Recently, the ComBlu team conducted a deep dive on the state of measurement in our industry. We looked back at online conversations over the last 18 months to glean any insights into the maturity and growth of social media measurement. No big surprises—the discipline is coming along slowly, but surely.
Just a year ago, the conversations centered on the “what” and the topic of social media measurement in general. What do I measure, and is this really actionable? Six months later, we arrive at the “how.” Conversation volume decreases slightly, but the sophistication level goes up. How do I track and manage data from multiple platforms? I have more data than I know what to do with. How do I define ROI? Today, the conversation is in the “why” phase. Clearly, ROI has always been front and center of the measurement landscape, but now it’s as an equal. It’s time to ask the hard question—are we getting what we paid for?
While there is no big “aha” found in the data points above, it validates what my clients, colleagues and partners are saying—this is “the year of ROI.” But, the deliberator in me wants to back up and assess the current situation. Measurement tools barely represent a fraction of the conversation, which is really the “how,” and I am not certain that we have cleared that hurdle yet. I challenge anyone to demonstrate ROI of their social program if they don’t know how or have the right tool set in place to measure engagement.
Engagement is the driver behind any social program and there are multiple flavors of it. We don’t engage just for fun—we do so because it is intended to impact the business favorably. In order to track engagement, we must start with the right mix of metrics. It’s true that metrics do not equal ROI, but an engaged stakeholder base does. Below are some common social health and performance metrics to consider as you build out your engagement strategy:
As you can see, engagement is not measured by the number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers or your community members. Engagement is about achieving a desired outcome that is based solely on the objectives of your organization.
Let’s walk through a scenario. Brand X is planning for the limited pre-release of their new 4G smart phone, so they develop an advocacy program to support it. The brand knows that online user-generated content (UGC) impacts sales because 70 percent of consumers trust the recommendations of others, even if they don’t know them personally. Pretty simple stuff. Below is the construct:
|Increase online product recommendations by 45 percent||Engage brand advocates for the creation of user-generated content (UGC) via:· Product reviews· Customer stories· Videos· User ratings||· # of product reviews on owned assets· # of third party product reviews · # of product reviews on retail partner sites· Average rating of 4· # of videos uploaded
· # of views
· # of comments
· # of shares
Brand X invested in an integrated social platform dedicated to mobile technology as a means to engage their customers. In turn, those customers generated tons and tons of content that lives on Brand X’s owned assets and other third party sites, such as YouTube, Amazon and Best Buy. These customers spent much of their personal time thoroughly testing and reviewing the product from soup to nuts. Then, they amplified their opinions on highly influential sites. Here is a small sample of the results:
· Member video on YouTube generated more than 25,000 views, plus positive comments relating to purchase intent
· Member review on Amazon generated 75 “helpfuls” in the first week
· Member forum post on Best Buy’s online community generated 250 views and sparked conversation
A healthy and performing social program does equal ROI because it indicates whether or not you are engaging successfully. For Brand X’s model to be successful, they needed the ability to track:
· Incoming traffic to the platform
· Membership growth
· Return visits and login activity
· Content consumption patterns
· Content creation, rating and sharing—both on- and off-domain
· Feedback received
By having the ability to pinpoint what engagement tactics were working and which ones had little traction, Brand X was able to diagnose member behaviors and trend from a red status to a green one. They:
· Made adjustments to content and its placement
· Interacted directly with their most prolific members and thanked them on a regular basis
· Developed return motivators to ensure frequent participation
· Modified the user experience and navigation based on direct feedback
· Asked more relevant and meaningful questions of the membership base and communicated back to them
· Syndicated and showcased UGC on their owned assets
Utilizing a diagnostic tool provided Brand X with actionable information. They made adjustments and course corrections when needed. By meeting the needs of their customers through engagement, they were able to increase their online recommendations above goal. This is why social health and performance matter. Brand X could tell a complete story and answer the “what,” “how” and “why.”
As social media measurement continues to mature as a discipline, the “how” should become clear and the available toolset should follow the curve. It will be interesting to see the capabilities and new technologies that emerge over the next six months. To continue this conversation, you can meet up with Kathy Baughman, who will be speaking at WOMMA’s Talkable Brands Exchange in August.
A few weeks ago, the folks at Pew Internet released a study: Social Networking Sites and Our Lives. The study comes on the heels of recent claims that social networks have a negative effect on our ability to trust and connect with others both online and offline.
