Now is the time to get smart about the measures that we traditionally have not used. Here's how to get started:
1. Reach out to key individuals inside the organization that rely on and have access to the types of measures described above. For example, the director of Web strategy or the webmaster who are playing a role in search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising not only can show you the metrics they use to measure the effectiveness of those programs, but also are likely to be in tune with how social media can enhance them. They can become an important ally if they understand how your ideas will help them.
2. Meet with other agencies (e.g. advertising) supporting the marketing program. This is important, as it helps ensure an integrated marketing approach. Social media presents even greater synergies, and you will want to think about how your program would contribute to the effectiveness of, for example, driving traffic to a landing page for a particular offer.
3. Understand from your marketing "clients" what tools they are using to track leads. Whether it is something like Salesforce.com or Eloqua, these tools should be tuned to be able to identify those leads as coming not only from a media article, but also through a mention on a blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or more targeted social network site.
Through these conversations, not only will you be talking about measurement in the same breath as social media--thereby preempting the questions or objections--but also allow you to start to build the foundation for executing on measurement of your program. Next, you will need to immerse yourself in other key tools at your disposal to gather the "new metrics" described above. The list is growing rapidly, but here is grouping of some of the most important:
1. Web analytics: These are the tools used by the Web pros mentioned above, and are important for measuring the traffic coming to the social media content you create (e.g. a corporate blog or video podcasts). Google Analytics is free and the most pervasive, but others like Feedburner, which tracks subscriptions, are important.
2. Participation: Once someone gets to your content, you'll want to know how they respond, so measuring comments, trackbacks, Twitter replies or "retweets" are important. Blogging platforms provide this data, as does Twitter's search engine (search.twitter.com) and specialized tools like Radian6.
3. Viral Value: This speaks to how much people are talking about you as a result of a traditional activity like a product announcement or majority media coverage. Radian6 is a great tool for this as well, but you also can use RSS-based searches.
4. Influence: This is more qualitative in nature, but as you gather the quantitative measures above, it's important to assess who is engaging with you, and how many people follow them (on Twitter or comment on their blog), as well as what they say (tone, sentiment).
With this foundation and with new tools in your arsenal, the question then becomes what do you do with them to demonstrate the ROI. This richer set of data gives you an ability to correlate the specific metrics that matter for specific campaigns. For example, you're in a better position to show how the number of leads over a period of time correlate with media coverage, Web traffic, blog comments, viral word-of-mouth and more. For most executives or marketers, this will break down resistance and shorten the path to a robust social media program. PRN
Ted Weismann is senior vice president of Lois Paul & Partners. He can be reached at email@example.com.