I’m working on summarizing tracking Social Media Outreach for the Havana Central Restaurant chain – the same Restaurant chain I did a case study of a few months ago presented at Columbia Business School Alumni Club of New York. In talking with Cecilia Pineda Feret (Online Marketing & Community Strategist for Havana Central), especially over the last week, while looking over the Social Media progress over the last month - we enabled Google Analytics tracking on the website to include all downloads, all outgoing links, all email links (via Google Analytics tracking scripts), all reservations to OpenTable, Tell A Friend, Get a Quote, VIP Guest List, etc. Though the interchange with Cecilia I was able to come up with what we’ve accomplished and what we haven’t been able to accomplish, and why.
I did promote myself in this post – I didn’t intend to – but it appears to go with what I’m saying in this post – if your going to track ROI, you going to need a much more thought out strategy for metrics than most businesses have been willing to consider – and may be that they need help with this.
Update: As I thought more about this post I realized that much of the activity thought of as “Social Media” is invisible – similar to infra-red or ultra-violet light. As we know, both types of light do not register on our visual spectrum, but we know they are present and some animals can detect one or both frequencies – but most humans can’t. I think the same thing can be said for Social Media activities today – we know they are present but we do not have the necessary, calibrated tracking in place most of the time – so that activity is invisible – yet we do see some tangible results – (much as bread rises due to yeast activity) – but we don’t get enough information to actually operate with the data that way.
This post addresses my insight into the main issues in tracking and how to address them – it will also be a the subject of a white paper, shortly.
While a few more things could be done – much of Social Media isn’t going to show up in site analytics, as I pointed out last week, unless the website is part of the transaction, and we have a way to segment the activity – we’ll never know if all the activity that happens as tweets, check-ins via FourSquare, promotions on Social Media, or even the Facebook Fan page – translate into more reservations being booked, more people showing up at events, more money being spent in the restaurant locations. We know that’s what most businesses want - certainty that social media results in more money being made – and it can’t be shown conclusively unless certain steps and planning are done beforehand (and there most likely needs to be a good strategy in place in order to make that all happen).
But maybe we’d be better off, as many have been saying, if we did not try to make Social Media into an ROI mechanism – even though it might sometimes turn into an ROI Generator. I think we’re better off admitting that most of the time, for now, what you’ll get out of Social Media outreach is soft metrics – and if you want more than that, hire someone like me to figure out how to make all the pieces fit together so you can track everything down to the last dollar.
Let’s look at what happened at Havana Central due to Social Media Outreach over the last 14 months as an example of what’s possible and what’s not so easy to do.
I used Radian6 to chart what I call the “OTS” or “opportunity to see” metric using Twitter Followers – Radian6 has some very nice reporting capabilities that make it easy to produce metrics like this one – basically, it’s a chart of the number of followers of all the people who tweeted about Havana Central every month since June 09 – and their followers. If a person tweeted more than once, that’s added to the total count as we’re looking at “impressions” or “pageviews” – equating it with the opportunity to see a message. It’s a crude eyeball metrics - and perhaps up to 10% of the followers see the messages, probably less – but that’s no different than people who see a billboard plastered in a subway station by walking by – or people exposed to messaging on TV, Cable or Radio.
When I did some research, I found out why we were getting more reach – the more people we got to tweet, including those that had more followers – and the more often they tweeted – the more potential reach we had.
Here were the main things I found that accounted for the increases in OTS:
- August 09 – 600% increase due to getting people who had decent twitter followings to tweet more about the restaurant.
- February 10 – drastic increase in comments due to a band that plays at the restaurant promoting their appearances on Gruvr.com – which had a lot of comments (though 99.9% had nothing to do with Havana Central) – and by doubling the number of tweets from January 2010, we got more OTS – opportunity to see messaging.
- April 10 – more uploads to Flickr page, more check-ins using FourSquare, much of this the result of community management – created more media online that could be commented on – as well as more tweets generating more OTS.
- July 10 – A coupon giveaway contest generated a lot of comments – 112 to be exact – which drastically increased the comment count for the month.