Here’s a quick peek at some of the findings specific to Facebook:
· A Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day is 43 percent more likely than other Internet users and more than three times as likely as non-Internet users to feel that most people can be trusted.
· Someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages nine percent closer core ties in their overall social network compared with other Internet users.
· A Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day tends to score an additional five points higher in total support, emotional support and companionship than Internet users of similar demographic characteristics.
What the Pew study highlights is that for some users, social networks remove barriers to forming close and trusting relationships. Real connection with someone is only a click away. Or is it?
These findings counter a flood of recent stories about social networks and isolation. In her new book “Alone Together,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Sherry Turkle warns us that: “Social networks are more like mutual isolation networks that detach people from meaningful interactions with one another and make them less human.”
The proof to support her theory: Media coverage of the death in Brighton, England of Simone Back focused on a suicide note she had posted on Facebook that was seen by many of her 1,048 “friends” on the site. Yet none contacted her or the authorities for help. And, Dr. Turkle is not alone in her criticism. More than a dozen books have been published in the last six months on isolation in the social media age.
So which is it? Is Facebook the great social equalizer that lets us easily connect and share with others to form relationships? Or does it provide such a flood of information that it is too hard to tell what is real and meaningful dialogue—thereby inspiring apathy? Let me know what you think. Have you personally, or for a client, used social media to connect people? Or do you feel we have become all type and less talk?
My workday always started the same: a venti Starbucks with a side of the top dailies. I came into work at least two hours early to allow for time to devour all the news that’s fit to print. After all, reading a broadsheet on the bus was simply not practical.
A few months ago, I got an iPad 2 and discovered Flipboard.
Flipboard is a game-changing app that redefines how we engage with content by turning our Facebook, Twitter and RSS feeds into interactive custom magazines. With it, I can zoom in on an article, play video online and select articles to share, favorite, like and retweet.
It was love at first touch.
Flash forward to today. I no longer subscribe to the Chicago Tribune and don’t even bother picking up the newspapers that line the kitchen table in our office. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a news junkie. And I can still prove my worth talking about the topics of the day at the watercooler. But, I’ve given up the ink smudges on my hands for something tidier and greener.
With this in mind, it seemed appropriate and oh-so-timely to attend a press screening of Page One Inside The New York Times. Leading off with a montage of the closure in 2009 of some of the top newspapers in the country, the documentary asks the question: can the “newspaper of record” (and traditional media as a whole) survive and remain relevant in an era where citizen journalists blog and post status updates as news happens?
I’m not so sure. Certainly, the numbers are grim: as of June 2010, only 40% of Americans say they read a daily newspaper regularly. Last year, 40 newspapers stopped publishing a print edition entirely (and only two of those papers went online).
But, while the printed word may be giving way to online and social media, the filmmakers make a very interesting point: there would be no content or conversations without the major sources of news. Consider:
· More than 99% of stories linked to in blogs come from newspapers and broadcast networks
· Less than 1% of original reporting originated from blogs
· In 2010, just four media outlets – the BBC, CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post – accounted for 80% of all links in blogs.
Clearly, something has gotta give. “The economics of this business have always been that it required both advertising and payment from the reader, and for the last 15 years on the internet, we sort of pretended that wasn’t true. This is the end of pretending.” (Richard Perez-Pena, New York Times reporter).
If mainstream media does fail, who will pick up the pieces? Who would have the resources and commitment to accurately report the news? And how will we, the reader and viewer, filter our news? Only time will tell. I just hope I’ll be able to continue to get the New York Times and CNN on my pad.
Making decisions in isolation is rarely a good idea especially decisions that impact other people.
Let’s review a few possible scenarios, both big and small and see the cause and effect of isolated decision making.
Isolated Decision 1: You stop at the fireworks store and dropping $500 on those really big fireworks to impress your neighbors tonight.
Outcome: Scaring your three year old daughter half to death with the first volley from the driveway and having no second volley since the giant fireworks you bought are banned by your neighborhood…which you forgot to check.
Isolated Decision 2: You lead a team of five who are responsible for launching your company’s new i-phone app with a multitude of seemingly cool features.
Outcome: You spend three months and six figures on it’s development, promotion and support. Then you find no one is downloading it because the most important thing the market wants isn’t included. Unfortunately, you passed on including those two things due to the cost of everything else you included. And they don’t want.
The point in both of these examples is, that for effective decision making, you should integrate people who are stakeholders in your decision process; those impacted by your activities and outcomes. There is a cause and effect to every decision that can radically change your roadmap.
