Perhaps you have heard of the terms ‘social media monitoring’ and ’social media metrics’ or analytics as it is sometimes known. There are those who are still trying to figure out how social media fits into their company’s strategy and may think these terms are interchangeable.
If you fall into this category, fear not. Most of the world still thinks this way as well, as more and more companies are quickly realising the importance of implementing social media along with monitoring and metrics of activity on these platforms.
Why monitor or measure?
Why would anyone want to monitor or measure the activity that refers to their product or service or even concept? Is there too much noise to make any sense of what is said anyway?
When you monitor, you are keeping tabs on what is already out there as well as the results of your own or others’ activity. You are collecting the actual information that your research runs across in the form of words and images: tweets, blog posts, comments, photos, videos and audio podcasts.
When you measure you are counting, tracking, noticing patterns and trends within this information. In short, you analyse the results of what you have monitored in order to help you connect better with your customer. Your messaging, competitive analysis, community building, branding, product development, even through crowd sourcing, and countless other tactics you implement to run your business effectively all benefit from your monitoring and metrics, which serve as a source of ideas, an inspiration, and a guide.
As it pertains to social media, monitoring involves listening; listening to customers, potential customers, the competition’s customers, vendors, employees, anyone and anything that involves what you need to know about your business and how it works or should work. Monitoring is also a time intensive activity with can have significant overhead as the process requires human attention and intervention.
What exactly should we monitor?
Here are key areas of traditional enterprise research to monitor and measure:
PR effectiveness: Influencers activity and coverage of you and your topics.
Demand signals: Trends in new interests or products.
Brand strength: Types of mentions you get.
Product strengths & weaknesses: Specific feature comments, positive and negative.
Competitive position: How do you compare to your competitors. Where are you now? Where do you want to be?
You monitor whatever keywords are relevant to your area. For example, if your area is automobiles, what other words than the obvious would you search across the various platforms? Cars, automobiles, transportation, travel and so on. How about energy pricing? Would learning about how your customers view energy pricing be relevant to your design and marketing of your automobile or automobile related service?
If it would, then you travel down yet another road where you may want to examine alternative energy, the recession, travel-related cost saving methods and so on. The possibilities may seem unlimited, but you have the resources for a determined amount according to your budget, so you start with what you can measure.
You can monitor what certain target markets are saying about you or automobiles in general or in specific. Countless associations and organisation within those target markets exist whose communications are searchable. Is there a relevant fan club your Google research has uncovered? Why not monitor their Facebook page, their tweets on Twitter, and other sources of online contact with each other? Are these fans taking pictures of your product and posting to their Flickr account or another account?
The challenges of monitoring
As mentioned earlier in this article, monitoring involves more human effort, filtering, which needs to be set up, which of course entails time. It is often unstructured and continuously evolving. Obviously, the bigger the company or field, the more you are going to have to monitor.
The definition of measurement/metrics
Once you have a monitoring system set up, at a certain point you need to measure those results or you will go crazy collecting the information as it overflows your account, your inbox, and wherever else you have set up to receive reports.
You will be measuring instances of words and phrases mentioned, issues raised, comparisons of service or product, support or critique for a product or service or cause, levels of engagement or interaction with a brand, with others in a community or network, pass along rate (like when info goes viral).
The challenge of sentiment analysis as a metric
An area that is heavily debated is SENTIMENT ANALYSIS. Can we make a judgment on whether a person or community feels a certain way about a product or service based on words chosen? What happens when someone refers to a product SUCKING SUPREMELY and that product happens to be a vacuum cleaner? Are we to think of every single instance of an instance where a word can be taken another way, the wrong way or many ways and measured incorrectly? That is where the challenges lie.
In accounting we have numerous methods of assessing the value of goodwill. Now there’s a challenge, a challenge very similar to what we face in social media and measuring goals, objectives, and outcomes.
