This post from David Armano does a great job of exploring three types of engagement that are near omnipresent in our digital world—interactive, social and mobile—and where they occur. Where they occur doesn’t mean a specific location, though, like “website” or “while at the laundromat.” Instead it’s more about who controls the domain; whether it is:
- Paid The organization paid for placement on others’ properties;
- Owned The organization has control, whether it is on or off your domain;
- Earned Word-of-mouth, search or social driven, and almost always off your domain.
The graphic Mr. Armano created for the post nicely illustrates the ecosystem of the three. But what I want to delve into further in this post is the horizontal spectrum of measurement that stretches across the “social” sphere. And here’s why, if you’ll afford me a bit of a rant…
I’m tired of people saying things like “ROI is a social media zombie that needs to die.” While it may be a great soundbite for a presentation to consultants, strategists and other marketing agency types working in the social space, it’s really more of an obtuse exaggeration with no practical application. I’m also tired of people saying that if you can’t demonstrate ROI, then expect the CEO to kill your SM efforts. Frankly, that’s probably closer to reality, but it’s not the right approach either.
What’s missing is some exploration and definition about the value that lies between the two extremes of measuring ROI and measuring nothing. ROI is a very specific measure that is difficult to apply to a social media effort. Measuring nothing—especially with the lame excuse that not everything is about the bottom line—is not an option. When it comes to business, saying something can’t be measured (or at least observed to be a success) means it’s not worth doing.
People only speaking from the point-of-view of one extreme or the other are doing a huge disservice to businesses trying to make sense of the space.
Now, with the rant (mostly) out of the way, lets talk about a better way to apply some measurement in the Social Media space. Notice the word “effort” in the rant above. That defines the far left point of the measurement spectrum. It’s the elemental position for social media efforts you initiate. There is also a far right point. That represents the word-of-mouth marketing that is started, sustained or withers without your involvement (or, potentially, your awareness). It happens because you make a kick-ass product (or conversely, you make a crappy one). Either way, it affects your sales without you being involved. But… that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your best to be aware of it, track it, reward it, and—yes, where at all possible—measure it. (A good case study of this is detailed in this Mitch Joel post.)
To define the specificity, companies need the focused—and not quippy—skills of marketing strategists. We need to help them:
- Define goals for the space;
- Determine the best tactics and messages they can implement;
- Discover the current and potential chatter that is outside their implementation;
- Understand the desire and need to track the path to those goals;
- And establish the methods, implement the tools and write the equations to measure those goals.
A. This is the point of an effort like the Ford Fiesta Movement. The goals of the effort were to build interest and qualified leads for the 2011 Ford Fiesta, and create a multitude of user-generated content prior to the release of the product for digital marketing. To do so, Ford recruited “agents” who would be given their own 2011 Ford Fiesta and would then be free to document their adventures including the car as they see fit. The documentation took the form of tweets, blog posts, videos and more, which were all aggregated on a Ford-controlled site. The agents were, essentially, working for Ford and trained in the way to post things so they could be easily aggregated and tracked. Ford could track the campaign and measure it’s success using web analytics and social monitoring tools. I’m sure they measured both the amount of content being created, and which pieces of content were most successful. And since they owned the aggregating domain, they could also easily gather, count and follow up with qualified leads. In other words, this is very measurable Social Media effort… and once the car is available to the public, they will be able to come darn close to calculating true ROI for a social effort.
B. This is the point of an effort like Best Buy’s @twelpforce. The goals of this effort were to extend the in-store expertise and personality to the world outside their doors, and in doing so, create a publicly-accessible, branded help-desk database. So, essentially, Best Buy unleashed just about all their employees to be on online customer service rep via Twitter. This is powerful value that Best Buy is providing to both current and potential customers. And while it is not on an owned domain, it is a domain that is fairly easy to track using social media monitoring tools (or even simply using Twitter search) and other means. It won’t be measurement of true ROI. But measuring things like how many questions are answered, what products are asked about most, which people are providing the best answers and others can provide insights into buying trends, new product and service plan opportunities and what kind of personalities are driving more engagement and, potentially, sales.
C. This is the point of an event like the Eagle Creek case study mentioned above. Listing potential goals of Eagle Creek is impossible since they did not initiate the effort, and therefore the ROI of this event is, indeed, impossible to calculate. But you have to assume (or hope) that someone at Eagle Creek is actively watching the space and putting some form of measurement to it. That might include: the number of blog posts being written, the number of subscribers to that blog, the number of comments being made on those posts, the number of times they are being passed along via Twitter or social bookmarking site, etc. These might not be the simplest type of events to measure and act on… but they might also be the most important. So you should have a strategy (and spreadsheet) ready to do so.
Measurement isn’t easy. Neither is success. But even the act of trying to define the first (measurement) can help lead to the second (success). Businesses can’t afford to be distracted by the polar debate of between “ROI must be proved” and “measurement is impossible and pointless.” What they need is smart people to help them define business relevant, situational specific measurement strategies.
ILLUSTRATION CREDIT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7855449@N02/4510076178/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0