Measurement. ROI. Impressions. These are words that normally sound like sweet sweet melodies to a marketer’s ears. However, when we’re using them in the context of social media – that sweet melody can quickly mutate into the sound created by a bad American Idol audition. Sure, implementing social media is one thing, but how are you going to measure it? And more importantly, how are you going to demonstrate its value to your clients?
Although social media is often categorized as a marketing function, it’s important to communicate the differences between social media and traditional paid advertising to your clients before engaging in order to properly set the standard for measurement.
When I am explaining the benefits of social media to my clients, I try to help them understand how they need think beyond traditional measurement (“free your mind, and the rest will follow” – En Vogue), so I often provide a side by side comparison of social media versus advertising.
Here’s how they differ:
Engagement vs. Impressions
Social media is measured by engagement rather than by number of impressions. Engagement with users allows an organization to speak directly to their target audience about their products and services. The benefit of engaging in real-time is the ability to address concerns and questions individually, by customizing the message. This allows for the kind of targeted marketing that may not be possible via paid advertising.
Quality vs. Quantity
Social media should not be considered mass marketing (in fact, it is quite the opposite). The quality of social media followers is far more beneficial than the number of followers. All followers and users followed on social media platforms need to be relevant to an organization’s industry or interests.
Constant vs. Sporadic
Social media enables companies to have ongoing communication with target audience members. Consistent messaging over time will position an organization as a go-to resource when audience members are ready to make a decision about a specific product or service.
Earned vs. Paid Media
Rather than paying for placements and outgoing messaging, social media empowers a voice that is both authentic and credible for companies. Social media allows you to become an influencer among a select group of target users.
Social media allows businesses to comment and engage in online conversations that are taking place about theirs services and products. Through social media, a business is able to monitor for company mentions, address customer concerns and directly manage overall online reputation.
I have to note that words like “engagement” and “conversation” do not get you off the hook for providing real numbers to your clients. Ideally, you’re using tracking links and are providing your client with click-rates from their web analytics, but if that’s not available use a free URL shortener (like bit.ly) to get an idea of the average click-rate over time. You can also monitor trends (like what types of links get the highest number of clicks) and forecast how much traffic you’ll be able to drive month-over-month. It’s critical to customize social media measurement on a client by client basis, that way you are creating a program that is specifically addressing varying needs and marketing programs.
How do you measure social media? (Hint: don’t say, “it’s not about measurement, it’s about engagement” – we’ve heard that one before, and we all know engagement is awesome but it’s only one piece of the social media puzzle).
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, and don’t forget to check out our Social Media Six-Pack.