The challenge of customer engagement as a metric
If there is increasing engagement regarding a topic concerning your product or service, do we follow PT Barnum’s advice as long as they spell our name right? These days we need to be there before anything happens by listening and measuring and assessing the value of what we are listening to and then measuring because there is simply too much.
How do we know if what we are listening to is worth tracking? Many business people hear about Followers (Twitter) and Fans, or Likers if you prefer, (Facebook) and immediately focus on those numbers, increasing them and those related with them. However, in the end, is it really about those numbers? Or is it about the bottom line?
It’s about all of this and much, much more.
The challenges of measuring and monitoring social media
With social media it can’t be just about the bottom line, because too much is involved. Yes, the bottom line is what concerns investors, managers depending on bonuses, and money does make the world go round. But there are also intangibles to ‘measure’.
Therein is the heart of the challenge of metrics. You can only measure just so much. You can set up a dashboard, but you still need somebody to read it and digest it so they can apply the information.
To conclude part one of this three-part series on monitoring and measurement, we offer the wisdom of Gary Angel, the CTO and co-founder of the technical consultancySemphonic.com, headquartered in the California Bay area.
Steps to accurate measurement
Typically measurement is a multi-step process. Gary says it best in his Semphonic Blog:
Find a means to accurately measure (even if expensive and one-time) the uber-measure.
Create measurement around a set of sub-indicators that might be either causal or indicative.
Correlate the sub-indicators with the uber-measure.
Use a factor analysis to reduce the sub-indicator set and to identify combinations that represent key causal factors.
Track the relevant sub-indicators on an ongoing basis as your key performance indicators.
“In terms of social capital, uber-measures are things like brand awareness, brand value, customer satisfaction, consumer trust and loyalty. Sub-indicators are likely to be things like social mentions, brand searches, web site visits, online satisfaction scores, relationship events (like registration), etc.”
“You’ll likely find that accurate assessment of the uber-measures requires professional primary research. Measurement of sub-indicators is likely to come from a whole grab bag of systems including web analytics tools, social monitoring tools, competitive landscaping tools and search monitoring tools.”
Gary warns that it is rare that companies take the intermediate and crucial steps of collecting these two items together and then analyzing them to create a measurement framework that might work on a going forward basis.
“But when it comes to measuring social media, understanding that ROI isn’t necessarily the focus can dramatically change your approach to measurement and open up powerful measurement directions that don’t directly yield an ROI but do yield powerful indications of how successful your efforts really are.”
Remember that when you are setting up a social media monitoring tool your focus is on listening and responding. Filtering out noise comes later. Here you want to be as inclusive as possible and let the human reader do the filtering.
For reporting (measurement) nobody is reading the actual posts and filtering them, because they are being aggregated up into mentions and sentiment numbers, and if there is noise that you have let filter through, then that noise shows in the numbers.
When you setup a profile, you need to review your info to ensure that garbage or noise doesn’t increasingly creep into your data stream. Maintaining it never really stops. For pure listening and responding once you setup a profile, you rarely really need to tune it.
In many ways, the value of monitoring and measurement will depend on the correct setup of the listening platforms and the interoperability of various tools used to create reports and insights; Marshall Sponder deals with this subject in depth in his book Social Media Analytics, to be published by McGraw Hill on August 19th, 2011 (September 2011 in the UK).
Part two of the three part series will provide more help on how to deal with monitoring and measurement by looking at case studies from leading social media analytics tool companies.
Cecilia Pineda Feret, a Digital Marketing Strategist, provides online and social media strategy, implementation, and training to individuals and organizations. As a connector of people, ideas, and technologies, she is always learning, and sharing, about the next new thing in emerging digital communications. Cecilia also co-produces NY Data Stories. Follow her on Twitter: @cecipfand Tumblr cecipf
Marshall Sponderis the founder ofWebmetricsguru.com, an industry blog aboutWeb Analytics, Social Media and Search Marketing. He also writes a monthly column forEntrepreneur.comon helping businesses to leverage online marketing technologies successfully in a challenging economy. Marshall maintains his own Analytics Consultancy, Now-Seo, working with small to large marketing agencies. He is also producing NY Data Stories , events offering networking and analysis of business metrics. Follow him on Twitter:@webmetricsguru
Thoughts about the article:
When writing an article like this, the sum of two heads is often better than one; I find there are others who can often articulate my ideas better than I can, often improving on them which is what happened here.
