that measurements are the most critical part of the initiative and that Social Media should be measured like any other business process.

This is why in preliminary discussions about Social Media, managers typically ask, “How are we going to measure it?” This is an important question that should not be overlooked.  However, does anyone fully understand Social Media?  When people say “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”, I often think “I can’t measure what I can’t define.”

The ROI of Social Media is Unclear; the Impact of Social Media is Very Clear

Social Media Impact – Word of Mouth Marketing

I can’t tell you all the ways that Social Media will impact your business strategy.  I believe that anyone that says they can tell you is likely a consultant or technology vendor trying to tell you something.

What I can tell you is that your customers are telling your prospective customers what they think about your product.  Marketers have known the power of Word of Mouth for years, but what’s different now is that it is REALLY EASY for prospective customers to find word of mouth recommendations.

So how do you measure this???  You can ask questions in follow-up surveys, but we all know that word-of-mouth is often “hidden” in these types of questionairres.

Social Media Impact – Innovation and New Product Development

Also, I can tell you that your competitors are listening to what consumers are saying about their problems, needs, and frustrations; these consumer needs are the primary stimuli for innovation.  People every day are commenting on blogs, posting their frustrations on Twitter, and offering solutions through platforms that encourage open innovation.

It’s hard to tie metrics, like new product sales, to these insights.  But if you’re not listening to your customers and sharing that feedback with your organization, I can tell you that your stock price will under-perform those competitors that are.

How do you measure this?  By the time an idea makes it into a marketplace, so many functions have made changes through countless iterations of the product development lifecycle.  Additionally, many companies can take 12-18 months to bring a product from concept to reality making it hard to directly correlate to a Social Media Insight.

Relative Benchmarking for Social Media Metrics

If you’re struggling with metrics, try starting with ones that you can directly compare to other initiatives.  Here are a couple ideas:

Metrics are Important, but different for Social Media

This is a sticky issue; I don’t want to downplay the importance of metrics.  The point here is that measuring Social Media in the same way you measure long-standing business processes will delay action.  Social Media is too new and not fuly understood enough to determine the “right set of metrics”, but you

What did I leave out or forget to include?

Posted by Ben Foster

Posted on May 26, 2009 at 9:51 pm by Ben Foster · Permalink
In: Leadership and Management, Strategy

7 Responses

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  1. Written by John Rood
    on May 27, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Ben, good post. I get your argument that social media metrics can delay action. When I rethought my earlier position, I realized that the kind of metrics I think companies should set need to be related to THEIR goals, and not necessarily be “social media metrics” like twitter followers. I try to hash this out here:

  2. Written by Social media metrics come first | Knowledgeistics
    on May 27, 2009 at 10:27 am

    […] jumped into this hornets’ nest.  Ben Foster argues that social media metrics may delay action and cost your company leadership position in an emerging […]

  3. Written by Chris Brooks
    on May 27, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Good post Ben.

    While the saying what can't be measured can't be improved it is different for social media. Which I actually think is kinda nice. You can use the tools you have mentioned to get a baseline, but social media is all about spur of the moment conversations and connections. If you try to chain social media down with measurements that are too intense it will defeat the purpose of social media all together.

    Just go with the flow measure what you can, but don't get caught up with it and just capitalize on what you can.

  4. Written by Patty
    on May 29, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Great post, Ben! Thought you might like to see this Fileshare on Social Media ROI:

  5. Written by Patty
    on May 29, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Great post, Ben! Thought you might like to see this Fileshare on Social Media ROI:

  6. […] Much has been said about the need for metrics, and it is often the biggest roadblock for Social Media practitioners […]

  7. […] To prevent social media metrics from hurting your company, here are some common Twitter metrics and how to game them.  By exposing these metrics, I hope to advance the discussion and take a more holistic view of social media’s effect on business […]

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