We can keep on going on like this – and see that community management – outreach to bloggers – getting more people to tweet does impact online awareness, or at least, the potential for online awareness, by upping the amplitude of the messaging.
But none of this activity actually involves the website (notice, the Social Media Visits didn’t change much over the last 14 months – why would they?)- where Google Analytics lies – most of the action isn’t trackable or traceable back to the goals we set up in Google Analytics – or the event tracking. It’s not even trackable yet back to any coupon sales – it’s not even trackable to sales, period.
Who’s fault is that? No one – it’s just that business has not yet learned how to have a work flow and process methodology that is amendable to Social Media – they are not structured to take advantage of Social Media and therefore, they can not accurately track it. That’s it in a nutshell.
Social Media is trackable – right down to the ROI part, but in order to do that you’d practically have to change the way the business is run – it’s not technology – we have the technology to track everything – and new technologies are rapidly evolving to make it even easier like Spreadfast.
The most we could say, if I had the financials in front of me now, which I don’t, is that an increased period of social media activity results in higher earnings that month – but that’s almost impossible to track back to Social Media since there are so many other factors and variables involved – like events happening in NYC that could have produced more or less traffic flow (the bomb scare in Times Square a few months ago definitely hurt traffic and sales – even if the best-est Social Media outreach was going on that month – it would be really, really hard and a reach to tie it to finances).
That’s because, most of the Social Media Outreach isn’t meant to be tie to finances – but most people don’t realize that yet – in order for Social Media Outreach to turn into Money Earned – it would need to turn into something else – not Social Media anymore – more like Social CRM – much like what Jacob Morgan preaches- but that’s not happening here yet – that’s not happening at 99.99% of businesses doing Social Media Today, I bet.
I personally don’t think there’s much point in talking money and Social Media – unless we are willing to really sit down and examine how all the activity is flowing and what you can track and what you can’t – and what we have to do to make what you can’t track, trackable.
How could Havana Central made the entire Social Media outreach trackable? Keep in mind – the restructuring that might be needed.
- Full time community management utilizing a Social CRM – constant active outreach.
- Radian6 Alerts set up against all competitors – every time someone goes into Carmine’s, Bond45, Blue Fin – they also get contacted and put into the Social CRM database.
- Coupons are generated with QR codes that tie back into the database. The business locations have QR readers and Bar Code readers so anyone that redeems coupons goes into the database.
- Active Segmentation of leads (which is what most of the online chatter will turn out to be) – the more they tweet, the more the come in and eat, the more they get rewarded – but in order to really know that you’d have to have steps 1-3 implemented.
- All the staff is trained – the training manager is a totally keyed into Social CRM.
- The staff is tweeting all day on their iphones or iPod Touch – if they don’t one, they get one for free to use at work when time is slow – everything is tracked in a database.
- Anytime someone shows up that’s been outreached to by community management – that gets logged – plus as the come in more – they move up into a different segment – and get rewarded.
- When people come in who have been contacted and reached out via Social Media – what they spend gets allotted to the Social Media Channel – in order to have that happen, steps 1-7 had to happen first.
- All transactions somehow tie into the Website – and site analytics is set up to track visits – there are more and more ways to incorporate social activity to site analytics, like Chartbeat, that can be set up to track buzz and incorporate it into the site analytics.
That’s just part of it – but how many businesses are ready yet to do steps 1-9 as they try out Social Media?
I think there will be more this year than last – and more next year than this year – but it does take a lot of thinking and planning and some money up front to do it – and that’s something I’m totally into helping figure out - but I have to admit – most businesses have not yet realized they have to do steps 1-9 before they are going to get any kind of real ROI numbers they can go to the bank with.
From my point of view, no point in talking ROI and Social Media without the Social CRM, without steps 1-9 – you’ll still get results – but it will not be the kind of “soft” metrics that most people have been getting for the last few years – the kind of soft metrics that most CMO’s don’t want anymore – they want hard metrics - and they can get hard metrics - but they will need people like me to figure out how to tie all that outreach together - or they will be stuck with soft metrics they can’t sell their Board of Directors with – or can’t sell anyone else with.