This article will also appear in issue 09 of the Social Technology Quarterly by Kuliza.
At a conference recently, I was pleasantly surprised by the surge in adoption and optimism for social media by the brands. Many were even considering raising the budget for social media vs. the more traditional means of marketing. However, some are wary of social media because of the uncertainly of measuring their social media efforts. The common misconception about social media is that it’s too amorphous to attempt measurement.
Au contraire, this is precisely why a brand should invest in having metrics to measure their social efforts failing which the campaigns will get lost in the vast wilderness that’s social media. In fact, the very perception of success or failure of a campaign relies on the metrics by which the social media efforts are measured. Unlike the earlier days when social media campaigns were more miss than a hit, today there are time-tested tools that help you measure, monitor and correct the course of the campaign.
There are many examples of brands benefitting immensely from the knowledge gained from these metrics. For e.g. In the course of the Colgate Smiles campaign, the metrics revealed enough information to allow Colgate to refocus their overall brand message moving away from corporate to more of a consumer-focused message. During my stint at Mahindra, we would live by these metrics; in more than one instance, they have provided critical insights that helped us make improvements to the campaigns and getting us to our goals.
Define the objectives of your social media campaign and then wrap it around with metrics. It may not necessarily fit into the mould of the traditional RoI metrics, but there are new metrics that have been necessitated (thanks to the proliferation of social media) and are fast being acknowledged universally. Some of these metrics are also more useful than traditional metrics because they are filled with nuggets of information and of great value to the brand.
What should be measured?
There are about a dozen or more metrics that are in common use, however they are classified or clustered under 3 categories …
- Reach and influence
- Customer satisfaction and responsiveness
Let’s look at each of these three in detail…
1. Reach and influence
Reach and influence helps you measure the impact and virality of the campaign’s message.
Here are some key metrics …
This metric captures the potential reach in views and impressions accumulated across all social media channels over the period of the campaign. Keep in mind that this is potential exposure and not the actual, which is much lower.For e.g. Brand X with a follower base of 25,000 ran a campaign where the message was broadcasted 5 times. The campaign also resulted in 100 retweets. The exposure from this campaign is 25000 (followers of the Brand X’s twitter page) * 5 + 50000 (the sum total of the followers of all those who retweeted), that adds to 175,000. This figure is the exposure or the potential reach of the audience as a result of the campaign. Obviously, the actual numbers are much lower because just a fraction of the followers would have consumed the message. This metric is important nonetheless because it gives the scale of the campaign outreach.
This measures the amplitude of the campaigns and is an indicator of the virality of the campaign. This must be broken down by channel.
For e,g, for Facebook, the amplitude is calculated as the number of shares. For twitter, it’s the number of retweets and so on.
- Conversation rate
This metric measures the conversations sparked by a campaign or message. Conversation rate is calculated as the sum of the comments and mentions across social media. This is an important metric because this is a measure of a high degree of involvement. Combine the conversion rate and amplification metric to determine the engagement level of your audience.
- Share of voice
This measures the strength of the brand’s share in the social media pie relative to competition. This metric is derived by collecting all the positive and neutral mentions of the brand and its competitors (using a tool like Radian 6 or Sysomos Heartbeat) and comparing it against competition (in the form of a pie-chart) to arrive at a brand’s specific share of voice.
- Owned vs. earned media
Owned media are the channels and conversations owned by the brand over which it has control. On other hand, earned media is generated by word of mouth, and the virality of the communication. Here the customer becomes the channel and obviously is far more desirable to have. The ratio of owned vs earned is an indicator of the degree of influence the communication wields. A higher % of earned vs owned reveals a brand’s success in influencing or spreading the word.
2. Customer Satisfaction and Responsiveness
Most successful brands are built on the cornerstone of great customer service. Great customer service gives your brand wings and tremendous word of mouth. On the flipside, mediocrity can be disastrous more so in a socially connected world where the margin of error is thinner.
The key metrics for measurement are as follows …
- Average response time
This is a key measure of customer responsiveness of the service team. This is calculated as the average time it takes to respond to a customer query, request or suggestion. The lower the number, the better as it gauges the speed of response.
- First post resolution
This is an important indicator of customer satisfaction as it measures the % of issues that were resolved on first contact by the customer service team. This is an important metric to gauge the ability of the customer service team in resolving issues. The lower the number the better. In combination with the average response time metric, brands can gauge the effectiveness of the customer service team.
- Quality of response
The quality of interactions is an important aspect of customer service on social media for three reasons. They results in better service resolutions, lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction and third, the interactions on social media are there for everybody to see and perceive.
This metric evaluates the writing style, communication skills, response customization, compliance with standard operating procedures (SoP) and product knowledge. Each of these can be rated on a score of 1-10 with high weightage given to communication skills and product knowledge.
- Number of complaints
This is a straight forward metric that measures the quantum of complaints received on social media. Break this up by channel to get a better understanding of the composition of the complaints.
- Evangelist turnaround ratio (ETR)
Any brand would be delighted in having a detractor turn promoter. This is important because there is no better example of excellent customer service. This metric is calculated by dividing the complaints-turned-praise or the detractors-turned-evangelist by the number of complaints. A high ratio is an indication of the brand’s ability to wow or delight its consumers.
- Sentiment Ratio
This is the ratio of positive mentions divided by negative mentions, measuring the general sentiment of the brand with the audience. This is computed by processing all mentions or in some cases, a representative sample and then applying sophisticated NLP (natural language processing) algorithms to derive the sentiment. Since this is a machine derived metric, the accuracy is at best around 80%.
And finally, the big daddy of measurements! From a RoI perspective these metrics are very important since they have a direct economic impact.
Benchmarking against competition
We’ve seen the various social media metrics and the categories under which they are classified. However, these metrics come to life when they are stacked against competition. The comparative figures help the brand put itself in perspective and see how they measure up.
For e.g., a sentiment ratio of 5:1 (5 positive mentions for every negative mention) may look good, but if the competitor’s sentiment ratio is 10:1 then it is evident that the competition is better off and there are lessons to be learned.
A word of caution …
Though analysis is essential, do not be smothered by it and become a victim of “analysis-paralysis”. It is also important to apply collective discretion to the reading as opposed to being consumed by them. In the earlier example a sentiment ratio of 5:1 may look bad in comparison with a 10:1, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the brand is doing a bad job. Perhaps the competition is seeding the web with fake positive articles. Do not jump to conclusions; it is important to define your own benchmarks of acceptability as you progress with your campaigns and refine along the way.
There is no doubt however, that various measurements and the metrics that form a part of it are an integral element of social media. My recommendation is to have a comprehensive dashboard that lists down these various metrics for the brand alongside the competition that must be monitored frequently and included as part of the MIS. This not only puts the brand’s social media performance in perspective, but will always keep you right on track.
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