For many marketers measuring social media ROI is a daunting challenge, one we’re not quite yet sure how to meet, but an objective we continue to strive toward, driven by the need to understand channel effectiveness, achieve budget efficiencies and answer senior management calls to justify investment in new media.
So, what are the key considerations for marketers looking to measure the business value of social media?
Social is more than marcomms and is challenging organisations
Social is helping to bring the voice of the consumer to the heart of the organisation. It is broadening the definition of media and blurring the traditional lines of responsibility for marketing and insight, operating as a communication channel, a service delivery platform and a source of insight. As an ‘always-on’ channel it is challenging the concept of a campaign with a clear start and end.
Social is changing the way we measure – its evaluation is more than a dashboard
Social brings real-time feedback, meaning that the evaluation process can be integrated with each stage of campaign management from strategy, targeting, content development, delivery and evaluation. Increasingly, faster learning will lead to a greater emphasis on predictive benchmarks and not just metrics and dashboards, and to organisations adopting a much broader culture of test-and-learn.
Avoid a siloed approach to social measurement
Social tends to work in conjunction with other media. Planning and evaluation stages need to be integrated with other channels in order to maximise its benefits, establish its value, and be more trusted as a mainstream option. This is equally true of evaluating Paid, Owned and Earned social media where the success of Owned and especially Earned is often a product of Paid and interaction with other media. A crucial objective of evaluating social is to understand how it works with other marketing at all stages of the consumer journey.
It is easy to overestimate the value of earned media and influencers
Accurately measuring causality for earned media is hard. Even with some of the most sophisticated statistical techniques, it is easy to see a causal link when in reality there is only correlation. Another reason to cultivate a broad test and learn culture.
The commercial value of social will increasingly lie in the richness of its data
Current methods of collection and analytics are not fully mature. Two areas in particular have further potential: sentiment analysis and Social CRM. Sentiment analysis will never be 100% accurate, but improvements in algorithms and data collection, will allow the signal to be stronger and more reliable. For Social CRM, given the potentially clearer value exchange for customers in offering personal social data, these data sets could be part of a gateway into much richer insight across an organisation.
Social can learn from traditional planning
The best way to make use of the new opportunities presented by social is to ground them in what is already known about campaign measurement, for example, linking to objectives, based on clear assumptions, using comparable metrics. Measurement processes are effective when baked in from the start, not added retrospectively.
Even the short-term results need a long-term context
One of the benefits of social is that it provides real-time measures which can be used to adjust and optimise activities. However, marketers need to recognise and account for the difference between short-term and long-term success in their measurement strategy. IPA study The Long and the Short of it has shown that key factors such as profitability and loyalty result from long-term effects, not simply cumulatively from short-term successes.