Most prudent business practitioners understand three axioms of measurement:

– those things that don’t or can’t be measured,  don’t get invested in

– management expects a continuous degree of rigour that investments and funds are being spent well

– measurement should closely lineup with objectives established

One of the most annoying parts of the social media drumbeat is the amorphous “Join the Conversation” rallying cry that transgresses and runs rough shod over all three of these axioms – whose conversation? what consistent metrics? why is it happening? is it mainly positive? does it ladder to a business goal?  This stuff needs to be put under scrutiny and not operate as a some sacrosanct budget line item. Social media (and social business in general) will always be considered beta test playthings if they can’t pass this sniff test.

Although benchmarks don’t readily exist like they do in other media and may always defy comparison given the fluid and fast paced nature of technology and platforms, there is a large list of measures that the top 100 companies are using to track progress (by the way, most CEOs will express support as long as some measures are being tracked, even thought not perfect, and that they’re travelling in the right direction).

We identified the top 46 measures the top 100 Wikibrands are emphasizing, tied to the 6 main benefits companies seek when they pursue social media ( a much larger set of potential metrics is listed in our book:

The unfortunate reality is what we can measure easily is what we do measure. Traffic generated is the top metric monitored – unique visitors and new members are 3rd and 4th metrics tracked respectively, even though in most cases they should not be considered a top 5 measure consideration.

The very best companies have a wide palette of measures that concentrate on key objectives and yet can be accessible on a quarterly, monthly, daily and oftentimes, real-time basis.

Take Dell for example. They have successfully embedded social media as a way if doing business and thus, have delivered an effective range of measures that tracks performances, indicates what’s important and incents people in the direction favourable progress. Here is their  list:

  • Conversation sentiment analysis; tracked by topics
  • Individual customer connections to address individual needs
  • Changes to business processes and products
  • Acting to change, improve or get better faster
  • Revenue generation from The Dell outlet, small business and home offers available on Twitter
  • Nurturing of customer/stakeholder relationships
  • Turning online connections into opportunities for us
  • Connecting with more customers offline
  • Ideastorm Product Development ideas
  • Impact on Dell’s new offerings

What’s we’re really talking about here is a change in philosophy on how we track business success in social spaces from traditional passive metrics to wikibrand-era active metrics on four counts:

On Engagement -moving from brand satisfaction (am I happy vs. expectation?) to brand enthusiasm (am I genuinely excited about this brand?)

On Differentiation – moving from brand equity (does this brand own an attribute?) to brand relevance (does this brand fit into my life?)

On Participation – moving from brands awareness/trial (have I heard of/bought this brand?) to brand involvement (have I contributed/collaborated/engaged with this brand?)

On Customer Value/Influence – moving from brand loyalty (do I repeat purchase/what is share of requirements?) to brand advocacy (do I recommend this brand to others?)

In short, and as a rule, better to avoid playing the role of ticket taker and counting turnstile counts and instead, becoming part of the crowd, measuring the decibel levels, foot stomping and hand clapping.

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