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December 3rd, 2009

Understanding the Big and Small of Social Media Measurement


So it seems like a lot of people still get tripped up when it comes to social media measurement, and really, in fairness, there’s good cause when you consider just how many different platforms, metrics and services makeup the average program. Frankly, it’s a friggin mess, but if you don’t understand how smaller (micro) measures work together to calculate bigger (macro) measures of success, then, unfortunately, what you end up doing is fidgeting and fussing with slices of your program, instead of, well, measuring your entire program.

For example, a lot of people tend to think hard metrics like page views, visits, subscribers, followers, fans, blah, blah, blah, is social media program measurement. I’ll argue it’s not — that’s simply platform analytics. It’s an important type of micro measurement, sure, but only of the health and performance of a platform, be that your blog, Twitter profile, Facebook page or otherwise. But this data has to roll up into larger measures of success for you to really determine what is and isn’t working for your program. In fact, let me put this another way:

Does it really matter that you have X page views, or Y referral links or Z bit.ly clicks OR is it more important to understand how this data can be used to calculate, say, larger measures of “Market Reach,” “Market Authority,” “Community Responsiveness” and the like?

Now, some folks approach social media measurement differently. They’ll say softer metrics like reviews, comments, tweets, posts, blah, blah, blah, is program measurement — but again, sorry, I’ll argue it’s not — that’s simply brand monitoring. And while I think brand monitoring, like platform analytics, is a must-have micro measurement for any program, you have to be clear, again, about how this data rolls up into larger formulas for measuring success. Case in point:

Does it really matter that you have X positive tweets about your company news, or does X, when combined with the conversation metrics Y and Z, help you calculate a more meaningful and accurate measure of “Discussion Volume,” “Discussion Tonality,” “Message Velocity,” and the like?

So, not to over-simplify things, but you can already see that the math of social media measurement begins to boil down to A) figuring out what types of micro measurements you already have in place (really, what types of data you’re collecting); B) pinpointing what additional data types you need (be it from a third-party service, your own digging, etc.); and C). constructing some smart formulas with this data that can map to bigger program needs/bigger program goals — something that will take some time to figure out, trust me on that, but it’s not impossible. I’ll share some sample formulas in an upcoming post.

Alright, so there is one more consideration and I’ll make this my last point (for now):

Let’s say you’re already collecting heaps of data from your analytics tools and your brand monitoring service, it just begs the question: is that enough? And I’ll argue it’s probably not, unfortunately. And that’s because most of the time, people have their heads down using these tools to track and measure their own programs rather than their competitors, and without some sort of ongoing competitive analysis, you have no market benchmark. And without that market benchmark, you have no comparison data for measuring the relative success or failure of your efforts. You’re essentially measuring your program in a bubble. People never want to hear this part, not because it’s hard to understand, but because it’s hard to do. And, well, that’s true, but it’s necessary if you’re really trying to round out any sort of measurement model, be it for social media programs or otherwise.

But with all this said, what you have here, I hope, is at least an initial 3-part stab for thinking about program measurement beyond just the dumb stats and tired models that some experts would rather have you focus on. And yeah, like anything, your mileage will vary depending on how you apply the thinking here, so good luck. I’ll be posting more on this topic over the next few months as Voce rolls out some related case studies and services. More to come.

About the Author
Mike Manuel is the GM of Voce Connect, the social media marketing and web development arm of Voce Communications. In between managing this team and overseeing Voce's digital programs, he'll post a thought or two on mike-manuel.com and via @mmanuel on Twitter.

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Add Your Comment2 Responses to “Understanding the Big and Small of Social Media Measurement”

Katie Paine on December 4th, 2009 at 10:15 am

The key is not in devising a formula, but rather in analyzing the data to figure out whether a local event spread by Twitter that costs $5000 is doing better in delivering leads/sales/outcomes than the $50,000 Facebook app, or the $30,000 iPhone app, or the $15,000 press tour. You absolutely HAVE to put costs in there as a factor.

Mike Manuel on December 4th, 2009 at 11:37 am

so two things, Katie: 1). cost/investment will always be a factor, it seems silly to think someone would not do that kind of math, but like you say, that cost has to be compared to what you’ve gained (be that better/more influence, authority, preference, etc, etc.); and so 2). to get those measurements, you absolutely do need formulas.

also, i’ll just add on the cost thing, often times your investment isn’t always as clean as “X dollars spent on a Facebook app,” i think attaching a dollar figure to time/human capital investments is a moving target that most companies struggle with from a cost defining standpoint on social media programs…in fact, on that note, i’d also point to this:

“The biggest barrier to better social media engagement for companies surveyed is a lack of resources, with more than half of companies (54%) saying this is a significant problem, the report said. Nine out of 10 businesses (90%) say social media is taking up more time internally than a year ago.” Source