lighthouseApple doesn’t bother with social media. It doesn’t need to. Its customers love it, and they engage with any detractors on social media on its behalf. In a way, Apple’s social media strategy is to use customers as evangelists. But most companies cannot afford that approach.  They recognise that they need to use social media to engage with customers and hear what they are saying at first hand, but also need to find a way to tie that back to financials, and in increasingly sophisticated ways.

Measuring performance is vital for any business. We’ve talked before about dashboards, including the potential for reputation dashboards, but how can you measure social media performance? A recent report by the Harvard Business Review on how companies are using social media found that 31% of executives surveyed felt that ‘Linking social media activity to impact on company financials’ was the biggest challenge facing their company in terms of social media usage.

Metrics and analytics

Quora is always a good place to find bright people to tell you what you need to know. A recent question asked about analytics and metrics for social media, and responses were interesting. The first suggested a fairly superficial approach: measuring number of likes or followers, and using number of retweets to gauge engagement levels, as well as social traffic to website. However, others highlighted a more insightful approach.

One answer suggested focusing on conversions. How many people clicked through from a social media page to your website? How many of these then bought, or signed up for further information? These metrics, which are linked to your bottom line, are the metrics that really matter for businesses, and especially to senior executives.

Others went further, and discussed the importance of content. Numbers are useful, and an important part of the picture, but you need to know the content of the conversation, in order to draw value from it. And for that, you need to look deeper. You can, for example, look at whether people are sharing pictures, or only information. Is what they’re saying positive and negative? Are the adjectives that they’re using to describe the brand consistent with the company’s brand image? Does social media suggest new ways of using the product?

Of course there are issues with looking at the content. At the moment, looking deeper, especially to analyse sentiment, can’t really be done by robots and machines. Language is what people use to express ideas, and it’s complex enough that even people don’t always agree on meaning, never mind being able to programme a machine to work it out. This is very much ‘work in progress’, however, with new analytics emerging every day.

One such is the new Twtrland for Business, which launched this week. It can track the obvious metrics, like followers and likes compared to rivals, and can also segment your social audience by age, location, interests and attributes such as how new they are to social media, or whether they are a celebrity. It can also tell you what time of day is best to tweet, and identify the key influencers within your audience. It has recognised the importance of content, and aims to match individual data with information about conversations, to give marketers new insight.

A success story

One company which is gaining something of a reputation as an effective user of social media is Barclaycard. Lucy Wren, the Head of Social Media there, believes that social media is all about engagement with customers, not about promoting the business. Barclaycard has quite a big team working on social media, which means that they can put in the people-power to engage in conversations with customers, and then, and this may be the most crucial part, to analyse them. Barclaycard runs reports daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly, so it’s a pretty resource-intensive model, but it does mean that they know what content resonates with their audience, and even the best time of day to engage. But even Barclaycard admits that it hasn’t yet entirely cracked the problem of how to tie individual customers and sales back to what’s happening in social media.

The business of social media measurement is in its infancy, but growing exponentially. However, as so often, what is crucial is that companies work out what they really need to know from social media analytics, before trying to find it. There is plenty of data available, but what will give you the insight you need?

Image credit: Chris Anderson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *