By Nick Johnson - March 9th, 2012

As part of the build up to the release of our State of Corporate Social Media 2012 briefing, I'm writing a series of blog posts on specific charts from the briefing. This post will focus on one...

As part of the build up to the release of our State of Corporate Social Media 2012 briefing, I'm writing a series of blog posts on specific charts from the briefing.

This post will focus on one of the most interesting charts in the report. We asked people what are the top three most useful metrics that companies use to track impact. The chart (above) is based on respondents from solely corporate respondents - no service providers or agencies. Each column shows a different segment of that data:

  1. All corporate respondents
  2. All corporates based in the USA
  3. All corporates based in Europe
  4. All corporates who define themselves as a 'business to consumer' company
  5. All corporates who define themselves as a 'business to business' company

After just a quick glance at the chart, it is obvious which are the most useful metrics for these audiences. For all segments, the top five are:

  1. Activity/Engagement: A rating as to how much engagement a company has with their audience/how much activity a post/tweet/status update generates
  2. Conversion to sales: How many sales can be linked directly to social media activity
  3. Increase in followers: The growth in followers/fans/community members on social profiles as a result of social media activity
  4. Web traffic: How much traffic does social activity drive to web sites
  5. Conversion to leads: How number of leads that social activity generates

It's an interesting list, and split, I would say, fariyl evenly between 'social metrics 1.0' and 'social metrics 2.0'.

By 1.0, I mean those basic metrics which only really scratch the surface of a true understanding of social media success. They tend to be the first (and easiest) numbers to track - increase in followers, and increase in web traffic.

Of course, these simple metrics do not show the whole story. An increase in followers gives no indication of the quality or relevance of said followers. It's easy to increase followers - just follow an awful lot of people yourself (there are even services to buy followers now). It's not an end in itself, and the link between follower growth and revenue growth is not a strong one. The same applies to web traffic.

Metrics 2.0 are far more closely linked to a true understanding of social's power - and a true link to bottom line impact. Conversion to sales and conversion to leads help with the latter - if these figures grow, you know that your social marketing has been a success.

Perhaps the most interesting is 'activity/engagement'. This metric is the most 'social' of all - showing the interest and engagement with a particular social message. Sure, high engagement doesn't mean more $$$. But it does mean you're generating a real, engaged community - and that is fundamentally the power of social for business.

Interesting differences

When one goes into a little more detail, some interesting differences emerge:

  1. The first, and most obvious, is the huge number of European respondents who pick 'activity/engagement' as one of their top three most useful metrics. The figure's approaching 60%, compared to just over 40% of US companies. The prevailing wisdom is that European companies lag behind their US counterparts on social adoption. This figure suggests they are some way ahead when it comes to truly understanding social's impact.
  2. Following on from this, it's interesting to note that B2B companies are far more likely (c.40%) than their B2C counterparts (c.30%) to value activity/engagement. Again, B2B companies are (unfairly)characterised as behind B2Cs in social development. I've long thought that actually, B2B companies are forced to approach social in a far more in-depth manner - they can't simply push out marketing messages to huge groups. They need to engage for their marketing to work.
  3. On a broad level, there is very little difference between B2B and B2C responses. The difference at its peak is 10%, but usually far less than this
  4. US companies tend to value simple metrics (web traffic, reach, increase in followers) over their European counterparts - who tend to focus on more advanced metrics (engagement, conversion to leads, sharing).
  5. B2B corporations tend to value the more advanced '2.0' metrics (engagement, conversion to sales, conversion to leads) against their B2C counterparts.

It's an interesting chart - and there are plenty more observations to be drawn from it (please add your own in the comments!). But the main thing I draw from it is a subtle shift in the way I will perceive the B2B vs B2C relationship, and the European vs USA relationship. It is evidently more complex than prevailing wisdom suggests.

If you would like to sign up for an advanced copy of the State of Corporate Social Media 2012 briefing, just head to our signup page, here.

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