Creating Social Media Measurement Plans

I had two teachers I particularly liked in college. One was a financial accounting professor and the other a marketing professor. I remember learning to calculate return on investment (ROI) and how to compare potential projects to see which were worthy to pursue.

The accounting professor taught me that an endeavor with a potentially poor outcome should be passed over. But when I passed this advice along to my marketing professor, he simply laughed and said: “Some of the best successes begin their lives as doomed failures.”

I tell that story because it’s a great example of the struggle that goes on in most of our minds when it comes to social media. Though I believe in the possibilities presented by this swift-moving media, I am not so taken as to think that justifiable measurement isn’t important. Our time as business people is limited, and we must make decisions every single day to follow some paths and to pass others by.

Even if you are only participating in social media for the branding opportunities, the bottom line is that any effort done for your business that can be measured should be measured. So when people ask me about my ROI in social media, I tell them that I follow the same protocol for any project I undertake. Here are the three steps to follow in measuring the impact of social media:

  1. Start with the end in mind.
  2. You need to decide what you want to measure. What end goals do you want to move the needle toward? Are you trying to drive sales, generate leads, or engage customers on a personal level to build trust? These are all valid goals, and the choice you make will drive the rest of the process.

    For example, a recent {complink 12888|TTI Inc.} campaign centered on driving traffic to a particular set of pages with the goal of exposing customers and potential customers to our new brand spokesperson. We were interested in many metrics, but the main objective was to have as many visits as possible on our main landing page.

  3. Connect the dots.
  4. Make the connections you need to make in order to measure the outcome of your social media efforts. If your measurements reside outside your Website, then put tools in place to track progress. Set up a account to track clicks on links you plan to market to your audience. Set up accounts with a social management service like Tweetdeck or Hoot suite. Keep a close count on re-tweets, mentions, and conversations being had around your brand/campaign and download your activity into an archive file on a regular basis.

    If your measurements are of customer visits to your site, then ensure that your Web analytics system can identify those leads coming from social channels. Set up goals that you consider “success metrics” that relate to your desired result. Successful checkouts, information requests, and contact form submissions are three examples of these measures. Whatever you choose, make sure it is uniquely definable.

    For the TTI campaign, we set up a Web link that was used for any social media post made during the campaign. Based on the tracking provided by the tool, we were able to see how many times the URL was clicked on, shared, and reposted. Through our social management tool, we could track re-tweets, shares, and mentions of the campaign. And finally, through our Web analytics tools, we were able to capture just how much engagement was generated.

    Show me the results

  5. Assess and redirect.
  6. Now that you’ve defined your outcome, and the measurements that will tell you if you've reached it, and you've ensured that you can track the results, it’s important to set some honest goals for yourself. This might be guesswork at first, but you should have a pretty good idea about what results would make the effort worthy. Prepare regular reports on the data you gather weekly or monthly to provide a good indicator of whether the efforts you are making on the sites are having their intended effect.

    Don’t be disappointed in early results, as you need to give your efforts some time to work. And remember, you can learn a lot about what resonates with your customers by learning what doesn’t resonate with them. Don’t be afraid to make changes as you see opportunities, and record what you learn. Soon, you will have created a process document for social media campaigns that work for your customers.

    Since the TTI campaign ran over an extended timeframe, we were able to set checkpoints every couple of weeks to measure results against goals and to correct course accordingly. Since we had the measurements in place ahead of time, we were able to back overall sentiment up with reliable numbers. These steps helped us focus our social media efforts for this campaign. We were able to meet our expectations and now have a personalized plan that we can draw upon in the future. And though the steps will not guarantee positive results, they should at least help you build a system for measurement so you can honestly assess the opportunity.

As always, I’m happy to hear your questions and comments. Let me know if you’ve done similar assessments in the past and what results you attained.

8 comments on “Creating Social Media Measurement Plans

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 10, 2011

    Hi Andy–great stuff, again. I'm not even close to measuring anything but we have folks within our company that do. (Thank goodness.) Your anecdotes reminded me of something a distribution executive said back when was changing business. “We are going to engage with our customer in any and in every way our customer wants to engage with us.” Maybe that's reason enough to engage in social media. (Plus, the less measuring I have to do, the better. Not my strong suit.)

  2. itguyphil
    February 10, 2011

    I think the social media aspect is crucial in our current times. The old saying “Out of sight, out of mind” regins strong here. What better way to keep in touch with customers and potential customers than to give them little blurbs of information every so often. They can reach you easily without having to worry about long phone wait times or ignored emails. It NEEDS to be planned for and executed OR the competition will.

  3. alawson
    February 11, 2011

    @Barb – I love that quote. The social shift is fed by the migration of choice from seller to consumer. Our customers are choosing where they want to engage with companies, not the other way around. We have to weigh the cost to be there to engage them against the cost of missing the connection entirely.  I compare it to the language barrier. If I understand the mediums as a business, then I can say, “Yes, I speak your language.” The more of that we have in this expanding global economy, the better.


  4. Mr. Roques
    February 13, 2011

    Great post, ROI and social media have a love-hate relationship and your guidelines definitely make it more 'Valentine's' suitable. 

    Regarding costs, how do you decide on a budget? A full-time employee handling the social media aspect? What other costs should be accounted for?

  5. alawson
    February 14, 2011

    @pocharle – Thanks for weighing in. I welcome the new ways we have to reach our customers and to learn more about their needs at a business level. I think that where people experience the letdown is when we put ourselves out there, and they engage, and we don't answer or aren't prepared to answer. The messaging is important, but I think most important is the consistency with which we monitor and engage.

  6. alawson
    February 14, 2011

    @Mr. Roques – Glad you liked the post. The simple answer is that budgets depend on company goals, resources, and expectations. Look first to internal resources.  If you have them to spare, you are ahead of the game. I would generally say that full-time or part-time is less of an issue than whether the person you choose is suitable to be the voice of your company. 

    And you are right, people hours is only one part of the cost. Companies routinely consider investments in technology (monitoring systems, design resources, etc.), educational and networking opportunities (events and conferences), and the cost associated with the actual execution of any planned campaigns into their budgeting decisions. Needless to say, these requirements can vary greatly from company to company.


  7. Mr. Roques
    February 17, 2011

    Indeed and sometimes who you pick to run twitter, facebook, etc is not who it should be. That's because you pick someone that already knows the technology (but probably lacks the marketing background, etc) instead of choosing a marketing person (and, if needed, train them).

    Thanks again!

  8. hwong
    February 25, 2011

    I would be interested in learning about the most effective methods for advertisement via social media. Anyone has any insights?

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