Or is it just me? Measuring the effectiveness of brand consumer engagement via social media isn't easy. Add integrating this social media engagement into the overall marketing strategy and the task becomes even more of a challenge. We're looking at each other for answers, and Twitter is full of people posting helpful links; anyone keeping up with them all?

I'm certainly not. Some individuals are stepping up to the plate to offer their advice, which is great and all credit to them, just so long as they are talking about real life cases, as opposed to the theory of it all. I hope this post offers some valuable real life analysis thoughts and tips.

An example of this was at Internet World last week. There was a panel discussion in a very packed and stifling hot seminar room entitled Web 2.0, Social Networking, Usability, Design & Build, Strictly, On Ice, Get Me Out of Here. Did anyone attend? If ever there was a perfect venue for spreading Swine Flu, this was it.

Anyway, the discussion was entitled 'The Future of Social Media' and was designed to offer opinion on how brands can find out what people are saying about them and then outline the things you can do to influence the conversation. But instead of that it turned into a discussion about buzz monitoring, which was ok and very interesting. The Panel was made up of two representatives from 'social media' agencies; a buzz monitoring technology provider and a brand who managed this in house.

The session was just under the hour and was fairly interactive, but did the audience walk out of there having learnt something? Were they being subliminally sold too? Well from my perspective, there were some extremely good tips if you were new and beginning to venture into this area, these being:-

  • Use the free tools available such as Google Alerts; twitter search; addictomatic, the usual suspects.
  • If you’re a brand make sure you have someone in the organisation who owns and is responsible for this stuff.
  • Put in place a system and make people aware of it, spreading the word internally, ensuring it the system is resignation/redundancy proof. i.e. someone else can easily pick up the system.
  • If you are working for a major brand, with a high volume of conversations taking place about you and your products, consider investing in a 'paid for' measurement tool such as Radian6, Attentio, Brandwatch etc.
  • Ensure the output you take from the measurement is meaningful to the business, have value and can be understood by all; specifically senior executives
  • 'Sentiment', the underlying feeling and tone of the dialogue needs to be interpreted manually. Human interpretation is key and tools cannot be totally relied upon. 'We think drivers who wear hats are the best; most aware and courteous drivers on the road today…Not!' (Would an automated tool pick up the sarcasm?)

So all that was good and useful. However, and with the aim of sharing some other information with anyone who cares to read this post, I feel there are some other key things which weren't discussed.

These additional tips are based on real work I've undertaken for an innovative and very forward thinking online retailer, so I hope they have some substance behind them. Here is what was NOT discussed and are points worth considering:-

  • Different metrics have a varying level of importance at different stages of the brand consumer engagement journey. From creating awareness to achieving advocacy; there are different metrics to be aware of at each stage, both quantitative and qualitative. Number of followers is one thing…but how about the quality of what is being said?

    Take Twitter as an example; number of followers demonstrates "interest"; retweets show something else. An individual RT'ing is happy to place their own credibility on the line and repeat your comment/link. Does this mean they have a stronger affinity with your brand than just following? I believe it does.

  • Correlating offsite “buzz” with onsite analytics is essential. An immense amount of valuable information can be extracted from tracking keywords and phrases from off site buzz conversations in the social web all the way to onsite conversion. Yes…it can be done, it’s not that difficult (can be time consuming though) and it provides an overview of the entire interest to commitment phases.
  • But it goes further than that. It is just as important to measure the brand experience post commitment. What is the brand experience of those who have purchased something? Being aware of this can help you improve customer service and ideally promote advocacy.

    Advocates are great for creating more awareness into untapped markets; people buy from people and are influenced more and more by fellow consumers having positive experiences. Makes sense to offer these positive experiences to others doesn't it?

  • Identifying and engaging with the 'influencers' with 'authority' is a big winner. But how do you know what is good; what is not so good: when you should engage and when you should ignore. I guess it would be difficult for a panel to discuss this at length as each case needs to be taken on its own merits as this could be a whole blog post on its own.

    Suffice to say it can be done, as long as you don't sell to them. Offer value and some meaningful stuff around their areas of interest and help them to help their followers.

So in summary, here's my take on social media engagement measurement so far. I hope it compliments all the excellent posts in this area that have preceded it and it adds to your arsenal; which I know we are all building up, even if some of us may not be prepared to admit it. Let's share.

