Getting the measure of social media

What is it that you would like to achieve with social media? “Oh, umm, it’s just a space our company should be in”. Unfortunately, this is an all too common response to the first question I ask. If you don’t know what you want to achieve, how would you ever know if your campaign was a success?
Every other tool you buy for your business is researched and planned. Every other system implemented is done so with a desired outcome in mind and measurement practices in place to check if these goals are met. Social media should not be any different.
Outcomes will be different for each organisation. Maybe you want to increase conversation or sales. Perhaps you want to add value for existing customers or find new ones. You could use social media to drive more traffic through to your website or use it as a promotional channel for new products, services or events.
It can be used as an internal communication tool or to get chatting with your customers. But just remember that if you have set up a public network for external communication, anyone could be eavesdropping – including your competitors and the media.
One of the key things it can be used for is market research; to find out what people think about your brand, what perceptions exist and by whom. This kind of qualitative research used to require focus groups and surveys, but it can now be done instantly and for free simply by typing your brand name into a web site like addictomatic.
These are just some of the different goals that could be desirable for your business. Each one requires a different approach and different measurement tools. And if done in an integrated way, each outcome can be measured through analytics or monitoring programs. Isn’t the internet great?
Increases in sales, web traffic and customers are all fairly easy to check and they should be things that you measure already. Conversation can be measured, although it can be a bit tricky to locate thanks to the joys of modern language (text and leet speak, for example).
If promoting a certain event or a new product, you will probably have a dedicated landing page set up on your website. The success of your social media promotion can then be measured with analytics, or by the number of people at the event buying the product.
One thing that irks me is when people try to measure and compare the engagement levels of social media to those of TVCs and print. To me, that’s like comparing having sex to watching Sex In The City. Watching ≠ engaging. Engagement is the social part of social media and any campaign should elicit that as a matter of course. However, engagement is NOT measured in the number of friends/fans/followers that you have. It is how many people are talking with you and passing on what you say. Trust me, it takes more than one half of a relationship to be engaged.
There are many different things you can look to achieve through the use of social media and any desired outcome should be measured to ensure that it is successful. But if your only desired outcome is to have 100,000 followers, you probably won’t effect much change to your business.
The thing with having followers is that you need somewhere to lead them. And you need to know when they get there.

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