Is social media measurement a necessity?
The gloves are off
VP of marketing of the Omniture business unit at Adobe Systems, more than 15 years of marketing and technology experience
It's no longer sufficient to simply monitor the social Web for comments, tweets, friends or followers. Thanks to new advancements in analytics, marketers can draw connections between social media campaigns and financial business outcomes such as revenue and profits.
Social media is now the largest and fastest growing online marketing segment because of its ability to provide important social context to consumer interactions. Research has shown that while only 13% of people trust advertisers, 90% trust recommendations from people they know, and as many as 70% trust recommendations even from people they don't know. With social media measurement, marketers can prove why Facebook referrals are more valuable to business than search traffic and how these referrals affect purchasing decisions.
Levi Strauss & Co., for example, introduced social features on its website and now receives 40% of its e-commerce site traffic from Facebook and Twitter. Adobe customer American Eagle Outfitters achieved a 56% sales increase by integrating social features directly into its product pages.
Marketers can monitor and test in real-time, transforming this massive marketing channel into the world's largest real-time focus group. New analytics tools also allow marketers to optimize how they direct consumers to sales channels that lead to purchase.
Marketers are uniquely positioned on the front line of real-time consumer interaction through social media. With analytics tools, they can lead their companies' transformation into digital businesses that provide clear ROI to the C-suite. However, while most digital marketers today have a social media budget, few have a clear strategy on how to invest it. Forty-seven percent of companies incorrectly believe it's not possible to measure ROI from social media, according to Econsultancy.
With data insights, marketers can optimize their strategies, prove ROI on past campaigns, and improve their chances of getting executive buyoff on future campaigns. It's no longer a cutting-edge practice reserved for the digital marketing elite. Marketers can and should take advantage of social media marketing measurement. Those who don't will get left behind by competitors using social measurement to get smarter and bigger budgets.
Several metrics exist for measuring social media. However, from my standpoint, those metrics are simply measuring tactics, rather than the big picture. Whether measuring social marketing is necessary or not rem-inds me of a similar question we once had, and still have, on how to measure email marketing. Every time a media channel, technology, trend or methodology surfaces, we tend to focus solely on it and forget that customers are not only changing, but are also in different places and channels at the same time.
For many marketers, social media can be like exploring a new continent. How can we pretend to measure what we are still exploring with metrics from the old world? I still see many companies and brands making this mistake, and I strongly believe we need new rules for a new land.
I recently read that Twitter drives more than 10% of The New York Times' traffic and that Facebook drives at least 13% of the traffic of MSN and Yahoo. However, this is only one part of the equation, and taking those figures out of context means nothing. I would be interested in knowing what The New York Times, MSN and Yahoo did with that increased audience and whether they engaged differently with them.
Because companies should market to their customers and not to the channels they use, the big picture we should focus on should be measuring customer engagement across the whole customer and brand conversation, and not only on siloed social media tactics.
Measuring customer engagement is not only a business key performance indicator — and certainly not a metric — but is also a way to check how brands are performing against their business strategies and objectives. Social media is an opportunity for brands to be relevant to their audience.
But because social media is an environment with access to extr-emely personal information, brands have to be ready to consider and act upon that social data and offer consumers a different, highly personalized, relevant and enhanced customer engagement experience. We can then easily understand that counting the number of fans is certainly not enough for most savvy marketers to achieve this enterprise-class objective.
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Brands should definitely monitor and measure their social media interactions with consumers across various platforms. Accountability is a major post-recession priority for marketers. However, brands will have to decide for themselves which social metrics best measure the success of their initiatives.
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