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.