In example number one, knowing that your neighborhood has fireworks restrictions would change your decision path from the heavy duty stuff to sparklers and other lower profile explosives. Checking with your wife and the neighborhood association would change a lot. Same with example two; including customers and SME’s early would have changed your direction. You would have ended up with a much simpler, less expensive and more elegant app that does exactly what customers need most.
I am not advocating focus groups here, but rather deeply (yet appropriately) involving community members as part of your team and helping with the decision process. Within healthy communities, there resides a wide cross section of stakeholders you can and should tap to build and contribute to the roadmap you’ve built to do whatever it is you are tasked to do. Not doing so can result in missed opportunities or worse, failures.
With me so far? Read on.
You don’t need hundreds or dozens of these people. A handful will suffice. Remember, it is quality not quantity you are after. You want representative samples of the larger market to help you and this is what advocates and SME’s are good at providing.
The question then is who do you pick and how do you pick them?
First by interest. You want participants whose reward is the participation itself. The best method is to recruit hand-raisers; people who want to be there. Who are committed to sustained engagement. Ask yourself, does this person get enjoyment out of being a part of this community? Do they have to be there or do they want to be there. Look for the want.
Second, seek expertise. You want individuals who have a strong working knowledge in either a specific area, topic or field that is important to you and your team. Some advocates have been known to have knowledge bases that exceed that of many employees. Also, SME’s are called SME’s for a reason.
Third, select the behavioral types you want, when and where you need them. Creators, Critics, Collectors and Collaborators, which is an organizational construct for advocates that ComBlu has created that aligns with Forrester’s accepted Social Technographic profiles.
Lastly, look for reputation. Any good community has a reputation management system. This will be a valuable tool in locating, or filtering for, the right types of individuals. A good reputation management system will help you filter both for ability and value.
Ability measures the person’s skill or knowledge base. Value measures their commitment and social skills. A person with great technical knowledge or insight ,who won’t live up to commitments, isn’t trusted by his or her peers and is difficult to deal with isn’t very valuable.
Knowing all of this but before you take any action within your community, You’ll want to have or get consensus from your team as to the involvement and value of community members. If you have a cross functional team, some may get why to include community members, others may not, so do your homework first and have a plan.
Even with a plan, your team or organization has to universally have an appetite for this type of inclusion. It can’t be the pet project of one or two people or teams. Everyone needs to be on the same page for it to work well.
I recall a meeting back in the mid-90’s in which our team advocated tapping customers when we had only a mandate and an idea. Our team had been tasked with developing a new piece of software for an existing product. One senior team member rebelled against the idea saying there was no point in bringing customers in when all we had was a white sheet of paper. He believed businesses had walls for a reason. Our point was that ‘early’ was exactly the right time to bring customers in and they played an important role in our developing something successful. He was the liaison for product development and refused to budge, so the initiative never got off the ground.
Customers never got involved until the product was ready for release and the sad thing was, at that point, any changes were too late (and there were changes that needed to be made!)
It’s important to note that tapping community members for decision help isn’t limited to products or services or fireworks for that matter. NDA level involvement of customers can be useful in gathering insight for new investments or strategic initiatives. This can be a powerful approach but again, requires the organization to have the cultural appetite to receive what it asks for and then do something with it.
In Charline Li’s book, “Open Leadership”, she discusses the power that tapping stakeholders can have. Solarwinds for example has only 2 CSR’s to support 8,000 customers, using a purpose built community of 25,000 network administrators; a handful of which helped throughout the decision process.
For Microsoft, tapping customers to help plan and then transition from call center support to community centered support is something we’ve seen work first hand amazingly well. Global companies as large and entrenched as Microsoft to firms as small and nimble as Solarwinds embrace this philosophy and where they do, they perform well.
Let me provide another, slightly different example. A leading computer company’s financial department wants people to finance instead of paying for the computer outright. They collaborated with the marketing team and tapped into their customer community for help. Historically, this computer company used a lower interest rate to incentivize computer financing campaigns. When the community was tapped to help architect and make decisions associated with this program, what they learned was that customers wanted a peripheral incentive instead of a slightly lower interest rate. Knowing this early helped the team’s decision process, made for happier customers and a more profitable computer company.
Whether you call it ‘Open Leadership’ or ‘Social Roadmapping’ or something else, integrating community into your firm’s operational decision making provides a distinct competitive advantage, but only if everyone on your team is on the same page with respect to the value and methods for community participation.
The simple fact is that if you have a plan as to how and when to tap community members, you gain a decisive competitive advantage.