I was talking with a good friend yesterday about the differences with their platform (yes, we’re talking about a vendor platform) and rolling your own, or just making the wrong choices … and where that can lead us … and you don’t want to know just how bad the outcome of choosing wrong can be … but it can be a horror show.
And I think a lot times, that’s what happens. For example, there are more and more books coming out on Social Media everyday, but I don’t know of any that disimbiguates the choices one has to make as much as mine will.
One other thing – and I want to write a whole post on how to compare Social Media tools but I’ll briefly mention it here by citing a post by Liza Sperling who posted this at OneForty.com -
Here are some parts of the post that are really fantastic – and play into my article with Cecilia Pineda Feret on Monitoring and Measurement (above). I think along with all the ideas we’re communicating here, the need for a better way to describe what platforms and tools do are needed – and that’s one thing that’s making it even harder to make the right choices – the choices my book is all about…
….. It’s clear that this nascent space is lacking the taxonomy necessary to group and define tools’ core functionality. Buzzwords like “dashboard” and “platform” are used to describe any tool with data and a graph or two. As a result, social business professionals with a mandate to evaluate and select a “tool” often end up comparing a wrench to a hammer.
….There are hundreds of social media tools out there vying for your attention, but few do a great job of defining what they actually do and do not do. Some are similar to one another and compete with each other, while others have zero overlap and can supplement each other. Of course determining which tools are right for you requires a clear definition of your objectives, but without knowing which tools do what it is impossible to know which tools will meet those objectives.
By the way, my book on Social Media Analytics addresses this issue – unfortunately, it’s just going to be published in August this year – but here is what Lisa says is the breakdown -
Social Medial Monitoring (SMM) tools, often called listening platforms, are where most social media strategies begin – monitoring and tracking mentions of your brand, products, competitors and industry issues. SMM tools offer countless ways to analyze, measure, display and report findings…The features vary by vendor as does cost, so one typically selects one SMM solution or provider and supplements it with tools in other categories.
In general, SMM tools rarely compete with tools in other categories, but there are some SMM tools that over lap with the 2nd category of tools, Social Media Engagement (SME) tools. For example, Radian 6 is an SMM tool that offers an Engagement console, but Radian 6’s core expertise is SMM.
Social Media Engagement (SME) tools are communication platforms where users take action and can respond, engage, interact or communicate directly on social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, etc…Users provide the login credentials and offer OAuth permissions and can Tweet, comment on a blog post or respond to a question in a forum without leaving the SME platform. These are real-time, highly customized dashboards and often offer multiple accounts, a shared workspace for many users and the ability to respond in multiple places with one click. SMM tools differ from SMM tools because they are primarily where activity occurs rather where one analyzes activity.
Social Media Specialized (SMS) tools fall into a handful of buckets. These tools are not stand alone tools or comprehensive platforms, but specialized tools focused on on analyzing and optimizing one aspect of your social media efforts. The intent is to use these tools to supplement, not replace, other tools. Some of these tools are available on SMM or SME platforms, for example, you can view Klout scores within Seesmic Desktop. These tools can be broken down into the following categories:
Social Media Content Management (SMCM) tools facilitate the creation, distribution, optimization and management of social media content. Each tool facilitates at least one specific activity. For example, Timely posts your tweets at a future time to achieve the most reach.
Marshall Sponder is an independent Web Analytics and SEO/SEM specialist working in the field of market research, social media, networking and PR. He provides digital data convergence generating ROI and develops data metrics, KPI’s and dashboards that drive businesses by setting, evaluating benchmarks and teaches Analytics at UCI Extension and Social Media for The Arts at Rutgers University.