Karl Havard

Published 7 May, 2009 by Karl Havard

Karl Havard is a Partner at PA Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter and connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (12)

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Norm Werner

I recently attended a seminar on Social Networking in the Real Estate Industry in which the speaker Eric Bryn made the case for SN as part of a larger Internet marketing infrastructure. That made sense to me. I blog and tweet and post on ActiveRain and participate in discussions on LinkedIn and post to my Facebook account, as well as running four real estate Web sites. The deeper I got into all of these things the more that I could see how they might all fit together and reinforce one another.

I believe that on the issue of return from Internet marketing efforts, as with most things in life these days, we have allowed our tiny attention spans to dictate a measurement time span that is too small. We have become an instant gratification society in which things that don't immediately satisfy us are discarded or discounted. Internet marketing efforts through SNs takes time to take hold. Reputations can be destroyed in an instant, but they take a long and sustained effort to build. I have been running some of my Web sites for 7 years. I have been blogging for three years, but only on the major SNs that I named for less than a year. Has all of this paid off for me? I think so. I'm on the first page of Google search results for realtors in my market area and I have had leads because of that. Which Blog or SN or Web site caused each lead? I really don't know but I do believe that each post or comment or new page on the Web sites contributes to my overall Internet presence.

I did a post on ActiveRain about the Return on Investment of SNs and had quite a few comment posts to that and even more direct messages about the topic. It’s hard to measure using traditional methods but I really believe that there is a return for those who are really willing to put in the investment, which is mainly that of time.

about 9 years ago

Guy Stephens

Guy Stephens, Social Customer Care Consultant at IBM Interactive Experience/GBS/Mobile

Hurrah, thanks for the great post and your openness and honesty; but I guess that's what social media is about.

I'll gladly put up my hand and say that the more we do in this space (and we're only scratching the surface) the more we learn. I think if we had come into the social media arena, specifically twitter, with preconceptions, set KPIs and social media policies, we would have given it up long ago.

Do we have specific twitter, Facebook, complaintcommunity, plebble, youtube measures in place? No. Do we have an overarching social media metric in pace? No. And what I've learnt from the brand of customer service that we offer customers is the following:

-Twitter is one part of an overall process. It's great for establishing contact with a customer, but if there's a problem, we move the communication over to more traditional channels - email or phone. Twitter simply can't compete. But it's about understanding what works best where.

-If I looked at twitter in the cold hard light of day, it's actually quite a restrictive communication channel. But that just misses the point of twitter. My advice, don't make twitter somethign it isn't. So likewise, don't attribute metrics that won't work for it.

-In the small space that we use twitter for - customer service - twitter needs to be measured or judged in terms of its ability to influence our brand reputation positively or negatively. Twitter is a public medium, and that's a new departure for customer service.

Understand the channel, understand the metrics. End of the day, they should reflect your business KPIs anyway. But what do I know, I'm thinking it up as I go along.

about 9 years ago


Adam Green

I agree with your point to "make sure you have someone in the organisation who owns and is responsible for this stuff," but how does that person share what they find? Social media is decentralized, so if we can learn anything from its success, we have to find a way to make our engagement with it decentralized. Sharing the results of a Google Alerts search is a challenge that we are addressing with AlertRank.com. Through the use of public accounts, and a powerful report writer, you can share the most important alerts within your organization. You can also pass them along to your clients, who need to be aware of what the public is saying, not just the message you are putting out for them.

Going even further, I've been exploring the idea of public reputation aggregation on my blog. This is a new model where all the public mentions of a brand are collected and then made available through social media. I welcome your feedback on this idea:


about 9 years ago


Amber Naslund


Great, comprehensive discussion here. Two points you raised that are of particular import to me: redunancy in a monitoring system (this can't be reliant upon a single soul to carry the entire load), and the human interpretation of sentiment. Automated sentiment analysis can offer some efficiency, but technology is imperfect and only a human can completely decipher the relevance and context of a particular post.

I'm also really glad that you brought up the complete, 360-degree brand experience. The notion of social media engagement doesn't stop at the transaction. Customer relationships are an ecosystem, and the more we focus on treating them that way, the more we'll be able to tie our efforts to tangible, measurable results over time.

Appreciate the mention, and the thoughtful comments of your readers. Thanks so much.


Amber Naslund

Director of Community, Radian6


about 9 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Partner, PA Consulting Group at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

Ashley, thanks for the reply (also thanks to Norm, Guy, Adam and Amber). I think what Econsultancy are doing here is really interesting and somewhat brave and trailblazing. I admire this.

Experimenting is key, which means preparing to make mistakes, but also to bask in glory when it all comes together...a little like Hannibal of the A Team. I'm glad you stuck with the live twitter feed on the homepage, it would have been so easy to have taken it down due to the varying "styles" of tweets that were appearing in the first few days.

