The importance of establishing connections between individuals and brands--and measuring their impact--is growing. As brand messages are being influenced more and more by social conversations and the insights garnered by users, businesses are often formulating advocacy metrics to justify their user engagement programs. Maybe we're thinking about this all wrong.
Some components of online marketing shouldn't be measured just because we have vaguely similar numbers that can be manipulated and formulated into a value based on some mystical proprietary algorithm. This does nothing more than make us feel good about the work that we're doing and goes without providing any actionable insight.
Take a moment and ask yourself whether all of the metrics you're calculating are affecting your strategy and the tactics set in place to achieve your results. After all, every business is in business to make money, and if you're investing valuable time and resources on reporting just for reporting's sake, then, well, you're wasting your money.
Understanding Your Audience
With a constant need to justify every social initiative by a numeric value, companies are getting lost in the granularity of their metrics and not paying attention to key areas of their social media programs that don't need a numeric value associated to it: relationships.
It seems that the left side of the brain is always attacking the right, telling it that no matter what ideas it comes up with, or open dialogue that it fosters, that some sort of metric needs to be tied to it. Take a step back and understand why you're trying to build connections with online users in the first place. Chances are you're trying to expand your reach and get your message out. Each individual is just that--an individual. They may be present in all of the top social networks and have similar blog subscribers and visits to their Web site, but how they communicate through these channels are drastically different. By fostering relationships, you can understand the nuances of personality and style of each person. By acknowledging that they're a person, you're making them feel appreciated. Those are the people who are more than likely to be an advocate for your brand, not the ones with similar scores nicely grouped together in your spreadsheet.
There are two questions you need to answer: Who are these online users that you're trying to reach, and are you trying to build relationships with them? They're more than likely not just "social advocates." They're touch points in other marketing channels (such as email) or influencers of future customers and communicate by nonbrand-related word-of-mouth. Social interactions shouldn't need to be justified by a numeric number; they should be justified by the number of channels that you're able to reach them, the actions that they take in relation to your call to action, and how they take that message and share it.
Social Metrics That Work
Most of the leading-industry social analytics companies offer profile management platforms that allow them to measure engagement and advocacy of influential users in your network. The most useful metrics available at this point will come from industry and brand trends, engagement, reach of followers, customer service metrics, referral traffic to your Web site, and, ultimately, conversions and increase in revenue over a period of time. It's not about trying to measure every aspect of social media; it's measuring the components that will lead you to make objective decisions on your program. Trying to attribute value to each Facebook fan isn't going to get you anywhere. Focus on the 5 percent of your fans who are actually active and run with the content that's most successful. This doesn't require any further analysis than what is provided by Facebook Insights. If you're going out of your way to create metrics that show success, then chances are you need to re-evaluate your strategy.
Instead of devoting time to assigning customized numbers to the performance of each individual social element, cater to what will really generate success from your social media program: being social.