Measuring Social Media

3 03 2009
photo courtesy flickr http://bit.ly/FyuPH

photo courtesy flickr http://bit.ly/FyuPH

This is a sticky topic and many people differ in their idea of how to measure social media in regards to return on investment.  I searched around various public relations blogs and found some very different opinions on reasons for using social media and how to measure social media.  But, there was one common factor throughout all the sites I visited.  Every post I read offered one stitch of advice over and over again.

KNOW YOUR GOALS FIRST.  WHY’RE YOU USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO BEGIN WITH?

Outside of that valuable piece of wisdom, there are many suggestions about measuring social media success.  Of the sites that I visited, Peter Kim’s post on his blog beingpeterkim.com had a very succinct and simple framework for measuring social media in a quantative manner.

1.       Attention – The amount of traffic to your content for a given period of time.

2.       Participation – The extent to which users engage with your content.  Such as, blog comments, social network wall posts, YouTube ratings, or widget interactions.

3.       Authority – The number of inbound links to your content – like trackbacks.

4.       Influence – The size of the user base subscribed to your content. Such as, subscribers, friends, or followers.

Peter also emphasizes that there is what he calls an “x-factor” that comes into play.  Sentiment – the spirit that drives user participation.  Add these factors up and you have a good idea of your social media engagement score or success.

Many argue that social media cannot be measured in a simply quantative manner but that it must also be measured in quality.  PR pros like Chris Brogan, Jason Falls, and KD Paine all argue that social media should be used to allow a business or individual to add to the conversation in a meaningful way and develop deeper relationships with people.  They maintain that companies who engage in social media to accomplish this objective may have a harder time measuring their success in terms of dollars but they have the opportunity to leave a lasting and priceless impression on customers.

I really liked this quote by Jason Falls, “The problem with trying to determine ROI for social media is you are trying to put numeric quantities around human interactions and conversations which are not quantifiable.”

As a consumer, at least for me, it’s nice to feel like we have more than a monetary connection to the businesses we like.  On the other hand, businesses sometimes lose sight of people and nearly always think about how their actions may impact their bottom line.

Luckily, there are some businesses that have found a way to seemingly make the two meet.

This is a list I found on www.sitepoint.com.  The list is taken from a report compiled by Forrester Research.

  • Dell – Though Dell’s corporate blog rarely strays from Dell-centric news, the company posts with a great conversational voice, often breaks news on their blog (which keeps people coming back), and listens and responds to customers. Dell also posts regularly (1-2 posts per day at least) which keeps content fresh and encourages repeat visits.
  • Lenovo – The great collection of blogs from computer maker Lenovo demonstrate that the company really understands blogging. Lenovo intersperses posts about its product line with musings about business, design, life, and technology. Definitely don’t miss the Design Matters blog, which should be a must-read for any designer.
  • 37signals – 37signals is kind of the poster child for corporate blogging. Their “Signal vs. Noise” blog has almost 100,000 RSS subscribers and there’s a good reason: 37signals rarely blogs about their products anymore (they split off a separate product-only blog for that), but instead shares advice and insights about business, design, editorial, and other topics.
  • Adobe – Adobe offers a huge collection of employee blogs, many of which are great reads. By allowing employees to blog, Adobe has empowered them to evangelize their products for them – many post tutorials, advice, reviews, and other great tid-bits promoting Adobe products – while not pigeon holing them into talking only about Adobe.
  • BBC – In addition to their news blogs, the BBC publishes a series of behind-the-scenes blogs. They’re tremendously interesting, especially The Editors blog, in which BBC News editorial staff dissect the broadcaster’s news coverage and the media industry in general.
  • Southwest Airlines – Southwest Airlines’ “Nuts About Southwest” blog doesn’t take itself too seriously – and that’s a good thing. The company blogs about itself and the airline industry with a personal touch and has been producing a series of fun, behind-the-scenes videos that are both interesting and engaging.
  • Sun Microsystems – Like Adobe, Sun allows their employees to blog. They’ve been doing it for a long time, and their blog portal has over 4,500 bloggers covering over 110,000 posts. Some of their blogs, such as that of Web 2.0 and Web Services Evangelist Arun Gupta, have become quite popular on their own. That’s 110,000 posts of promotional gold for Sun and they know it.
  • Freshbooks – Taking a page from 37signals, the team at Freshbooks uses their corporate blog to share advice and insights into their way of doing things. Slowly, and in large part due to their blog, Freshbooks is turning their users into true fans.
  • Marriott International – Marriott on the Move is the official blog of Marriott Hotels, Resorts, and Suites Chairman and CEO Bill Marriott. Though a self-described technophobe, Marriott uses the blog to talk about his thoughts and opinions on all sorts of things related to being a hotelier. Marriott, who was recently featured on NBC Nightly News for a story on corporate blogging, says he blogs because it is “a great way to communicate with [your] customers and stakeholders in this day and age.” We agree.
  • Seagate – Penned by Seagate Global Marketing Manager Pete Steege, Storage Effect is a must-read blog for anyone in the computer storage industry. Beyond first looks at upcoming Seagate products, Steege mixes it up with musings about the industry and fun posts like a recent one about Batman’s storage requirements.
  • General Motors – The GM Fastlane Blog is a great example of corporate blogging because GM has clearly realized that regurgitating press releases is not what blogs are made for. GM talks a lot on their blog about their cars and trucks and the design choices they make while creating them, but they also throw in interesting treatises on current hot-button issues, such as alternative energy.
  • Quicken Loans – Quicken Loans publishes a handful of unique blogs – unique among corporate blogs in that they’re not overly self-referential. Their What’s the Diff? blog, for example, publishes stories about “things that make the difference in business and in life.” The Quizzle blog, on the other hand, posts advice about how to understand the home loan market. It is all subtle marketing for Quicken Loans, but it is done in an informative and useful manner that will win points among customers.
  • FiveRuns – FiveRuns, who create products aimed at Ruby on Rails developers, also publish an excellent blog. Along with regular tutorials about how to do things with Rails and use their products, the FiveRuns team also posts weekly five question interviews with prominent members of the Rails community. Brilliant stuff.
  • Accenture – Consulting firm Accenture publishes 8 blogs that are definitely worth checking out. Rather than just blog about what Accenture can do for your business, the company has tapped some of its smartest employees to share insights on business, communications, technology, consulting, and hiring. A sample of recent posts: how to balance work and life, thoughts about Twitter’s downtime, and musings on GTD theories.
  • Amazon Web Services – Amazon’s Web Services blog is truly one of the great corporate blogs because it reads like a fan blog. You’d never know that Jeff Barr, the scribe behind the AWS blog, is a Web Services Evangelist at Amazon just by reading his posts. That’s because Barr doesn’t write like a corporate flak. Instead he writes with the voice of someone who is truly amazed each day by the stuff that people build on Amazon’s suite of web services, and that makes reading the blog a pleasure.

Any other advice on measuing social media?  Or how it should be used by businesses and corporations?  Feel free to leave a comment.

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One response

3 09 2009
Bill Bartmann

Excellent site, keep up the good work

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