How to design a social media measurement system in 6 steps

Social media measurement is not a branch of algebraic topology or experimental physics, says this expert. It’s a matter of common sense, hard work, and precise, agreed-upon goals.

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The most annoying statement I’ve heard lately (that didn’t come from a presidential candidate) is: “We haven’t figured out how to measure social media.” I want to yell at them: “It’s 2016: I’ve been measuring social media for a decade!” But then I realize how many organizations are just starting to dip their toes in social media. So to them and others, I offer my 6-step program for a perfect social media measurement system:

Step No. 1: Decide: What problem are you using social media to solve?

Sit down with your boss, your boss’s boss, your board, or whoever holds the budgetary sword of Damocles over your head and get agreement on why you are even contemplating social media. What’s the desired outcome? If you can’t answer that, go back to your boss, your boss’s boss, or whoever came up with the bright idea of “doing social media,” and make sure you can all agree on a set of goals and desired outcomes.

Step No. 2: Prioritize your goals.

Chances are, your desired outcome or goal falls into one of three categories:

  • Sell more stuff,
  • Improve or repair relationships or reputation or,
  • Get the word out about a new product, initiative, event, campaign, or senior leadership’s theme of the month.

Your rationale for social media may incorporate all three, but for the purposes of designing your first social media measurement program, pick one and only one.

  1. Sell more. This might be translated as “increase market share,” “sell this widget,”
    or “increase donations or membership.” If you are using social media to push a product or a service, then you are in the “social media as sales tool” category. Those who desire this outcome will only be satisfied if you can show an improvement to sales or revenue or donations. That means you’ll need to have access to data from your CRM system (such as Salesforce) or conversion data from Google Analytics or whatever web analytics tool you use.
  2. Improve or repair relationships or reputation. Social media is often used to change your image in the marketplace or your community, re-position your brand, or appear hip to a younger generation. If your primary reason for taking the social media plunge is to change perceptions about your brand or your organization, improve your reputation for customer service, or other awareness or preference goals, you’ll need to think about a survey or a content analysis of your social media.
  3. Communicate information in an educational or emergency capacity. This category is primarily for organizations like the government or the Red Cross that use social media to warn or educate people. Typical outcomes for this use of social media are broadcast warnings in the event of a storm or get the word out about shelters.

Step No. 3: Define a benchmark.

Before you can begin any measurement program you need to know what you will be comparing yourself to. Ideally, you’ll compare yourself to the competition, but in a pinch, it can be yourself over time. Regardless, it isn’t measurement if you don’t have a benchmark.

Step No. 4: Define your Key Performance Indicators.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the metrics that define your success. They typically start with a percentage, as in:

  • Percentage of discussion in which we were favorably positioned on the issue of diversity in the workforce
  • Percentage increase in website visits lasting five or more minutes
  • Percentage increase in registrations
  • Percentage share of favorable positioning in the marketplace
  • Percentage share of desirable discussion
  • Percentage share of quotes
  • Percentage increase in awareness
  • Percentage increase in willing to consider or prefer

Whatever metrics you agree on, be careful and choose wisely; you become what you measure. In other words, you should measure whatever you need to do more of.

Step No. 5: Decide upon a measurement tool.

You have three basic tools to choose from:

  1. Content analysis. If your goal is getting the word out, you’ll need to analyze the conversation about your brand, product, or issue to see if the messages are actually being discussed. Content analysis involves the collection, reading, and coding of the various items of discussion that mention your brand. You can track them yourself for free via Hootsuite. Or hire a firm like CyberAlert, Talkwalker, or Prime Research to do it for you.
  2. Survey research. If your goal is to increase awareness, understanding of your positioning, preference, or to otherwise change your positioning in the marketplace, then you will need to ask your audience what they think. Use Survata or Survey Monkey to do pre- or post-testing to find out if you’ve moved the needle.
  3. Web analytics. If your goal is to drive traffic to a website, increase engagement in the brand, or educate your publics, then you will need to use a tool like Google Analytics or Omniture to do the counting for you. You will to make sure that your data set is robust, consistent, and continuous in order to track activity over time.

Step No. 6: Analyze the results, draw conclusions, glean insight, and present your report.
All this data is trivia unless you analyze it for meaning. So what if your competition is killing you on YouTube? How does that affect what you recommend: Increase the budget? Shift monies away from advertising? Invest in AdWords? This is where you use your best judgment, examine your results, and prepare a report.

In any results presentation for social media make sure you define all the issues and topics up front, or else you’ll get lots of glazed eyeballs. Then walk people through your methods. Make sure you are clear about your benchmarks and what you are comparing yourself to. Explain any anomalies and surprises. Be sure to add a “conclusionary” headline to each chart to inform and enlighten your audience on just what the data in the chart mean.

Finally, draw conclusion(s) and make your recommendation(s). Make sure you put them in context of your organization’s mission. Now relax and enjoy some well-earned praise.

A version of this post first appeared on The Measurement Advisor.

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