Congratulations: you have 50,000 Twitter followers! Respect: you have a million ‘likes’ on Facebook! Kudos: 5,000 professionals on LinkedIn have joined your group!

But scratch beneath the surface and ask yourself three big questions: 

  1. What does this really mean?
  2. What is this worth?
  3. Who owns the data?

I’m not a social media cynic by any stretch of the imagination. I know what it has done for our business, but that’s not to say there aren’t threats and challenges on the road ahead.

1. What does this really mean?

It means, quite simply, that you are good at engaging your audience. You’re doing the right things to attract likes, followers and group members. Your content is pushing your community’s buttons. 

You can measure the level of engagement by looking at how often the audience interacts. How often do they comment on your Wall, or ‘like’ a new piece of content? How often do they @reply or retweet your messages? 

You can measure the velocity of these interactions over time, to understand what kind of content works best, and when the best time to update your status might be.

But let’s be clear about this: what you’re doing is engaging people in an environment that you have little control over, and one that you certainly do not own. 

2. What is this worth?

This very much depends on a whole range of factors, such as your business goals, your brand, and the kind of products and services you sell. It also depends on the nature of interaction. Not all retweets are equal. Some ‘likes’ are worth more than others.

BRAND MATTERS

We should also consider hard vs soft metrics too. Measuring sales is easy, but what are all those followers worth to your brand? The biggest spenders on TV tend to be brand-focused, and measure the results of their TV campaigns by asking consumers about brand recall, brand favourability, propensity to buy, and other ‘soft’ brand metrics. These things matter. A rising tide of positive buzz across social channels will raise the key brand metrics, and since we live in a multichannel world I think this needs to be factored in when measuring brand metrics (following TV campaigns, or for any other reason).

ADVOCACY

It’s not always straightforward to make sense of things. Some fans might never buy your products. I once asked the head of web of a luxury car brand about his 1.5m Facebook fans, and pointed out that 99% of those fans were unlikely to ever be in a position to afford a high-end supercar. He pointed out that driving advocacy was a significant goal. This is one of the key reasons for using social media to engage a large audience: it’s not necessarily the fan on Facebook that will do the buying… but they may well recommend your (expensive) products (to people who can afford them).

CUSTOMER COMMUNICATIONS

There’s a real value in having people tuned into your messages on sites like Twitter, especially if – like us – you produce a consistent stream of made-to-measure content. Email is still a really powerful channel, but there are murmurings of concern about whether today’s teenagers will be tomorrow’s email users, which might render your newsletter ineffective. So it’s a good idea to allow consumers to stay informed through the channel of their choice, be that Twitter, or Facebook, or the next big thing in social. The more channels the better, in theory.

HOW WE CALCULATE VALUE

A few months ago I wrote a post that outlined how we measure the effect of Twitter on our business (it also explained what we’re not yet counting). One of the things I didn’t mention was the low conversion rate of Twitter followers / traffic to ‘bronze’ members. This is a free membership level, essentially our version of a registered user, but with extra benefits. We’re yet to properly optimise this process, so expect to see a few experiments in the months ahead, but certainly this is a big goal for us. And this brings me onto the next, crucial question…

3. Who owns the data?

This is the most concerning question of all. It is one that you need to consider carefully. The fact is that Twitter owns the data. Facebook owns the data. LinkedIn owns the data. 

If any of these sites fell over permanently then what will you be left with exactly? You’ll only be left with the data that you have managed to migrate. The rest – and it will probably be the lion’s share – will be lost to the ether. You will have to hope that the goodwill you’ll have built up will stay with your fans and followers, and that perhaps they’ll take the time to find you and to tune into you via some other channel. But the point is that you have little control over this data. 

We broker the relationship with our Twitter followers via its platform, which we’re essentially a tenant of. I’d say it was a rent-free tenancy, but when you think about it there is a definite trade off: we’re paying Twitter in data. And, as Gerd Leonard says: “Data is the new oil.” 

Is this a mutually beneficial relationship? Is it one that we are happy with? Yes. But as Twitter grows, and as our follower numbers increase, it is increasingly apparent that we need to do more to transform registered Twitter users into registered Econsultancy users / subscribers

I believe that this, over the long-term, is going to be a key goal for many organisations. 

What do you think? Should brands have strategies for migrating data? What are the best tactics to employ in order to do this?