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Why Measuring Social Media Is So Tough

The latest edition of my firm’s e-newsletter, Envisioning, features an article frustration.jpgfocusing on social media measurement and addressees the question of whether it is a fool’s errand. Although some have argued that it is impossible to measure the impact of social media, I am not one of them.  While social media marketing communications is  young field, we must do what we can to prove that engaging in it yields some benefit.

This is why I spent some time earlier this week participating in a Webinar produced by the Society for Word of Mouth Marketing focusing on effective social media measurement.  Marketer and author Dave Evans led a session where he outlined techniques marketers can use to determine the ROI of their efforts.  At the risk of oversimplifying his talk, I’ve interpreted the thrust of Evans’ advice using the fictional example below.  Measuring ROI could involve:  

-Taking a baseline measurement of conversation volume and sentiment regarding your product using tools developed by companies like Nielsen BuzzMetrics

-Developing specific objectives for a social media campaign (e.g., increase positive conversation about product x by 15% over a two month period via direct engagement with social media content creators)

-Track conversation volume and sentiment over the course of the campaign

-Use Web analytics tools developed by Google, Omniture and others to track the sources of traffic to your Website; determine whether traffic is being inspired by positive or negative social media content

-Calculate ROI by:

**Measuring the sentiment of social media content pre- and post- campaign to determine if it has changed

**Examine the “close rate” or products purchased by people driven to your site because of positive social media content; measure whether positive content yields higher sales

**Determine whether profits generated by your activities outstrip expenditures

Evans’ Advice: Great For Some, Lacking For Others

This seems to be a perfect method for measuring social media ROI – if you have a site where you can track pull-through or sales resulting directly from positive social media content.  Unfortunately, for many of us, life is not that simple.  Fortuntely, to his credit, Evans admits that his ROI framework falls apart for marketers with products (like consumer packaged goods) that are sold primarily offline.  I would add that it also does not work for a number of situations facing marketing communications pros in the health industry such as measuring the impact of social media content on complex health behaviors.

Of course. there are ways to combine information Evans suggests we gather with other measurement methodologies to more accurately pinpoint the influence of social media on health behaviors, but I can’t give away all my secrets (those interested in learning more can contact my firm directly).  

Regardless of the methods you use it is always going to be difficult to measure the ROI of social media.  Yet, as David Meerman Scott argues, this shouldn’t prevent people from experimenting with these technologies.  In the long run if we are going to get more people in the health industry comfortable with social media, we must continue to be hyper focused on measurement.

2 Comments/Trackbacks

It is true that calculating ROI for monitoring & participating in social media is challenging. I wrote a blog post on it that you may find helpful

Techrigy SM2 makes listening, benchmarking, analyzing & participating so much more efficient thereby increasing the ROI.
Connie Bensen
Techrigy Community Strategist

The funny thing is that we are going to look back at these types of posts and comments and laugh at how social media was actually a different form of marketing.

Social Media is Word of Mouth online and all marketers know that WOM from a trusted source is the strongest form of marketing out there.

Future generations won't even know the term social media because it will be inherent to business.

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