Solving the Social Media Measurement Problem

News flash: Social media isn’t going anywhere. This whole “blogosphere” thing has gone from a social phenomenon to a full-blown media outlet.

Yet today, many companies still do not measure the impact social media is having on them—an issue Katie Paine, head of KD Paine & Partners and social media measurement expert, runs into all the time and which she attributes to a fear of measurement.

“Instead of talking to a list of the top 10 publications in a particular category, you’re talking about a list of the top 10 million blogs,” Paine said. “That can be very overwhelming.”

So when it comes to solving the social media measurement conundrum, Paine has a seven-step process for every client.

1. Determine your mission and goals

“You need to figure out what your [measurement] activities are going to have on your organization,” Paine said. “If you fast-forward to a year from now after 100 percent success, figure out what would be different about your organization. Then shoot for that goal.”

Paine says those successes could be anything from improving public perception to increasing sales leads to gaining competitive insight. Regardless of how you measure success, however, setting measurement-related goals is the first step.

2. Define your audiences

“You need to understand what motivates your customers and your target audience,” Paine said. “What motivates them to act is what you should be measuring.”

Paine also adds that you must be aware of the fact that social media as an audience isn’t all-encompassing. From journalists and top-tier bloggers to “cyber-whiners” and confused customers, getting a grasp of what causes each audience to react negatively and positively is key to measurement success.

3. Define the metrics

“You need to look at how you’re going to turn your coverage into a number,” Paine said. “We do things like looking at the ‘Optimal Content Score.’ If you had the perfect article, what would it look like?”

Paine’s “Optimal Content Score” assigns a value for specific aspects of coverage. For example, if a company’s key message or name is mentioned in a headline, that’s a 10. Then other factors about the coverage are taken into consideration with the overall tone of the article and it’s given a final score.

4. Determine what you are benchmarking against

“When measuring social media, you have to figure out how you’re going to benchmark your findings,” Paine said. “If I tell you 10 percent of your coverage is positive, is that a good number or a bad number? Figure out the context you’re looking at your results in.”

Paine suggests competitive comparison when determining benchmarks. For example, if 10 percent of your coverage is positive and only 5 percent of your competitor’s coverage is positive, that’s pretty good. On the other hand, if 70 percent of your competitor’s coverage is positive, that’s bad. Very bad.

5. Pick a tool and undertake research

“Your tool should match your objective,” Paine said. “For example, if your objective is to increase awareness, that’s a survey. If your objective is to increase traffic, that’s an analytics tool.”

6. Analyze results and glean insight

“Research without insight is just trivia,” Paine said.

Thus, communicators need to ask themselves, “What works?” and “What doesn’t?” with each measurement tool.

7. Take action, measure again

“Figure out how to fix what went wrong and repeat what went right,” Paine said. “Just remember: Measuring social media has to be part of your everyday life.”
Questions to ask

Based on Katie Paine’s seven steps to social media measurement, communicators should always ask themselves the following questions when attempting to determine what coverage in the blogosphere means to their company.

1. What is your goal? More traffic? Better coverage? Your approach to social media measurement should always be determined by your end goal.

2. Who are your audiences? Tech geeks? Frustrated customers? Loyal bloggers? Remember that online audiences are diverse. Take each group’s point of view into consideration when measuring.

3. What metrics are most relevant to your goals? Is it increased traffic? Better public perception? The more complicated your goals, the more metrics you’re going to have to care about.

4. How are you going to benchmark results? Is it previous years’ results you’re concerned with? A competitor’s? Both? Determine your benchmarks or your efforts will be wasted.

5. What tools will be most useful in getting you to the end result? Do you need to conduct a survey? Gather traffic results? Google Metrics is a great place to start.

6. What were your results and how are they useful to your business? What did you learn and how can that information translate into mandates for new and improved initiatives?

This article was written by Justin Allen.