Due to all these various channels becoming more and more difficult to manage, I have a feeling that Friendfeed (or an opportunity for another fancy social media aggregator) will see a resurgence. 

And finally, I would agree that your argument is still valid, perhaps even more so today. 

about 9 years ago

Jonathan Moody

Jonathan Moody, Freelance at Language4Communications

Interesting post, Karl and some valid points. I fully agree "It is just as important to measure the brand experience post commitment. What is the brand experience of those who have purchased something? Being aware of this can help you improve customer service and ideally promote advocacy."

This links into Ashley's comment  "that you'd be better off concentrating on delivering a fantastic product, at a great price, with outstanding customer service." A comprehensive qualitative analysis of what is being said is vital in developing and adapting fantastic products/services, pricing them and knowing where and how your customer service is backing this up or pulling it down.

"Different metrics have a varying level of importance at different stages of the brand consumer engagement journey. From creating awareness to achieving advocacy; there are different metrics to be aware of at each stage, both quantitative and qualitative." This is why it is important to differentiate (when possible) present, potential, former and competitor customers.    

about 9 years ago


Steve Dodd

Karl, this is a terrific outline and the comments show total agreement!  I'd like to address one specific point:

"Ensure the output you take from the measurement is meaningful to the business, have value and can be understood by all; specifically senior executives"

I believe that this is one area that is lacking in this space.  Current tools need to expand capabilities to really "measure impact" not just monitor and analyze.  They need to measure what corporate executives really care about which is the direct impact to thier business, from a number of perspectives (current and future).  This requires far more depth than is currently being delivered by the Monitoring / Analytics providers and the industry as a whole.  I think that those who can deliver on this value proposition will rise above the pack (well over 100 monitoring players and thousands of service organizations) and see real revenues.  This kind of capability will drive an entirely new level of Social Media credibility and increase the value of the market as a whole.

about 9 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Partner, PA Consulting Group at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

Steve, I think you've honed in on probably the most significant point. From a senior corporate executive's point of view, social media engagement (whatever we choose to call it) sounds good, makes sense in theory but in the words of Jerry McGuire they all want to have the money shown to them and the risk minimised. ROI is the biggest challenge and this is why I believe the whole brand engagement journey needs to be considered, and prioritised. If the primary objective is "brand awareness" then this carries a whole lot of different objectives and measures, when compared to a business objective of "sell more stuff".

I think all the dots can be joined, but they have to be done so manually and from several data sets. I guess it depends on where the brand currently is; where it wants to get to and then plot the path to achieve that. Ok...I realise I'm waffling now. Thanks for the comment.

about 9 years ago


Andy Xhignesse

Nice track to this discussion.  Karl, I think your observation wrt 'primary objective' is perhaps most salient.  Viewing any action in isolation is risky at best, and potentially disastrous.  I'm a strong advocate for a comprehensive plan that details a clear process with established benchmarks or milestones along the way that form part of an overall strategy.  As Ashley points out, often the easiest business cases to present are the SEO benefits of social engagement.  Assuming that conversions are occuring as desired and required on the 'home front', increased traffic should generate increased conversion numbers, whatever the conversion has been defined as.  In this line of thinking the correlation is reasonably clear...isn't it?

about 9 years ago

Karl Havard

Karl Havard, Partner, PA Consulting Group at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

Andy, I agree. For me, what you describe is the big picture and that is something I feel a lot of people fail to keep focus on. It's really easy to get sucked into looking at things in isolation (a silo'd approach) and when this happens some initiatives do not get the credit they deserve. A social media engagement strategy, if thought through and implemented well should increase the online footprint, which in turn will improve the Natural Search results...not just improved rankings, but more results featured and therefore taking up more search page real estate. Ultimately leading to more people visiting the site.

I'd take a risk here and argue that "traditional" SEO techniques are not as powerful as they once were...but I wouldn't want to stiir up a hornet's nest, especially at this time on a Friday.

about 9 years ago


Eric Bryn

Karl, your "what was NOT discussed" points are key take-aways; thanks for compiling that list. In your reply to Steve, you hit on another: know what your objectives are and build a system of metrics to ensure you're meeting these objectives. Client/customer acquisition versus client/customer retention are different objectives. Brand positioning goals versus direct response conversions are different objectives. A multichannel marketing strategy aligned with objectives which in turn are aligned with a sound mapping of a brand's client/customer lifecycle goes a long way towards gauging social media marketing effectiveness. Thanks for the excellent post!

about 9 years ago



Excellent post! We are linking to this great post on our website.
Keep up the good writing.

about 6 years ago

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