By adaptive - February 5th, 2013

How quickly, accurately and relevantly your brand engages with potential or existing customers is vital to understand.


What’s more appreciating the complexity of measuring brand impact and the effects your social activity is having on your brands reputation must be clearly measured.
An Adobe spokesperson once told a story whilst launching the company’s social media measurement product in late 2011. A jeans company had engaged Adobe to measure the impact of its social media, with Adobe tracing $25K worth of sales to one influencer. The social media team had stood by and said, OK, does this influencer have lots of ‘likes’? The answer was yes, but he was bringing in $25K; OK, said the social media team, but did he have a lot of followers on Twitter?
This is a classic example of a social media marketing team losing sight of why they’re doing their job in the first place. Those measurements, particularly when isolated from any business outcome, are too crude to be meaningful.
A recent report from Infogroup Targeted Solutions and Yesmail Interactive clear shows that marketers want to turn the data they are collecting across social networks into business intelligence. The report states: “This year, the major shift will be towards multichannel data analysis and application, combining individual customer data across all touch points to build more complete consumer profiles.”
How marketers intend to turn social media data into measured campaigns.

Social media data

Presumably this is why data from knowledgeable sources like Gartner Inc. suggest that so much social media effort is doomed to failure. It’s serious; the organization reported in January 2012 that as much as 80% of social media business efforts would not achieve their intended benefits.
"There is too much focus on content and technology, and not enough focus on leadership and relationships," said Carol Rozwell, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner in a press statement. "Leaders need to develop a social business strategy that makes sense for the organization and tackle the tough organizational change work head on and early on. Successful social business initiatives require leadership and behavioural changes. Just sponsoring a social project is not enough — managers need to demonstrate their commitment to a more open, transparent work style by their actions." 
This includes internal as well as external deployments of social media; by 2016 the company believes 50% of businesses will be using social media lookalike technology to communicate. “Social” is going to permeate every organization at a time when it’s not clear that it is paying its way in its own niche.
It’s worth applying some reality checks to a statement like that, though, and indeed the Gartner research in itself. If social media has a 20% success rate as a marketing tool then a great many marketeers out there are likely to be very pleased. A standard mailshot, even in the days before email and spam, would have done well to pick up a 4% response rate – people dreamed about getting double figures, let alone 20%. Presumably one trick is to adjust for expectations and then to put a decent strategy in place.
In strategic terms, British accounting software company Sage plc is a company that has looked into social media very carefully. Cath Sheldon has been the digital PR specialist internally since social technologies were in their earliest stages. “To measure the impact of social it is important to be really clear about the role it plays in your business,” she says. “For Sage, social is about supporting our brand marketing objectives and so we measure the impact it has in the same way we would with other brand activities.” This gets back to the Adobe example in a way; have a specific target ‘social’ is supposed to reach and it will have a chance of hitting it.
Cath Sheldon, digital PR specialist, Sage
It goes further. “We worked to add a new model into our brand tracker so that we can see the impact that social and our engagement with people in it has had on the key brand measures that are reported to our board,” explains Sheldon. “Of course there is a set of day-to-day measures that we use to understand the 'health of our activity' and we use a range of tools to make sure we’re talking to the right people, in the right place, at the right time.”

Measuring interaction

This is where the monitoring goes beyond questions about what people are saying about Sage itself. What people are saying about issues into which the company can offer some insight is as important. “We do this through social media monitoring which helps us to better understand what industry issues people, notably small businesses, are talking about and also what people are saying about our brand and our competitors, which enables us, at any given point in time, to understand how people feel about us,” says Sheldon. “Using both engagement and sentiment metrics at this stage allows us on a more tactical level to create content with our audience in mind.” So, Sage might look for people talking about cash flow, about invoicing difficulties, about all sorts of things around itself rather than just its own brand as such.
If readers took one thing away from this article, however, a good lesson would probably be that it isn’t about social media for its own sake – it doesn’t exist, at least not as a useful concept, in isolation. Sage has structured it as one of many inputs into its business information. “We’ve worked with key people across our business to develop a “decision tree” to help us respond to comments online. It’s a simple tool that our staff can follow to help them understand when and how we react and how they can contribute to this.” Buy-in is therefore across the organization, and it needs to be.
There is every opportunity for businesses to engage with customers and prospects easily through social networks. This needs measuring and this measurement needs to be more than a ‘vanilla’ effort’; it needs to be certain that it is asking the right questions of its engagements and seeking some sensible outputs. 
Looking beyond the simplistic ‘what are people saying about us’ – which remains a good starting point – is very important. And assessing what’s realistic is also vital; Gartner’s statements about needing more than corporate sponsorship at a high level are perfectly valid, of course, but its suggestion that only 80% of social media effort will go nowhere is a pretty good average compared to other branches of marketing.

Coming Up: Beyond likes

In the second part of this article next week we will discuss how companies can look beyond the numbers of likes and look into shares, overall reach and how these metrics can impact a business’ bottom line.


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