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As more brands look to invest in the minefield that is social media marketing, it’s clear that standards are needed to define and measure success. However, marketers need to establish industry-wide best practices first and understand what they want to achieve, before tying down the metrics.

At E-consultancy’s recent Social Media roundtable, it was apparent that measurement is an issue that many marketers are still wrestling with.

Social media empowers everyone (not just early adopters and technologists) to express themselves, start conversations and create their own content.

However, this open and free form of communication still leaves many companies struggling to find a natural way to start conversations with their customers.

Rather than adopting a “me-too approach”, companies need to put the interests of their customers at the heart of their marketing strategy and determine how to add value.

Take Twitter, for example. For every company using it well, (such as Zappos, where you can “tweet” with the CEO and even win yourself a free pair of shoes), there’s a DirectTV type company, entering the space to simply buck the social media trend. With a limited number of updates, mostly from an automated feed, and only nine followers, it’s worth considering just how much value DirectTV is adding for their customers.

Participate, don't pitch

Regardless of how many times online PR people tell bloggers to "feel free" to promote their content on their behalf, consumers will only distribute online content through social channels when it provides value for them over and above just providing value for the brand.

As this clever music video by Weezer illustrates, success in “going viral” requires a bit of creativity together with an understanding of whom the company is potentially targeting.

Sony Bravia’s 'PlayDoh' advert (following on from the success of  'Balls' and 'Paint') provides a good example of best practice. As well as creating a visually stunning (and original, depending on your perspective) TV ad, Sony made videos and images available to users to download on their microsite, encouraging online "contributers" to distribute content from the ad through viral channels, including YouTube, Flickr, and del.icio.us.

Show me the money

The buzz around social media is focused around “conversational marketing,” and principally the ease of forming a direct relationship with customers. When it comes to allocating marketing budgets however, measuring the return on investment from social media and tying it the bottom line is of key importance.This often means that social media marketing suffers chronically from “chicken and egg syndrome".

Without tangible results, it’s difficult to justify increasing budget for social media campaigns when demonstrating successful outcomes often requires significant investment in the first place.  

However, this is something that is naturally changing, as the industry grows and matures. Initiatives such as the open source movement, MeasurementCamp, bring together leading industry experts to structure social media marketing through standard frameworks and metrics to measure its impact both online and offline.

The issue of measurement was a key discussion point at E-consultancy's recent Online PR roundtable. As demand for tangible metrics increases, more PR companies and specialist agencies are offering tools to monitor buzz and measure online reputation.

Yet for many marketers, measurement remains an after-thought, as removing the educational silos to get senior management buy-in to invest in social media in the first place is the first step towards implementing a successful campaign.

(On the subject of measuring value, it's worth checking out E-consultancy's very own case study on Social Media Monetisation , first presented by our CEO Ashley Friedlein at Internet World in April).

Benefits and best practice

It's clear that tremendous benefits can be reaped when marketers get it right. AKQA and PG Tips' recent efforts to "bring back Al and Monkey" not only delivered a PR value of £100,000, but also meant that the brand was seen 37 million times, with some rich media delivering a click-through rate of over 20%.

To some extent, the greater push for industry standards and wider availability of tools for monitoring online reputation means that measurement is gradually becoming less of an an uphill struggle.

However, to derive the most value from social media, marketers need to first tie down exactly what they want to achieve and then determine how to measure success.

For more information, market trends and the latest statistics, check out E-consultancy's recently published free Roundtable Briefings on Online PR and Social Media.

Aliya Zaidi

Published 16 June, 2008 by Aliya Zaidi

Aliya Zaidi is Research Manager at Econsultancy. Follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn or Google+.

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Jo

Hi Aliya

I think the dilemma experienced by marketers points to the central question of how resources are allocated.

Why not put the budget on the table and ask the customer champions and the customers themselves where the money is best spent?

"The Future of Management" - Gary Hamel - Harvard and London Business School talks about the spotlight that social media is throwing on the obsessions managers have for control.

A good day,
Jo

over 8 years ago

Aliya Zaidi

Aliya Zaidi, - at Mrs Aliya Zaidi

Hi Jo,

Putting customers in charge of the marketing budget would potentially overcome many of the problems that senior management face when deciding to invest in social media.

For example, before you consider measuring success, the initial dilemma is how to engage with customers on their own level in the first place. Passing control of the budget to customers is one step further on from co-creation and empowerment through the wisdom of the crowds.

However, it's understandable why senior managers might be reluctant to surrender control, especially considering the potentially disastrous consequences when crowdsourcing backfires.

http://www.e-consultancy.com/news-blog/365558/when-crowdsourcing-backfires.html

It's important to consider that social media has its limits, and if it backfires, at the end of the day, it's senior management who pay the price.

over 8 years ago

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michael blowers

Aliya, Very interesting posting and the first time I have seen someone try to practically approach an issue like monetarising Twitter! Thank you for crediting Measurement Camp – there are some very clever people (not me) trying to resolve some really challenging issues and this sort of thing gives the effort some credibility. One of things which I know my colleagues have struggled with is to create a relevant selection of case studies because of confidentiality issues.

At the latest meeting the key theme was to understand the measures which can be applied to media outputs and trying to make some connection with organisational outcomes. These are all ‘resulting’ measures and I strongly believe there needs to be an educational push towards the consideration of measurement at the very start of the campaign. In particular when the campaign objectives are being decided on, making sure they are measurable.

over 8 years ago

Aliya Zaidi

Aliya Zaidi, - at Mrs Aliya Zaidi

Hi Michael,

With regards to case studies, I agree that it's very difficult to assess how successful the relevant campaigns are in terms of tangible KPIs and hard economic indicators.

There are a few case studies such as the Dell Regeneration campaign:
http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2008/03/24/case-study-dissecting-the-dell-regeneration-graffiti-facebook-campaign/

but these measure success in terms of reach and and participation, rather than strictly return on investment.

For one method of valuing social media, I would highly recommend our own case study, which our CEO, Ashley Friedlein recently presented at Internet World. We assessed the value of social media in terms of the value of a click through to our site:

http://www.slideshare.net/econsultancy/e-consultancy-social-media-monetisation-case-study-442177

over 8 years ago

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MBB

I think this is a really great article. We consistently strive to get valid metrics from social media partners but are always hindered. They never seem to know how to benchmark their own activities even though they profess that social media works. The problem we have is that clients don't buy into the phrase "it works", and rightly want us to prove it. One example being... is it better to have 7,000 friends no comments, no forums, or is it better to have 2,000 comments, 50 forums, 300 comments... theres no simple answer as of yet really.

I would profess that each individual campaign should be measured based on its core idea. A radio player would need to be judged on number of full listens, number of downloads to page etc. A competition by number of entrants, number of sends to a friend etc.

The nature of social media means ideas need to be unique and differentiated, therefore measurements need to be the same.

over 8 years ago

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Adam Crawford, Head of SEO at Momondo Group

Hi Aliya

Out of interest, why the javascript link to the measurementcamp site and none of the others?

over 8 years ago

Aliya Zaidi

Aliya Zaidi, - at Mrs Aliya Zaidi

Hi Mbb,

I would really recommend attending the next MeasurementCamp (on 9th July) where lots of smart people discuss ways to structure and measure the online and offline conversation.

For example, since social media now covers such a broad spectrum of different media, it's worth considering whether the type of metrics used to measure success should be individually tailored to the type of social media channel concerned, or whether there needs to be a universal framework applicable to both online and offline channels, to enable side-by-side comparison.

Adam,

Not sure why the MeasurementCamp link was in javascript, but I've changed this now.

over 8 years ago

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